Academic redshirting advice
February 2, 2021 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Our oldest’s birthday is about 1 week before the cutoff for kindergarten registration, so if we send him to kindergarten in fall 2021 he’ll be one of the youngest in his grade. So we’re wondering whether to send him or give him another year to mature. The evidence on the pros and cons of academic redshirting is mixed. So how do we make this decision since it can’t really be evidence-based?

He's bright and mature-ish for his age, but naturally the difference between him and kids 11.9 months older than him is stark.

Advantages of waiting are he'll have an easier time both with learning and following rules/sitting still. And he'll get to be a kid for a bit longer. And I don't love how our society celebrates struggle when the struggle doesn't really accomplish anything, so I think I'm feeling pressure to do whatever is hard just because it's hard even though doing the easier thing (waiting) still accomplishes the goal (education).

Disadvantages of waiting… well it's hard to think of any. I guess he'll be older when he graduates. Is that really that big of a deal? Maybe he'll be a little bored in class if it's too easy — is that really that big of a deal? For all we know it won't be too easy, it might be just right. And if he's bored he can take harder courses or have time and energy for hobbies.

I guess I'm wondering if there's anything we're not thinking of because it seems waiting to enroll has all the advantages and nearly no disadvantages.

(We hope he plays a sport because he enjoys it but having an advantage at sports because he's bigger is not something we care about, so let's just ignore sports for this question.)
posted by Tehhund to Education (48 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've got three kids and this came up in varying ways for each of them. A lot depends on your son's temperament but generally I lean towards waiting - kindergarten is so much about learning to go to school and learning the social skills needed. Also in the last 20ish years most places have gone to full day kindergarten and that's tough for a lot of younger kids - it's a long day. I don't think being a little older is a problem but being the youngest often means a struggle to have the needed maturity and readiness for various skills - soft and not.

Especially given COVID and how weirdly schools and everything else has been changed as a result I don't see a downside to waiting if your childcare situation will permit.
posted by leslies at 6:10 AM on February 2, 2021 [17 favorites]

I have a son (2nd grade) who was just about as old as you could possibly be in a district that forbade red shirting and I have daughter in K who started in a district where redshirting is pretty common. She's an August birthday and there were kids who were six (i.e. a year older than her) in her class when the school year started. They both do pretty well given very disparate personalities. They are both big active kids for their ages with lots of physical activity going on. My observation is that I would only red-shirt if the kid were physically so small they had a hard time keeping up with the other kids. At this age size wise a few months can make a huge different. Kindergarten to me is more socialization and learning how to learn as it is about skills development and the data I've seen suggest there isn't much value in delaying that so they can "Do better in school" at that age..

I'm a little biased though as we decided not to put our son into a threes program at his nursery school because it just seemed preposterous that he was ready for school the following fall when we had to do the applications for schools, and by the time fall came around it was really obvious he wanted the socialization and we realized it was a mistake.
posted by JPD at 6:11 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Is kindergarten redshirting common in your area? There are some disadvantages of sending him early that come from being younger in an absolute sense (eg being more likely to be 'late' to writing because he's younger) but others come from being young relative to his peers. If redshirting is common, choosing not to redshirt a kid who is very close to the age cutoff means that he'll be in a class with kids more than 1 year older than him, which seems particularly unhelpful.

My understanding is that the academic disadvantage of being the youngest in your class lasts until you are at least 11 or 12, and possibly through to 16. So I would lean towards redshirting in your situation. I'm also biased as I believe that a close relative would have had a very different educational trajectory (and subsequent opportunities) if they had been born a 3 days after the cutoff in my area rather than 3 days before.
posted by plonkee at 6:15 AM on February 2, 2021 [7 favorites]

BTW - you might not know this but a lot of youth sports leagues are now run on an age basis specifically to make red-shirting less attractive. I know you didn't ask about sports but I think this has become so common place in the fancy burbs places are trying to find ways to push back.
posted by JPD at 6:15 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't remember where I heard this, but someone once told me that it's much easier to have a kid skip a grade because they're more academically advanced than the rest of their cohort than it is to hold a kid back because they're socially less developed. So if you redshirt your kid and he turns out to be a genius, you can always skip second grade or something to move him ahead. If you start him early and he has trouble, though, you can't re-do the decision to redshirt him.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:16 AM on February 2, 2021 [11 favorites]

My brother was born about 2 weeks after the cutoff for kindergarten registration. He was bored to tears in preschool (he could already read his name and basic words, knew how to add on his fingers), so just after he turned 5, our parents put him in private school for a couple years, then he transferred to public school.

