When to start kindergarten for a late-November-birthday?
April 18, 2013 1:56 PM   Subscribe

My four-year-old son’s birthday is in late November. In our state, that means we can choose whether he starts (all-day) kindergarten this coming fall, when he’s 4-going-on-5, or next year, when he’ll be 5-going-on-6. I’m pretty paralyzed over this decision. I’m looking for insights, especially those with some sort of data behind them, to help.


We’re in a middle-class town in Connecticut. Our neighborhood public elementary school seems really good. Our son is in pre-school in the neighborhood 2 mornings a week, so he knows about a dozen kids, most of whom will be starting kindergarten next year (there are some with January-Feb birthdays who will not, though).

We know many families with kids starting school in the fall and the kids seem like a really good group, and it’s kids he’d already be comfortable around. One of his potential classmate’s mothers is a teacher and has encouraged us to enroll him this fall, her opinion is you can always repeat kindergarten if it’s not working out, but you can’t skip a grade to catch up if you’re not being challenged.

He also attends a different pre-k program at a parochial school in town. He’s there two mornings a week. If we don’t send him to kindergarten, he’ll still do some pre-k 4 or 5 half-days a week.

So he has 4 half-days a week of school now. In talking with his teachers, they say he could do fine academically and socially at kindergarten if we choose to send him.

He’d been delayed to develop speech and received speech therapy from age 2 to 3. At 3 he was judged to be OK (care would’ve transitioned from a state service to the town schools) and stopped getting services. He’s also painfully shy and won’t speak above a whisper at school or in a social setting (friend’s house, birthday party, etc).

So although I’ve blanketed you with details about our personal situation, I’m actually more interested in any data that might be out there as to kids’ success based on the age they start school. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Education (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Our (now 4 year old) son was born October 1 and we've been told by our school district that that's past the cutoff at which he would be allowed to attend kindergarten next fall, even if we wanted him to. Are you sure this is even an option for a late November kid?

Even if your town is less strict about that than ours, I guess you can take this as evidence that at least some school districts feel that 4 going on 5 is too young to be starting kindergarten. (Ours is a very good district in a new england college town, FWIW.)
posted by ook at 2:07 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had the same decision for my daughter, and the key factor in how we made that decision was a statement from a friend of mine who teaches elementary school in our district. She said that the best she has EVER seen an early start work out for a kid is neutral; IOW, sometimes it doesn't mess them up, sometimes it does. That's hardly hard data, but it was good enough for me. We chose to delay her start, and every single day she's been in kindergarten has borne out the wisdom of that decision. Particularly if he's shy and has received services already, I'd urge you to consider the 5-going-on-6 start. you CAN always repeat kindergarten, but having your first schooling experience be one you're not ready for can color your entire academic career.

If he's truly not going to be challenged in kindergarten next year, he probably won't be this year either, to be honest. My kid is pretty bright, and one thing that was really a surprise to me is how different a bright 3 year old is from a 4 year old, how different a bright 5 year old is from a 6 year old. Let him be the confident older kid rather than the frightened younger one.
posted by KathrynT at 2:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm in a similar boat and I've been diving deep into the statistics:


(Of course I can't find the link right now.) Of the research I've read, any academic differences tend to disappear by around second grade, regardless of kids who have been redshirted vs. those that haven't.

I don't think that there's any question that it would confer an athletic advantage.
posted by unixrat at 2:10 PM on April 18, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell talks about this a bit in his book Outliers. Here's a summary:
Consider this: Two-thirds of Canada's pro hockey players were born in January or February. The same holds true in college and high-school all-star teams. It turns out that youth leagues in Canada organize kids by age, based on the calendar year. Children born in the first two months of the year are inevitably larger and more coordinated than teammates six to 10 months younger. So they get more ice time, more coaching, and more chances to excel. Gladwell suggests that a lot more stars might arise in various endeavors if children were grouped with no more than a three-month birth differential.
His theory is that kids who are at an advantage when they start will get be recognized as better and will get special treatment that helps them keep that advantage as they go on. This is arguable, of course, and it may apply more to athletics than to academics, but you might find that chapter of Outliers interesting.
posted by pocams at 2:13 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hmm, I'm coming at this as a first grade teacher and I think he should be fine. Unless he's emotionally/socially immature, in which case he may have a bit of trouble. If he's shy, the socialization of school will be beneficial to him. They probably have a speech/language pathologist if he has remaining speech issues. I guess I'm not a parent, so I shouldn't say to not to over think it. But my honest advice is not to over think it.

