Redshirting: What would you do?

hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)March 6, 2012

Kindergarten was once milk, cookies and finger paints. In a countrywide epidemic of hyper-parenting, it's becoming blood, sweat and tears. So maybe you played Mozart for your baby while he was still in the womb and gave him Chinese lessons at age 2, tried everything to give your kid an edge and then when he's 5, well you don't exactly cheat, but you game the system.

It's called "redshirting": holding your 5-year-old back from kindergarten 'til he's 6 so he'll be among the oldest and smartest kids in class. Parents of a 5-year-old with a late birthday despair that little Johnny will forever be a failure if he has to compete with kids six or eight months older so they put the fix in; hold him back a year so he has the edge in class and ultimately an edge in life.

In the high stakes world of early education, Barrett Hoffecker was unlucky enough to have a summer birthday. If he'd started kindergarten just after turning five in August of 2009, Barrett would have been among the youngest in his class so his mother Megan played the numbers game and put him in a Canton, Georgia, preschool. He went to kindergarten at age 6.

Megan Hoffecker: We wanted to give him that extra year of growth for both size for later on, as well as maturity for him.

Morley Safer: But do you think that gives him an advantage not just in school, but in life?

Hoffecker: I think it does. I would prefer him to be an older in the class and become a leader in his environment, rather than a younger and be more of a follower.

Barrett is now 7, a first grader, oldest in his class and among the brightest.

Hoffecker: He was already reading when he started kindergarten and was pretty ahead of a lot of the people in the-- in his class when he started.

And she has few qualms about giving Barrett a leg up on the competition.

Hoffecker: I don't think it's really cheating the system. I'd do whatever I think within my realm as a parent to make sure that my child is as prepared as they can be for the life challenges.

Safer: And have every advantage?

Hoffecker: Yes.

She's hardly alone. It used to be that everyone started kindergarten at age 5. Today nearly a quarter of some kindergarten classrooms are populated by 6-year-olds. Kindergarten redshirting has more than tripled since the 1970s. Boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, whites more than minorities and rich more than poor.

Here is a link that might be useful: Continues here

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redsox_gw

I started Kindergarten when I was 4. In those days, very little was required of you. About three hours with a nap in the middle. Preschool has become the new Kindergarten. My younger child could read in preschool, whereas I did not learn to read until First Grade. No one taught you how to read before that.

My child in Kindergarten has homework every night. A book report is also required, weekly. Imagine how tough this is for kids who do not go to preschool and grapple with learning their letters.

My older child is in 3rd grade. Recently, they learned about Greek Mythology and Economics. On his social studies test, he was required to write an open essay about job interdependence. I kid you not. My first experience with economics was Freshman year of college.

Next week: my 3rd grader takes over the IMF??

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:23PM
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lily316(z5PA)

I was way ahead of my time. I redshirted my son in the 60's. He had a June birthday, wasn't socially mature, and I didn't want to send him of at five, so he started kindergarten at 6 years and three months. He did well, honor roll kid, and went on to four years of college. My school teacher relatives were opposed.

Daughter was precocious. Was talking sentences before age one when son was just saying single words and most of them I couldn't understand. She was a February kid and went off to kindergarten at five years and 8 months. She was a straight A kid, graduated summa cum laud, phi betta kappa from PSU and later got her Masters from Temple. So draw your own conclusions.

My 14 year old grandson is also a February kid and went to kindergarten at 5. He's also straight A as was his mother. His 8th grade courses stagger my mind. He's always on his Apple laptop writing essays. His science project would boggle your mind as did all the others projects. College work for these AP kids.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:44PM
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maggie2094

A winter birthday child would not be one a parent would consider "red-shirting".

It is those that are 6 months younger than their peers...

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:48PM
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terriks

It's so sad that kindergarten and preschool have become so academic and competitive. Kids learn sooo much from just playing and interacting, and I think that pushing them too early just turns them off from learning. My youngest son was fortunate to have a September birthday, and in my state the cut off date is Sept. 1, so he was actually 6 when he started Kindergarten, and I think that it was definitely helpful in today's environment for him to be a bit older and more mature. Plus, since he was the "baby" at home it gave him an opportunity to be one of the oldest somewhere.
My son played basketball with in Middle and High School with a kid with a spring birthday who was "red shirted", and it apparently paid off for him, since he is now playing professionally, and has a spot in the NBA.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:53PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

A winter birthday child would not be one a parent would consider "red-shirting".