He was always the youngest in his grade, but socially and intellectually mature, had a solid group of friends throughout (including, yes, friends who were a solid 13 months older than him). Played sports because he liked it. Is now a 30-something engineer, still plays in one of those weekend soccer leagues.

From my vantage point as a big sister, I didn't see any downside to enrolling him "early," other than the year we overlapped at the same school when he was in 3rd/I was in 6th, because 3rd graders can be SO EMBARRASSING when you just want to paint your nails with your friends and gossip about boys.
posted by basalganglia at 6:23 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

The biggest predictor of success in children - academic or otherwise - is socioeconomic status. "Social" or "academic" gains/losses are mostly anecdotal and any research saying otherwise has been really hard to replicate. The same goes for any holding back or promoting later in school. So much depends on your school district, their policies, and the other kids who attend school there. Your child already has an advantage over many in that you care enough to contemplate the question.

You seem to lean heavily on the side of holding him back. There are little disadvantages to doing so for him - most disadvantages relate to exploiting individualism within the system such as teachers having to teach kids that span larger than a year.

I followed the rules in my district and sent my kid to school based on the late fall cutoff date (her birthday) - we moved districts with a summer cutoff date and there are kids not just a year but closer to 18 months older than her. She is a teenager now and academically ahead of her grade band and socially right there with her classmates. I have never once questioned should she be in a different grade. Asking the internet this question is going to get every positive/negative anecdote.

As per your question, how do you decide this - you go with your gut as with every other parenting decision you will face. You could also look for mixed-aged classrooms like Montessori and it is a non-issue. Your kid will be who he is and you will love him and do what you can to help him succeed.
posted by turtlefu at 6:30 AM on February 2, 2021 [15 favorites]

Our daughter is just on the other side of the cutoff. Officially, she would have been too young to start kindergarten this year. But, she’s close enough that I think we definitely could have talked to the school and she would have been able to start. Much like your logic, we saw little downside to waiting. Academically, she’s clearly ready, but the extra year of social development is probably good for her. And it makes a big difference that she goes to an excellent and engaging Pre-K.

Her birthday is actually very close to mine and my parents made the opposite decision; I was always among the youngest in my class. And it was fine. Better than fine, actually- I was always a very good student and have gone on to have a career in education.

I guess my point is that, unless you see something clearly pointing you one way or another for your specific child, I think it’s hard to go wrong. The fact that you’re even thinking about this and asking the question shows that your are going to be so engaged in your child’s education that these small choices aren’t going to really matter so much.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:32 AM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

I was often among the youngest in my class - I have a mid-October birthday and it wasn't feasible for my parents to keep me home another year. I graduated from high school when I was 17 and university when I was 21. I was also a big kid so I was never the smallest *and* youngest. I had a great time in school, even when I was the youngest kid in a split class with a grade above mine. The only disadvantage was that when I went to University I needed a fake ID for longer than most other people.
posted by hepta at 6:34 AM on February 2, 2021 [9 favorites]