FYI, half of upper middle class parents seem to have read Outliers and decided to make educational decisions based on it. I'd try to keep in mind that it's a fad book that reflects more of a trendy mindset than a make-or-break situation for your child's chances at Yale, etc. I've never had a child come through my class and thought to myself, "Sigh, If only he'd been red shirted..."
posted by mermily at 2:13 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

We know many families with kids starting school in the fall and the kids seem like a really good group, and it’s kids he’d already be comfortable around

I think that might make a difference, especially since you say he's shy. That may eliminate the problem of "confident older kid vs. scared younger one."

If he were going to half-day kindergarten it would be a no-brainer, since he's already going to half-day preK four days a week. It's the full-day that makes me hesitate. How is his ability to focus? How's his ability to get through the day without a nap? Will he melt down? You can get all the statistics you want but all told, it boils down to who your kid is and how well you think he'll deal with the situation.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:16 PM on April 18, 2013

I was born December 4, and my Mom was so desperate to get me in kindergarten that she took me to Pittsburgh, enrolled me in school there, and then tried to transfer me into a California classroom. It didn't work, California was having NONE of it. So I was the biggest kid in kindergarten and I read stories to the littler kids.

You just have to know your kid. I suspect that he's ready, but only you really know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:17 PM on April 18, 2013

I was an October baby and started when I was four. I was so very bored in school, I can't fathom what life would have been like if my parents had decided to let me wait until I was 5.

Yeah, it was a little annoying to get my driver's license last and to be a 17 year old college freshman, but I excelled academically and have no regrets. It's really about your kid and what he seems comfortable with.
posted by teleri025 at 2:22 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

We have a lot of educators (administrators and teachers) in our family, and this really seems to be a matter of what you feel is best for your child. The school sets the cutoff based on either demographics or what age they feel kids can handle the 'curriculum,' which varies depending on school.

If they are focusing on learning letters and numbers and writing them, how far along is your child -- do you feel he would benefit more from learning those things early (knowing his fine motor skills and language may be at the low end of the spectrum)? On the other hand, do you feel he would do better emotionally if he goes in able to do everything physically and socially (which younger children often struggle with at first)? There's also the longer-term question: based on what you know of his stature and personality, would being the youngest boy in 7th grade be more of a trial for him? Would being the oldest boy give him more confidence (as pocams has pointed out, it may give a marked advantage in sports)? Your own feelings about how he succeeds are also worth exploring: if his projects on the wall are the least proficient in the class because he's just not as developed as the others, will it bother you?

Most of the research I've seen (I'm sorry I have no links) indicates that before 5, non-structured play is still the best overall learning strategy, so your son won't lose anything by not being in a structured program so long as you're getting him experience with things that preschool teaches, like sharing toys, sitting quietly for circle time, recognizing letters and numbers, and the obvious stuff like not pushing and hitting.
posted by Mchelly at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2013

My youngest has a late November birthday. He also potty trained late and did not stop wetting the bed until the summer before he turned six. In part for that reason, I felt it was better that he waited. He stopped wetting the bed shortly before starting kindergarten. It was something physiological, not behavioral. I felt he needed the extra time to physically mature. FWIW, he loved kindergarten.
posted by Michele in California at 2:51 PM on April 18, 2013

Our son was born November 3rd, meaning he was well past the then-cut-off date of September 30. Our friend's daughter was in the same situation. Our friends went through tons of stuff to enroll their daughter in the earlier year and she turned out to have a terrible time in school. Our son, although mentally ready, still needed some time to physically mature, so we decided to relax and enroll him in the next year's class.