I suppose that depends on the policy in the school.

We have a calander year cut off date for schools, so a child who turns 5 on Dec 31 will start the previous September. A child born the next day will start the next September.

My son is a November baby, so he started kindergarten at age 4. He would have been a candidate for "redshirting" but I did not hold him back.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:55PM
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maggie2094

Yes, you are right - I wasn't considering December winter.

Myself and my kids are fall bdays so 4 at the start of kindergarten. The cut-off here is December 1. I think my son would have benefited from being held back one year but not my daughter. Brilliant kid but more socially immature and one of the youngest in his class so makes sense.

I did see the special on 60 minutes and I found it distasteful the parents doing this so their kid is "bigger and better" than their peers but then the advantage seems to accumulate and pay off over time according to their research. I believe they said a high percentage of pro hockey players are early in the year birthdays.

I also have a problem with it since it is mainly higher income familes that can afford to do this (and not pay childcare for another year) and then that makes an unlevel field once again.

I also understand that every parent wants to do the best they can for their child. I suppose if everybody starts doing this then the effect goes away.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:03PM
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grapeleaves

My son has an August 10th birthday and our cut off is Sept 1.
He was extremely advanced academically having started reading when he was 2 and quite advanced in math as well. However he was socially immature and small for his age and so we held him back. We took a lot of flack because people couldn't understand why we would hold a child back that was so ahead of schedule in reading and math. My thinking was that we were aiming for a well adjusted child with good social skill to match his academic ability. This was in the late 70's.
My daughter held her son back and he had an April birthday.
He was very immature and the preschool advised her to do so.
When he was struggling to learn to read she commented that she was so glad she held him back, because how much more would he have struggled if he had been a year younger.
I did see that 60 minutes special and found some of the reasons parents were holding their children back rather offensive.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:16PM
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david52_gw

I watched that TV segment as well - and when they got to the part about how, in high school, the kids could drive earlier and go out on dates earlier, I had to laugh.

My two older kids were initially schooled over-seas, skipped kindergarten, so were a year younger than their school peers when we moved back. So they never got a drivers license until they were Juniors in High School. Do you have any idea how much you save on car insurance?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:26PM
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vgkg(Z-7)

..oops, thought this a thread for Hay.

No kids here. An April kid myself, probably about Normal, ha, or would that be Average? I'm sure I'm not Mean ;)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:27PM
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maggie2094

LOL @David and Vgkg!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:33PM
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ohiomom

So mom was determined that we be educated in catholic schools, dad went along. However the catholic school would not allow me to enter Kindergarten because I would not be 5 until December (IMO they were right) ... well no one was gonna tell mama that so she sent me to public school kindergarten .. the next year the catholic school would not recognize my previous year in a public school and so I went to Kindergarten again .. LOL

By then I was reading the same books as my older sisters and was bored out of my mind. I took extra courses all through junior and senior high and by the time I was a senior only needed 2 credits to graduate.

When I volunteered I mostly tutored kindergarten children, many of them would have benefited from being held back a year.

2 cents

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:43PM
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jillinnj

Same as HG, my son is a November baby. Our school district's cut off was Dec 31st at the time (it's now Oct 1st). I agonized for a very long time about what to do. I asked his pre-school teacher her opinion at the end of year conference. She said to send him, he was totally ready. I knew he was ready academically, but I worried socially. She was right. He was ready. Holding him back would have been a mistake, I think.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:34PM
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jodik_gw

I must be weird... I was 5 in Kindergarten, 6 in first grade, and graduated high school at 18... like most of my fellow students.

I was probably a bit ahead of most students... my Mom constantly read to us, taught us to read, taught us to write... we were well prepared for school. So were our kids, who by then also had access to computers... and my grandchildren are being raised the same way. My daughters read to them all the time, and are teaching them computer skills, the whole nine yards. But I don't think they're holding them back for any age or size or other advantage.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:38PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

Maggie said: I also understand that every parent wants to do the best they can for their child. I suppose if everybody starts doing this then the effect goes away.

What I find an interesting aspect is that Sweden (or was it Norway?) which has the best student scores amongst 15 year olds internationally, starts their kids in school at age 7. So maybe the effect is just amplified if everyone does it? Nobody gets an advantage within the school, but the net effect is ALL the kids are emotionally and mentally ready to learn, leading to better scores later.