As someone who started school on the 80s before redshirting was common, I had a fall birthday and started kindergarten at age 4. I did fine, and the main downsides of being one of the youngest in my class was that I was one of the last of my friends to get my drivers license and turn 21. So not a big deal. I did well in school, played varsity sports, had friends.
If he's physically and emotionally ready to start school, there doesn't seem to be any harm in going, and it could have social and financial benefits (less childcare costs). On the flipside, there's no harm in keeping him an extra year at home if you think that is best for him and your family. Especially given the fact that we are in the midst of the largest pandemic in 100 years, waiting an extra year might have advantages as the vaccine will be more widely available by then, and hopefully transmission will be way down. It seems like you are wanting to wait a year to enroll and this internet stranger thinks that's ok!
posted by emd3737 at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yeah, if you think your kid would benefit some from waiting, there's no reason not to wait. My son (August birthday) really really wanted to start kindergarten at 5, was reading and doing math and was disappointed to not get homework (!). They actually talked us into having him skip first grade, so he's always been by far the youngest in his grade. It's worked out fine. I won't say it's been perfect, but I'm sure that making a different choice would have led to different but equal problems.

Frankly, I treasure the time I got to spend at home with my pre-school son as some of the best times of my life. I wouldn't have minded having another year of that.
posted by rikschell at 6:39 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

It also depends on the particular kindergarten and whether they're good at having littler and older kids in one group. I would ask the kindergarten teachers how they feel about the age gap. If they seem enthusiastic about how it's a good idea for younger and older kids to interact, I'd take that as a good sign.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that the age gap will follow him through school and that entirely reasonable five-year-old behavior in a class full of six-year-olds can get a kid branded as a “problem.” Some developmental things, like understanding jokes or getting the hang of writing, just come when they come and it can be super frustrating for the one kid in the class who is having a hard time. I would wait. I’ve been part of some behavioral assessments where the only problem was that the poor kid was a year younger than their classmates but was held to the standards of kids a year older.
posted by corey flood at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2021 [12 favorites]

We debated this with our son who is a late October birthday (the cutoff in our district is December) but ultimately decided to put him in school at age 4 rather than holding him back. You will get many opinions both ways but it really does come down to your kid. Ours has pretty pronounced ADHD and we knew "sitting still" was not really in his wheelhouse; however, he is also incredibly smart, very sociable, and would have completely outgrown his preschool class if he had stayed that extra year. For him it was the right choice, and he's done very well in school.
((And as his mother, the fact that he will get his driver's license later than all of his peers is 100% okay with me.))
posted by Jemstar at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2021

Another anecdote, my younger son was born at the very end of July and we put him "late". Even with the year delay, he's always been on the smaller side for his grade though he's caught up a bit at 13. I don't see any real downside to our decision. He's not big on organized sports so that's never been an issue.

And if it isn't a hardship for you to have him not in kindergarden this fall, I think not having to deal with school and coronavirus is probably a good thing.
posted by jclarkin at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would only red-shirt if the kid were physically so small they had a hard time keeping up with the other kids.
My parents decided to send me, even though they could have redshirted due to the cutoff date. And then it turned out that teachers wanted me to skip a grade several times throughout elementary school. My parents declined each time because of my small size, and even now as a grown (but very short) adult I have anger about this! My physical limitations should not determine the education I get, and this is something that I could have communicated as a five-year-old had I been asked. I wish that somebody would have asked me what I thought. I don't see anyone here advocating for asking your kid what they think, so I will. Why not ask them? They may have a clear preference that you could take into consideration when you make this decision, even though they are young.
posted by k8lin at 7:11 AM on February 2, 2021 [19 favorites]

If redshirting is common in your community he will travel through the grades as a significantly younger kid as he enters junior high and then high school. Things that 15, 16, and 17 year olds are experimenting with, as well as dating (do kids date anymore?) might pull him along in their wake if he has the kind of personality that wants to be liked and included, and especially if he has a bit of daredevil to him. I know it's hard to see down the road that far, but pushing him into early K will affect his social circle as well as his academic life.