Results: friend's daughter: high school dropout; our son, honors, scholarship offers, class salutatorian, admitted to West Point. As someone said above, you just have to know your kid.
posted by Lynsey at 2:53 PM on April 18, 2013

His theory is that kids who are at an advantage when they start will get be recognized as better and will get special treatment that helps them keep that advantage as they go on. This is arguable, of course, and it may apply more to athletics than to academics, but you might find that chapter of Outliers interesting.

This NYT Magazine article discusses this phenomenon (real or imagined) in schools.

This academic paper also considers the effect, noting that:
the average age of a child’s classmates positively influences test scores while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that a student repeats a grade in school or receives a learning disability diagnosis. In one interpretation of this pattern, high-performing peers positively influence a student’s achievement, but school and parental decisions regarding grade retention and referrals to behavior professionals are partly based on a student’s age or performance relative to his or her classmates.
Overall though, the same study concludes that:
the often-cited positive relationship between kindergarten entrance age and school achievement primarily reflects skill accumulation prior to kindergarten, rather than a heightened ability to learn in school among older children. The association between achievement test scores and entrance age appears during the first few months of kindergarten, declines sharply in subsequent years, and is especially pronounced among children from upper income families, a group likely to have accumulated the most skills prior to school entry.
Now for anecdotal evidence: I'm an early October baby, and started Kindergarten when I was actually 3 going on 4. (We have 2 years of Kindergarten in Ontario, Jr. and Sr., before grade 1). But basically a fall-born kid. I thrived academically, most often top of the class in elementary school, and honor roll throughout high school. My most recent experience is with my own son, who began Jr. Kindergarten at 4 going on 5 (being a March baby). At that point he needed the more intensive stimulation of school (as opposed to pre-school), and he has learned and developed enormously over the past school year. So much of academic success depends on parental involvement, and if you're posting this question, you're obviously involved. I was always a shy kid too, but I learned to make lots of friends my own way. I don't know that an extra year will necessarily change your boy into an extrovert!

Ultimately, your gut knows what best for him, regardless of data and anecdotes.
posted by Kabanos at 2:54 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure that having him start earlier will prevent the possibility of him being bored later. My friends and I managed to be plenty bored in school despite skipping grades. And when I got to college, I started to regret being one of the youngest -- many of my fellow freshmen who were on the older side were quite a bit more confident and mature.

I know this isn't quite what you asked, but what you said about his shyness and speech makes me want to suggest that you keep an eye on him for social anxiety disorder. My brother was also a shy kid who wouldn't talk above a whisper and it turned out he'd had intense social anxiety since he was a toddler. I really wish he'd gotten help earlier.
posted by zahava at 2:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider (which sucks) is that more and more kids are "red-shirted." Because of that, the average classroom age is higher, and the curriculum gets adjusted to accommodate their higher developmental skills.

So what can happen is that the kids who aren't red-shirted can get ripped off because the work can be too hard for them.

If you have a kid who's borderline, as much as I hate the idea, I'd hold him back a year because that's what other parents are doing.
posted by kinetic at 3:06 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

As an early October baby who was started ahead, I've got a bit of first-person perspective here.

Yes, your son will be the smallest kid on any sports team until he hits puberty.

Yes, he may be at a disadvantage to kids who have been intentionally red-shirted.

The biggest thing, for me at least, was that as the youngest in my high school class, I was the last to get my drivers license, which makes dating haaaaaard. Not to mention being the last to turn 18 and 21 means he'll be excluded from all the fun new activities that his friends are doing.
posted by Oktober at 3:16 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am afraid I have only anecdotal information for you as well. My son was in a young-fives program this past year, and will turn six just before he starts kindergarten this fall. We have been very happy with the program because it has hit our son right where he is academically--they do the same math and reading curriculum as the whole elementary school uses, but use the preschool level stuff, so it's letter recognition, numeral recognition, and so on. Only just now are they starting recognition of sight words like "a" and "the," and doing simple addition like 2+1, whereas last night we were in the classroom he'll be in for kindergarten next year, and the kids' "morning work" was already set out on the tables. It involved correcting punctuation and capitalization in short sentences. I think a year from now he'll be able to do that. Now? Heck no.