Just pure speculation, of course.

Jill said: Same as HG, my son is a November baby. --snip-- I knew he was ready academically, but I worried socially. She was right. He was ready. Holding him back would have been a mistake, I think.

I was worried about mine in the same way but figured if he had problems, I could always hold him back in a later grade. As it turns out, he didn't need to be held back. It works out great though. This way, he can do a "gap year" before he goes off to college.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:54PM
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maggie2094

Ohiomom, one of the negatives this story brought up was behavior problems in some redshirted kids because they were bored.

HG - very interesting possibility.

I was very interested in the International Baccalaureate program for learning in primary and middle years. It assigns learning profiles and allows children room to grow at their pace.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:27PM
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jerzeegirl(9)

I'm a December baby and so I started kindergarten at 4 years old. I think in those days the cut off in NY was April (I could be wrong about this). Then I was in a program that allowed us to skip 8th grade so I ended up in college at 16 years old. Looking back on it I probably would have benefited more from college if I was a little bit older and had more some life experience under my belt. In other words I might have majored in accounting or political science instead of art history! But those were weird times.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:30PM
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momj47(7A)

I "redshirted" all three of my kids - one born in November, two in December. There was no question about it, it made sense and it worked well for them, and they don't seem to have suffered for it.

They were the first to do most things in their class, were confident and well-adjusted, and they all did well in school and have continued to do well in life.

Now, my grandson, who was born in October HAD to start late, the cut-off age in Texas is Sept. 1. It seems like a very good idea. Those few months make a huge different when you are 4 or 5.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:41PM
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terriks

What I find an interesting aspect is that Sweden (or was it Norway?) which has the best student scores amongst 15 year olds internationally, starts their kids in school at age 7. So maybe the effect is just amplified if everyone does it? Nobody gets an advantage within the school, but the net effect is ALL the kids are emotionally and mentally ready to learn, leading to better scores later.

Sounds like maybe they have learned that there is no benefit to pushing kids off to academics at a very young age. Young children learn best, IMO through play and spending their time being nurtured and taught by their parents. There is no point in frustrating a child into trying to learn when they aren't ready. It just ends up teaching them to resent school and not to have a love of learning.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:54PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

Jerzee, you were in almost the same situation as my son is. Next year he only has three classes to graduate. So he is filling up with some extra classes and spares for next year, then the year after he is taking a year off before going to college.

I don't know if he could use the extra maturity for college or not. But I did convince him that his time in high school is something he will never get back and to take the time to enjoy it before rushing off to college and work and bills and responsibilities.

So this gap year will be used for him to just enjoy his time being young.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 8:33PM
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lily316(z5PA)

Didn't they say that in Chicago where many parents were doing this, they put a stop to it by mandating kids go in the year they turn five by the deadline? Long sentence, but you get the meaning.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 8:48PM
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don_socal

Born March 3 so 5 in K, bored all the way through high school so didn't do daily work much but aced any test I took barely graduated. Came back from the service and had a 4.0 in two community colleges and Cal Poly Pomona never missed the deans list. Go figure, must have been the inspired teachers.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Albert Einstein

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
Albert Einstein

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:10PM
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don_socal

Read back up-line after posting and saw Terriks post and thought,'how fitting.

Found in Montana Libraries: Volumes 8-14 (1954), The story is given as follows: "In the current New Mexico Library Bulletin, Elizabeth Margulis tells a story of a woman who was a personal friend of the late dean of scientists, Dr. Albert Einstein. Motivated partly by her admiration for him, she held hopes that her son might become a scientist. One day she asked Dr. Einstein's advice about the kind of reading that would best prepare the child for this career. To her surprise, the scientist recommended 'Fairy tales and more fairy tales.' The mother protested that she was really serious about this and she wanted a serious answer; but Dr. Einstein persisted, adding that creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist, and that fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality." However, it is unclear from this description whether Margulis heard this story personally from the woman who had supposedly had this discussion with Einstein, and the relevant issue of the New Mexico Library Bulletin does not appear to be online.

Here is a link that might be useful: source

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:25PM
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maggie2094

Great story and quote, Don. It got me wanting to go read more of his quotes. Love them.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 10:09PM
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