There are several comments above that refer to successful younger girls, but redshirting is specifically targeted at boys, who tend to mature later than girls. I went to first grade when I was 5 (Nov. birthday) with my 5 year old best friend (birthday not until the following March!). We did great. The youngest boys in our classes, though, tended to have trouble later on, in their teens, socially, rather than academically. Social maturity, even at 5 or 6, could be a deciding factor in your son's success. Only you know him.
posted by citygirl at 7:28 AM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think it definitely depends on the kid. How mature they are, what they already know, academically, etc. My sister started early in kindergarten, the cutoff at the time was December. She ended up having to repeat third grade. My son, on the other hand, already knew how to read when he entered kindergarten, so it was a bit boring for him. But his school at the time had unique combo classes, so instead of skipping a whole grade, he was in a class with some 1st graders, then, the next year, he was in 1st grade, but in a class with some 2nd graders, etc. it allowed him to be a little more advanced, but stay with the kids his own age.
posted by poppunkcat at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe he'll be a little bored in class if it's too easy — is that really that big of a deal?

It can be! I was bored basically until high school (when those "outside hobbies" become a meaningful outlet). As a result, I acted out constantly, to the point where I got suspended once in grade school. And a lot of teachers really didn't know what to do with a kid who was evidently bright but also didn't act appropriately. (This was back when an ADHD diagnosis was almost impossible for girls.) In my own teaching, I've seen the same thing plenty of times. While plenty of bright children are compliant/good at self-regulating and will just sit quietly when bored, that is...extremely not universal. A kid who is "bright and mature-ish for his age" does not, to me, seem like a great candidate for red-shirting.

I do also want to remind you that this isn't a decision you're making in isolation, but part of a broader movement. It's worth thinking about who red-shirts their kids and why, and deciding whether or not you want to be part of that.

(At least, in non-COVID times. Personally I think I'd wait and see what the school situation looks like in August and either enroll him or not based on that information.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2021 [10 favorites]

I once had a long chat about this topic with my daughter's kindergarten teacher (who had been teaching K about 15 years), and she was a firm believer in giving very young kids the extra year to mature. She said that in her experience the social and academic benefits of waiting, especially for boys, were usually huge.

That said, this teacher indicated that it did depend on the kid and if they were socially and emotionally mature for their age that was a consideration (she felt this mattered far more than their academic knowledge/skills). I would agree with this as well based on other personal experiences. I also think that if your kid is bright, esp if this happens to be bright in a non-neurotypical way, they're going to be bored regardless of when you start them in kindergarten. I was given more advanced work, and a friend of mine was skipped a grade, and we both were still bored and acted out (and the friend struggled socially).

The two factors I would give heavy consideration to here are:
1) Covid. This would absolutely be a factor for me and push me towards waiting regardless of the maturity and personality of my kiddo; and
2) Your family context. What would each choice mean for the rest of you as a family? Are there benefits to keeping kiddo home another year, or would it be more beneficial to put them in school due to work/childcare costs/other factors?
posted by DTMFA at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

My son was also one week short of the cutoff, however redshirting and skipping grades is not allowed here. I definitely feel it has impeded his academic and social success (and he is a super smart kid with good social skills!). Fortunately, here is it acceptable to do a “victory lap” of secondary school (until twenty years ago it used to be that students going on to university did a fifth year of secondary school); which is what I had always told him would happen. If you do decide to put him into class, do you have the option of adding an extra year of high school without stigma?
posted by saucysault at 7:59 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I say wait. My son, now 12, could have been enroled early due to his birth date but i decided against it, mostly due to my brother's experience, he was sent early and it was no problem for the early years but once the other boys hit puberty and he didnt, being 12 months younger,, school became a nightmare for him.
I dont regret keeping my son late, he is one of the older ones in his class, and i see no disadvantage. His physical development is similar to most boys in his class room whixh i think is really important.
posted by 15L06 at 8:07 AM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

My mom taught art in an elementary school for decades, in an institution that was K-12, and so she saw the trajectories of hundreds of kids. Her best teacher friend was one of of the Kindergarten teachers, so she also got an earful of whatever problems her friend was facing. Some of which would come up over dinner.

There were some kids whose parents had pushed them to start early who struggled, whether because they weren't quite ready socially or mentally. Most eventually adjusted, but my mom and her Kindergarten friend observed a fair bit of stress among some of them. And like kevinbelt mentioned, there were a few kids who had started late, who eventually needed to skip 1st or 2nd grade. Those kids were always fine, and generally very proud of the fact that they got to skip a grade. Having to a hold a kid back though can be kinda traumatic, and there were a few instances where my mom's school demanded this for a kid who was struggling too much.

