Why We Redshirted Our 5-Year-Old

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 

Academic redshirting happens when you don’t put your age-eligible child in kindergarten in order to give them some time. The idea is that this time is for them to grow, learn, and gain confidence so that they can have a better chance at being successful in school.

My daughter’s birthday is in early September and the cut-off for starting children in kindergarten in Colorado is September 30th. I know that my five-year-old would have done just fine if we had put her in kindergarten this year. And initially, our thoughts were, why not give her as much of an advantage in life as we can? Why not have her go to school knowing as much as she can? Being as mature as possible? Why not?

So we did our research and we were surprised to find that the findings are very mixed. Some studies show that kids who are redshirted don’t have any academic advantages and, in some cases, have been shown to perform worse than their peers. While other studies show that there actually is an overall academic advantage, and that allowing them that extra year gives them more time to flourish. Some people believe that putting their child in at a younger age will force them to step up to the challenge, while others believe that being older will afford them more emotional maturity to deal with the pressures/responsibility of a school day. There are many socio-economic and individual circumstances to take into account, and all I can do is look at my own child and try to make the best decision with the information I have on hand.

Despite the controversial research, we did not send her to school as an “almost 5”-year-old, and here are some of the reasons why:

1. I can only know my own child.

I’m not keeping her home because I think she needs to be more mature or taller or smarter. I’m keeping her back because she’ll be fine either way. She would have stepped up, but I also believe that she will be a good leader.

2. I didn’t want to.

Five-year-olds are kinda my favorite. They can communicate, they have the capacity to control their emotions a bit more, and they are the funniest creatures on the planet. We are having a great year together, and I’m happy to have this time with her.

3. I didn’t have to.

If I worked outside of the home 40 hours a week like a lot of my friends, I may have made a different decision. If I couldn’t afford another year of her going to preschool part-time, I may have made another decision. But for now, I can write at home in my pajamas and then take a break to do a puzzle with her or work on letters or have a coloring contest or watch a movie. For us, it works.

4. Her friend network is waiting too.

Most of her current friends will be going to school next year, and I think, for her, this will make school even more fun as well as ease the transition.

5. My son is one of the oldest in his class, and he is doing well in school.

He missed the cut-off for going to kindergarten the previous year by only 19 days. He’s confident and self-motivated, and I’m glad he’s one of the oldest. I’m not saying that he’s doing well because of that, but I don’t think it has hurt him at all either.

6. All of the teachers in my family said, “Don’t do it.”

Every single one. And there are six of them, and they are all very opinionated and loud. The research may say that there isn’t much of a difference between redshirted and non-redshirted kids, but all of the teachers I know say that they can definitely tell the difference. Since I know them and trust their professional opinion, this has helped me to feel more confident in our choice.

As parents, we are happy that we made this decision. I don’t believe that it will hurt her in any way to start a little later and will hopefully only increase her excitement in going next year. We all have to make our decisions in our own individual families (isn’t that every parent’s favorite saying?) and this was what was best for mine.

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