There are 20 kids in his young fives class, and many of them seem to be there because of behavioral immaturity or shyness. I would have to say that I haven't seen major improvement in these specific issues over the course of the year: the kid whose behavior took up most of the classroom aide's time last September is still taking up most of the classroom aide's time, and the kid who kept crying and clinging longer than anyone else last fall is now the only kid who still needs to be walked to the classroom door in the morning, and recently dropped out of a basketball class my kid was also in because of being too shy to participate. I know that most of the parents feel good about having put their kids in young fives, because we stand around and talk about it all the time, but I haven't talked to these parents in particular about how they're feeling about their children's kindergarten readiness.

I get dissatisfied when I think that my kid, if he goes straight through at the normal pace, will turn 19 two months after he graduates from high school. An almost-19-year-old seems too old to still be in that environment. But I didn't make the decision based on him at 19, but on where he was at 5.
posted by not that girl at 3:21 PM on April 18, 2013

If it makes you feel any better, being a college freshman at 17 wasn't all that much fun.
posted by Oktober at 3:26 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I started early, as a November birthday kid, and was always one of the youngest in my grade. As many have mentioned, it's different for all kids, but lookiing back, I felt I was behind my older classmates socially--I don't think I really thought about it until adolescence, but I was 16 as a high school senior, and that kind of sucked.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:42 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was born on Nov 24th, and I started kindergarten when I was 5 (and was in first grade before I turned 6, they let me go up to first in 6 weeks). I'm still well adjusted, but not turning 21 until almost the spring semester of my senior year was a bummer of sorts.
posted by deezil at 3:42 PM on April 18, 2013

There's still a lot of development that could happen between now and September. Is it possible to enroll him for K and then back out later in the summer once you're more comfortable with your decision?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:56 PM on April 18, 2013

Late November doesn't seem like a borderline to me; I think of borderline kids as late September or early October. And the fact that he's received remedial services in speech and language indicates that he's not leaps and bounds ahead of other kids his age. Just send him with his own year, when he's five: he'll turn six during kindergarten, just like all the other kids will turn six during kindergarten.
posted by palliser at 4:11 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My brother has a late-November birthday. My parents chose to go with start early, rather than start late. He was always the smallest boy in the class, and he was always behind emotionally and academically -- so much so that they eventually had to keep him back a year (sixth grade) and then later put him in private school, because the public school system had not worked for "the youngest kid in the class" AT ALL. And this was a great school system. Especially for boys, it's just unbearable being smaller, and academically, while there are arguments on both sides, unless your kid is a genius and will be bored out of his skull if he starts later rather than earlier, better that he have the few months' cognitive advantage than disadvantage. All kids experience some boredom in school; better to be bored and able to handle the material (and the social/emotional aspects) than bored, picked on, and unable to follow the lessons.

(Eventually, he got a Master's degree from Cornell, so it didn't ruin his life or anything, but his K-8 years were MISERABLE all around, and that's when so much of who you believe you can become is internalized.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2013

I think it's going to have a greater impact much farther down the line (junior high/high school), when he's the youngest kid in his class & is subject to more peer pressure. That added maturity could make a big difference.

(I say this as someone who has recently decided not to try to get my early-November kid into Kindergarten when she's 4.5; our cut-off is Sep. 1. I was a late-November baby who was nearly a year older than all my classmates my entire school career. I think it was good that I wasn't always trying to catch up.)
posted by belladonna at 4:36 PM on April 18, 2013

My child was born in December. As someone who had been pushed ahead, I was always the youngest and the smallest and it was sometimes rough. I let my son stay back, and at 15, I continue to feel like I made the right choice.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 4:55 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you're paralyzed over the decision because it doesn't actually matter. Or, I should say - because both options are equally good/bad.