So I say wait, but just make sure he doesn't get bored- as goodbyewaffles points out, that's not good either.
posted by coffeecat at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't know how young friendships have been affected (or prevented) during Covid, but I think a significant factor may be whether he has friends who will be "separated" from him by whichever choice is made. Going into kindergarten without your friends can be more difficult and the concept of cohort, even at that young age, can act to prevent on-going connections among children at differing grade levels.
posted by uncaken at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was always one of the youngest in my class, which did not matter at all in elementary school. I enjoyed learning, had lots of friends, and did fine.

However, it was really hard in middle school. I was one of the last of my classmates to enter puberty and for a while there was a big disconnect between my classmates interests and my own. It was hard and lonely.

By high school those things had pretty much worked themselves out, but it was really really hard being one of the last people to get a license. It was not just an inconvenience; it definitely impacted my social life.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 8:33 AM on February 2, 2021 [6 favorites]

Whatever you decide to do, don't make the decision based on someone's kindergarten experience from 30 years ago. Kindergarten (at least in the US educational system) has changed so much in the past couple of decades. It also seems that in my state, at least, the school districts no longer push kids ahead a grade or hold them back.

My youngest is in kindergarten now and our district has been in a remote learning format ('Zoom school') this entire academic year. So I have gotten to witness kindergarten and it is so much more "academically rigorous" than I remember. It's not that impressive anymore for a kindergartener to enter school knowing how to read and write a little or even a lot. I can also see that the older kids in the class, the ones who had birthdays the first month of school or shared at the beginning of the year that they were already 6, just seem to be having an easier time of interacting with the teacher and their peers while navigating the academic portions of the day. They just seem more confident.

If I were you I'd talk to the principal and kindergarten teachers at your child's potential school, and also other parents in your community. You'll learn more about present-day expectations.
posted by stowaway at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

it seems waiting to enroll has all the advantages and nearly no disadvantages.

If I had this decision to make over again, I'd wait. Mainly because it's not really about kindergarten per se; it's about academic expectations vs. developmental stage in every year from now on.

You say "the difference between him and kids 11.9 months older than him is stark". Consider the kids you're using for your "11.9 months older" reference here, and ask yourself: who would have an easier time learning to pilot a pen, keep digits lined up in columns and all those other fine-motor skills kids are expected to pick up in their early years, Tehhundchen or the older kids?

Because if fine motor skills are part of the stark difference you're seeing, then not waiting vs waiting could easily become the difference between an entire school career spent playing catch-up with the accumulated effects of all the stuff that wasn't quite fully cooked last year, and one not.

School curricula are layered. Each year does build on the stuff that was supposed to have been squared away the year before.

Once he gets to about third grade, it will be obvious whether or not he's been struggling for three years. And if he is, it will also be obvious that unless he's struggling really badly, then realistically you're not going to hold him back and he's just going to have to keep on struggling.

If you have the option of putting his schooling on easy mode, I don't see why you wouldn't. Let him spend the next decade being bright, not just bright for his age.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Probably of interest
posted by flabdablet at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I went to kindergarten as the absolute youngest in my class in the 90s and did wonderfully. I definitely looking back attribute some of my social issues and acting out in class to being younger than my classmates, but overall given how bored I was in elementary school I am happy I went to school "early." I ended up with a great group of friends, just matured late. I did great through middle and high school too. The biggest issues came up when my friends all could drive or could drink before I could, as I am still close with them in my 20s. But I just ended up getting rides a lot and I missed some bar hangouts until I caught up. I would ask your kid. The main decision points for my parents were the facts that I was excelling in preschool and I was begging them to teach me to read. I feel like your kid will give you an indication one way or another.
posted by clarinet at 9:05 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Allegedly, it's good for younger students to be exposed to their older peers as a role model, and having to work hard to keep up in school fosters a good work ethic.

