Monday, June 4, 2007

‘Red-Shirting’ Kindergarteners

I spent some quality time during yesterday’s rainy weather reading the Sunday newspapers I have delivered to my home as opposed to simply letting them pile up. (For all of you counting at home, that total is three.) Among the thought provoking pieces that I read from beginning to end was a New York Times Magazine article on the trend of “red-shirting” kindergarteners, referring to voluntarily waiting an additional year before enrolling your child in kindergarten in the hopes of a) having the child mature b) having the child grow physically taller c) giving the child more time to socially develop and/or d) giving the child an academic advantage over younger peers.

The article made several fascinating points, including the fact that those who are among the oldest members of their class tend to do well in school. But the piece also added that for people who can’t afford to hold their kid back and need the child in free kindergarten schooling ASAP, their children can be hurt by this practice.

My twins’ birthday falls less than a week before our town’s cut-off date. The Spouse and I decided to red-shirt them, given that if they’d been born even close to their actual due date (they were 5.5 weeks premature) they would’ve missed the cut-off date anyway. As it stands, even though they are the oldest (or close to the oldest children) in their classes, they do not physically tower over their peers, as the image accompanying the Times article suggest red-shirted kids are, suggesting an unfair physical advantage. (In fact, the twins are of average height as compared to their year-younger classmates.)

As for my youngest child, he is among the youngest students in his class. Whether he’ll pay a price for The Spouse and I deciding not to red-shirt him (he makes the cut-off date for kindergarten by roughly a month), remains to be seen, though there are moments when I wonder if we made the right choice.

I’ve got a friend whose son’s birthday is after my twins’ birthday. She opted to send her son to kindergarten at age 5 (he made the cut-off date for kindergarten entrance in his community by days). My friend argues that her child would’ve been intellectually bored silly if he’d been made to spend another year in pre-school. And since we made our respective, polar-opposite decisions, we’ve had some lively conversations about red-shirting. While my friend understands my rationale for not sending my twins to kindergarten based on their actual due date, she is adamantly opposed to red-shirting as a rule and thinks it’s bad for kids and bad for schools.

How about you, readers? Anyone regret sending (or not sending) their kids to kindergarten at age 5? Have a position on red-shirting?

E-mail Meredith

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