I listened to Outliers as an audiobook during the summer before my (late-birthday) kid started kindergarten. I just about had an anxiety attack thinking I should have redshirted him.

But the data doesn't show a very strong effect one way or another. And how useful is the data? I mean, there is no control group. Nobody is randomly assigning kids to be redshirted or not. The parents decide -- based on their particular kid.

So is it a surprise that redshirting is correlated with an increase in use of special ed services before 3rd grade? No. The parents who thought the kid needed an extra edge when s/he was 5 still thought that at 7.

I don't think redshirting is inherently good or bad - but it can be good or bad for a particular child.

Do the kids who will enter kindergarten this September look like your kid's peers? Or do the kids who will be entering in 2014 look like his peers? I think that is an important factor in your decision.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:13 PM on April 18, 2013

I entered school early. My whole life I've felt like a kid.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

My grandson is in kindergarden and they are basically teaching him to read these days.

If you were me (and I know you aren't ) I would wait. Being smart is one thing, where you are age-and development-wise is different. And generally it is said that boys are a bit behind girls, as well.

I can't think of any pressing reasons for him to go early and I can think of a ton of reasons why going into school when you are a bit older is better. But ultimately this is YOUR child. The one person I would consult with at this point is his pediatrician.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2013

I was a November kid who entered Kindergarden at age 4. My whole life I was the youngest, least experienced most picked on kid in the class.
By contrast, my daughter was a late December and was barred from starting at age 5. She was nearing 6 when she started in school. She was always the eldest in her class, one step ahead of the rest, and I think it was a huge boon to her. Besides being as smart as her brother.
Think about it this way: Why not give your child the extra year? When else in his life will he have the luxury of a whole year of time?

In my experience, teachers tend to focus on the child's academic advancement, even to the detriment of social progress. Our son had strong recommendations to skip a grade (4th or 5th I think) but we judged that it would not benefit his social skills and kept him where he was. (He was a July baby, middling age in his school group) What would the advantage have been in rushing him out into the world?
posted by SLC Mom at 5:36 PM on April 18, 2013

I was a mid-November kid who started kindergarten at 4-about-to-turn-5. Academically, not only did I never have a problem keeping up, but I usually excelled. Socially... eh. Looking back on it now I'd say I'd rather have started a year later. But it's not like it made my school experience unbearable or anything, it's just a gut feeling I have that, as a shy, introverted kid, it would have made things not quite as stressful.

My very high-strung niece had the same choice and her parents elected to wait until she was 5-about-to-turn-6, which was absolutely the right decision for her. Your kid will be fine either way, so just go with your gut instinct for what feels right.
posted by MsMolly at 6:31 PM on April 18, 2013

I would start him, but where I grew up there was a Transition grade between Kindy and year one, if necessary - if the late birthday kids hadn't reached the appropriate developmental or learning milestones by the end of the Kinder year they moved into a Transition class (and moved out of it into year one, at any time of the year, if they were ready). If there's no such provision for such kids in your area I'd start him and then withdraw him if necessary.
posted by goo at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2013

My birthday is November 14. I was always the youngest kid in my classes. This was a drag until I got into high school. I was the last of my crowd to get a driver's permit, so that was sort of a bummer, too. On the other hand, I was a bit precocious with respect to reading and such, so my grades were never an issue. Maturity was.

What's the hurry?
posted by mule98J at 8:19 PM on April 18, 2013

In Canada the cutoff is December 31. I started my December born 5 year old mid year (as we relocated there mid year) and my kid flourished, despite the slow start. she is fully caught up by end of first grade.

That said, even though there is nothing wrong with kids that age in kindergarten, I would keep with age cohort for social reasons. I skipped a grade as a kid and indeed it did suck to be the youngest. I didn't have a lot of friends until I hit puberty, I had a fake id in university. Being in a group with others the same same age makes a difference.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:49 PM on April 18, 2013

Although I am as guilty as anyone of providing my anecdotal example of one, please do not generalize overly much from the warnings about how this will impact the kid in high school or college.