Redshirted students would be eligible (age-wise) to drop out of school at a grade lower than their non redshirted peers.

There are also different parent-child dynamics the earlier a high school student can say, "but [parent], I am legally an adult."

In my case, I was on the younger side of my peers, and I often felt behind. However, *for reasons* I ended up graduating from college with the cohort a year behind me, which finally felt right. (Admittedly, it was jarring at times that the year below students could be 2 or 3 years younger than me). However, in retrospect, I can't say definitively that I should have been red shirted, because my particular trajectory wouldn't have been an option had I been redshirted from kindergarten.
posted by oceano at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I haven't read all the previous responses. Most of the time these responses focus on the early years. My kids are Sep and Oct birthdays so missed the 9/1 (local to here) cutoffs for kindergarten by 1 and 5 weeks.

My son is now a senior in high school and wow am I glad he has one more year to mature his life skills before going off to college where he will be almost 19 instead of almost 18. Academics are easy compared to the skills to manage oneself, executive functioning and such. Actually he could use another few years ...

My daughter is in her first year in high school, very mature, finds school to be easy, and I've always been really glad that she was on the more mature side to navigate social situations better.

My kids are both tall and never struggled with schoolwork, still glad they are not on the young side.

With all this said, much of the decision should take into consideration the norms in your area. Here, the cutoff is 9/1 and many, many people hold back especially their boys. With Sep and Oct birthdays, my kids were far from the youngest in their classes with many, many summer birthdays and even some March and April birthdays being held back. My son has friends who are six months older than him - that would make your son 1 1/2 years younger than some peers which is a lot of time right up through senior year.

As another example, on my son's lacrosse team half of the boys are old enough to be a grade earlier. Half! This cohort of people - sports parents of boys - are even more likely to hold back their kids.

Also, times have changed and what was relevant 20, 30 years ago is not necessarily relevant today. Kindergarten has changed a lot from socializing to full-on expectations of reading. Many children come into kindergarten after years of daycare or 3 years of preschool including pre-k so know all their letters and letter sounds and are entirely socialized so this is a consideration of whether your son already has this "school" experience.
posted by RoadScholar at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, the worst case of starting too early for the kid is really bad for the kid. But the worst case of starting 'too late' is negligible and undetectable.

I think my kid will fall more squarely in the age range, but if it was close, I would wait.

I started kindergarten early (just shy of a cutoff), didn't do so great, and quit. Then I came back the next year (and wasn't the oldest) and never had a problem, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Here is a good rundown of what the research says about the potential advantage and disadvantages of redshirting. A few things to note:

- Any academic advantage seems to disappear by third grade.
- Research doesn't indicate any social advantages to holding a child back.
- Holding a child back might result in delayed help for a child that does have learning disabilities.
posted by brookeb at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Another October baby here, and I started early, graduating high school at 17 and undergrad at 20.

It’s a toss-up. I was bored as crap academically (and my parents were approached about me skipping a grade in elementary school but decided against it) although pretty far behind socially. Having a graduated license when all of my classmates didn’t, having braces for another year when everyone else had their braces off, being about 12-18 months younger than guys I was dating was kind of a pain in the butt, but I don’t feel like it was difficult or traumatic or anything. Granted, I’m *still* pretty far behind socially, so that may be a “me” issue and not a redshirting one. I have also always identified as female, so while I cannot speak to puberty for people with Y chromosomes, I do know that it wasn’t such a huge deal for me in relation to other people who identify as girls/women (it probably has something to do with the fact that I have been roughly the same size since somewhere between 1995-1997).
posted by sara is disenchanted at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was never the smallest *and* youngest.

I was! It wasn't great when I was really small and then it ceased mattering by the time I was in junior high. I was also "gifted" with all the good and bad that brings along with it, so when I skipped ahead a grade for math and english those kids were a LOT older than me and it felt like it. I also had a pretty fractured home life and so didn't get the support I could have used in a situation like this managing it emotionally (I was timid and somewhat shy, though I had some good friends which helped). This was also a long time ago. I'd say if you feel your kid is mature enough and you feel like you can help him with emotional hurdles he might face, early is fine. If you want to hold back until COVID nonsense is a bit more under control, I think that is also defensible and maybe the best reason for waiting at this point.
posted by jessamyn at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I started kindergarten on my fifth birthday and have never looked at being the youngest/one of the youngest as a disadvantage. Yes, during my junior year of college many subsets of friends were out at the bars without me (I was too scared to get a fake :) ), but there was never a time that all of my friends were out without me, let alone every night.

I've always appreciated the fact that I was able to graduate from college at 21 and finished my masters degrees at 23. But I also think that if your child is lucky enough to be raised with thoughtful parents, they'll likely appreciate whatever situation your choices have led them to whenever they're asked for input decades from now.
posted by icaicaer at 11:17 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree that it really depends on your child.

My birthday is December 1st and I wasn't redshirted - I don't think they had such a thing back then. I never noticed any issues, I was always reasonably tall for my age so even though I was half a year younger than the average student I was still above average height for the class, and always did well academically.

My daughter's birthday is at the end of November and we didn't have any concerns about sending her to school, she had gone to a pre-school and we felt she was ready for full-day kindergarten. I'm trying to picture her being in grade 3 now instead of grade 4 and it would be way too easy for her. She has a friend whose birthday is Christmas and he is small and immature for his age and probably would have benefited from being redshirted.

If your son is already going to a pre-school then I wouldn't see the harm in letting him stay there for another year (although where I am that would be a much more expensive option), but if he's at home then him making a bunch of new friends is a pretty big plus for sending him to kindergarten in September.

This is all assuming that in your area everyone will be vaccinated against Covid and school will be in-person. If you're going to be doing virtual/online schooling then sit the year out.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:54 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would see what the norms at your school are. My child has a birthday eight days before our state's cutoff and I sent her to 4K this year. There are six year olds in her class and she will probably always be the youngest. I analyzed this extensively and used the kindergarten readiness testing our public school district offered. She tested kindergarten ready at 3, and her preschool teachers told me they thought she would be bored with another year of preschool. You know your child best, so do what is best for your family.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was born in January and in my country school year starts Feb. Then later on at primary school, I was put up a class because of my perceived ability and disruptive behaviour due to boredom. My parents were hesitant about this but followed the advice they were given. This meant I was first somewhat younger and then substantially younger than my peers. It set me up for a difficult adolescence as my social peers went off and did things I was not allowed to do, and if I joined them, I was indeed less mature and able to deal with the consequences. This in turn set the stage for various problems that took years to resolve.

My daughter was born in the middle of the year, and while she eventually skipped one year for academic reasons, this happened much later in her last years of secondary school. She is far better adjusted than I was at her age.

By all means start him if you think he's ready, but if you don't feel like it, don't. It can go either way.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was one of the youngest in my class. I didn't get my drivers license until nearly half way through my junior year of high school. Academically i did great, with a more reserved, less confindent personality I might have benefitted from an extra year of maturity, but who knows what would have happened had i been "held back". it is impossible to know. Back then the only reason the held someone back is if they were behind or had a learning disability.

Here it is definitely the norm. My oldest has a birthday 3 weeks before the cutoff. She started on time, weighing in at a whopping 29 pounds as a just turned 4 year old for pre K. She did great academically but was more reserved and shy and less likely to participate or defend herself. Some of her classmates were full year or more older than her. She moved on to Kindergarten and we decided to have her repeat kindergarten with the same teacher the next year. Even then she wasn't the oldest person in her class as a whole, not by a long shot. In the end she graduated as valedictorian, was a 4 year starter in two different sports and is now working on her masters. I don't regret it one bit and she doesn't either. She ended where she needed to be.

I would do it again. as far as being bored, she took concurrent and AP classes and started college with 21 hours. That's a whole other can of worms - great but if they are sure what they want to do they lose a little bit of gen ed time they would otherwise have to figure that out.
posted by domino at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good points all around, and people brought up a couple things that I should have mentioned. As a couple of you said, we feel he will be fine either way, and the fact that he will be fine either way almost makes this harder to decide because either option seems so low-risk!