First, grade skips are harder to get later but not unheard of. It does happen. Second, I have known people who started college at 17 or even 13-14 and thrived. Some grade-skipped kids fit in better socially than others. That outcome depends on quite a lot of factors, not just age. Frankly, some kids just never fit in socially, anywhere. My oldest is like that. If he isn't being received as a stand-out star/celebrity/personality he is simply an outcast. For better or worse, he just doesn't blend. Some kids don't. It isn't necessarily because of age.

So please do not get wrapped around the axle about the long term implications of this decision. Make this decision based on what seems best now.
posted by Michele in California at 9:08 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the UK there are fixed cutoff essentially without exception with the youngest children being born at the end of August. Summer born children do worse academically - even though we recognise the issue now - and the difference persists until at least 11 and possibly 16. I would hold him back.
posted by plonkee at 9:55 PM on April 18, 2013

Huh. I never realized how many people held kids back on purpose, or that "red-shirting" was an actual thing. It seems kind of crazy to me. But then, my family was extremely academics-focused, and the point was always to get ahead sooner than later. I have seen the whole emotional immaturity vs. academic maturity issue cause problems for friends; but they were the friends who had their PhD by the time they were twenty, not the ones who were pushed ahead a few months in kindergarten.

My own anecdote: I was born in January. My mom wanted me to start kindergarten the year I was 4 (I had been reading since I was two), but the school system wouldn't let her. Thus, she began doing "kindergarten" homeschool material.

Fast forward 12 years, she never wound up putting me in school at all. The first formal school I went to was a local community college, at sixteen; I had absolutely zero problems being the youngest, joined student government, got along excellently, transferred to university and graduated with a 4.0. And I always felt like I was BEHIND because I had friends who started even sooner and were obviously graduated earlier. Whenever I hear of an 18, let alone 19-year-old still in high school, my auto-response is "woah, why? what's wrong with him/her?" and then I have to sort of count back years and think "oh, ok, that's how lots of people do things in the public system, it's not a big deal." But the initial impression is there nonetheless; so I'm fascinated that there are so many people saying "being the oldest in the class will give him/her a developmental edge" rather than "being the oldest in the class will make him/her feel like an idiot when most of their peers are younger than them and the people they identify with are in a higher grade." I really think it could go both ways, depending on the child and their particular peer group and social culture.
posted by celtalitha at 12:32 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may or may not comfort you. My wife is a child and youth psychologist. Her actual job is to evaluate kids to support this type of school readiness decision. When it came to our daughter even she struggled with the decision.
posted by jazh at 1:26 AM on April 19, 2013

I would wait. Anecdotally, just about my whole family are late year birthdays, and to the best of my knowledge, we all started early. The two exceptions are two siblings: one was born earlier in the year. She now has a masters degree. The other one was a December baby who started late and he would have gone just as far if he didn't have such a bad attitude and the bad luck to be graduating high school when the family was in a bit of turmoil. And the rest of us (and I'm talking multiple generations of people) struggled to graduate high school, despite all of us being above average intelligent.

Despite being young for my age, so to say, I never really struggled with understanding the material in school. But I did struggle socially and with immaturity. I was always terrified. I had the brains to understand the work, but not the discipline to do it. I suspect that if I were held back I would have been able to perform better in school.

I firmly believe school's job of socializing is just as important than the academics. I think it is better for a kid to have a slightly too easy of a time in school than a slightly too hard one. You can always give the kid extra stuff to do to keep his brain engaged. But there isn't much you can do for a kid who is always struggling to keep up but isn't in so bad of a spot that he needs to be held back a year.

Especially with so young of a birthday. Some systems are making the cutoff Sept 1, from what I hear. He probably won't even be the oldest kid in his class, much less the hulking, mustachioed pariah graduating high school at 23 some people seem to be implying.

If the kid were precocious in maturity and social areas, I would think starting early would be fine. But if he is just average or less, then I would certainly hold my own kid back.
posted by gjc at 3:34 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

October birthday here- I started kindergarten at age 4 and college at age 17. It never caused any sort of issues- I did well at school, sports, and making friends and all that - I never really noticed that I was younger, except when it came to not turning 21 until senior year of college (which was kind of annoying at the time but not really a big deal). Sorry not to include any real data but I wanted to provide a counterpoint for some of the examples provided above- I was young, I fit in fine, it never even crossed my mind that this was a potential issue. Note that I am female and the "red-shirting" does seem to be more common among boys.
You know your son best, if you think he's ready, send him, if you think an extra year would do him well (in light of shyness etc.), wait a year.
posted by emd3737 at 6:30 AM on April 19, 2013

Sports - Just to clarify some comments regarding sports: most younger-age sports are based on age not grade (at least here) so a 5 yo plays on a 5 yo team not a kindergarten team until about high school, sport depending, and then most of the age-related size differences will level out with exception to when puberty growth happens.

I think it depends on your child though I'd consider what people usually do in the area.

And, people who started kindergarten at whatever age 20 or so years ago? Not totally relevant to how things happen now. A *summer* birthday is going to be the youngest in the class especially for boys (at least here) and probably 1.5 years younger than other boys who have been held back from starting. Girls, too, but less common. Our 1/2 day kindergarten teaches a full day curriculum in 2.5 hours, our 1st grade moves into a 2nd grade curriculum, and fast (public school).
posted by RoadScholar at 6:41 AM on April 19, 2013

Another anecdote--my daughter was born in late June and seemed out of place among the older kids in kindergarten. She was smart, and as big as the older kids, but shy and comparatively immature; I always felt the other kids pushed her around and took advantage of her (relative) naivety. She did fine, eventually, and is now excited about heading off to college next year, so I wouldn't sweat it, but there certainly are valid concerns.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:10 AM on April 19, 2013

I was born on November 20 and started kindergarten when I was 4. My little sister was born on December 11 (different year, of course), and she started kindergarten when she was 5. We went to the same school, had several of the same teachers throughout elementary school, and turned out about the same.

I never had any problems being the youngest in most of my social groups. It was a bit annoying when I moved out of my parents' house when I graduated high school, lived on my own, and paid rent on my own, but still needed a parent's signature for my youth work permit (and was still restricted by youth labor law). That is the only inconvenience I can think of. I always had older friends and coworkers, which I think may have helped me to become more mature at a slightly earlier age.

My sister is in college now, and is having a tough time adjusting to the workload and stresses of school. She was also pretty emotionally volatile during middle and high school. There's no reason to think that this is connected with being older than some of her peers.

We are both reasonably intelligent and social—if anything, I'm more outgoing and social than she is.

The upshot is, it doesn't matter. If you think your kid can handle the longer day that kindergarten probably implies for him, send him. If you think that may wear him out, keep him in pre-K for another year.
posted by cheerwine at 8:46 AM on April 19, 2013

We had to wait because my November kid missed the cutoff; he is also tall for his age so looms over most of his peers. But, he would not have been ready at 4; he is taking his time to mature and we have learned that he does better when we let him move and learn at his own pace. I knew at least a few kids who tested high enough to skip grades in elementary, and if he did get bored we would look into that. It was not a hard decision for us.
posted by emjaybee at 2:29 PM on April 20, 2013

I have a mid-December birthday and started early. (when I was 4)

I think my parents made the choice b/c I was ready, and had outgrown pre-school in some respects. It never had any negative impact of me, except I was one of the youngest in my grade, which was kind of cool in some ways.

I was on par with my peers both socially, emotionally, and academically, if not ahead of them in some ways. I got good grades, got into good colleges, didn't have any problem being 17 in college for 4 months before I turned 18. I wasn't smaller or any less developed than my peers- I was a girl though if that matters.

However, I think it's really a case by case basis. I can also see in retrospect why it would have been nice to have that extra year of play before going off to school, but in general I don't think it mattered in the long run.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:55 PM on April 20, 2013

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