He and his younger sister are currently in a very engaging preschool, and we are happy to keep him there for another year so there's no urgency to sending him to kindergarten. In a way it's convenient if we make him wait because then they will mostly be at the same school (that is, if he waits they will be 2 years apart in school instead of 3).

He seems to be a bright kid and he loves books, but he isn't showing very much interest in learning to read them himself the way some of his cousins have. And his fine motor skills are only so-so, he can pretty much only write his name and he doesn't really care if it's left to right, right to left, or all over the page. I know this isn't the biggest deal because he has months before he would be in kindergarten but what I'm getting at is it's not a clear case of being ready to go.

As someone pointed out the pandemic also comes into play, we suspect some parents held their kids out of kindergarten this year and so next year's class might be a bit larger than normal. Not the biggest deal and there are some upsides to more peers but it might be nicer for him to be in a class that isn't overstuffed.

We will reach out to the school district and see if they have ways of assessing readiness, and ask if redshirting, trying kindergarten then going back to preschool, and/or skipping grades are at all common. If we know how flexible they are it might help us make a decision.
posted by Tehhund at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

My sisters are both early childhood teachers. I had a child born on the cusp of the school year so this was something we spoke about a lot. They told me that it’s not whether the child is academically capable that’s generally the concern, it’s whether or not they can keep up socially and that you have to decide on a case by case basis. But one sister did bring up something I never thought about - most people are concerned about how the kid will manage starting school. They don’t consider how big that age gap can feel years down the track.

In our classes due to redshirting there can be as much as 18 months between the oldest and youngest in the same class. It’s not necessarily a massive gap when they’re 6, but when they’re 12 and some of their friends are 14 or almost 14, your child could literally be still playing with dolls while they’re dating. Their kids are driving, yours is years away. In Australia, their friends are of drinking age at 18, your child doesn’t even have their drivers license. You get the idea.

The gap widens - the maturity gap, their sexual development, everything. And the younger child can really feel left behind socially and in a lot of other ways... because they are. Either that or they’re participating in things that they’re just not ready for yet. So, something to consider.
posted by Jubey at 2:18 PM on February 2, 2021 [6 favorites]

I lived this. My birthday was on the cusp, and so I had to attend a several-hour session that tested my readiness for school. They determined that I was academically ready, but not socially ready, and so I would have to wait a year to begin school. Well, guess what? I'm still not socially ready. I am a natural introvert. Although I was dying to learn to read, I had to wait an entire additional year to do so. I still feel some resentment about that. No one asked me whether I wanted to start school. Many years later I mentioned to my mom that I had really wanted to begin school early, and she said she had no idea and that she would have started me in school early if she had known - she felt kind of bad about it. So I recommend that you seek input from your child, and take into account their feelings about it.
posted by SageTrail at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

I was a bit after the cutoff as a kid. By the time I went to school I was far ahead of most other kids in academics, and I was fine socially. It became clear really quickly that I should have been part of the previous cohort. I spent years of my academic life stuck in a corner by the teacher, given a stack of books and workbooks to go through by myself and being told to keep myself busy.

I see lots of people talk about skipping grades; in my school system it was not possible to do so. In high school most of my friends were two years ahead of me so the social thing would never have been an issue. My mom regrets that she didn't push to get me into school a year earlier, and boy, I wish she had too. So if you're thinking "if he's ahead he can skip a grade later" you may want to make absolutely sure that's true.
posted by rednikki at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would have been SO ANGRY if my parents had delayed when I started school—I don’t think it would have been something I would have ever been ok with.
posted by Violet Hour at 7:04 PM on February 2, 2021

The answer is it depends.

I was born right after the cusp, all of my friends and cousins around the same age went to school, I cried that I couldn't go, and then I just dicked around in the backyard for a year. When I finally started school, I didn't get along very well with my cohort (the group personalities of different cohorts is a real thing that's hard to qualify, but it's a big deal). After a few years, I skipped a grade to the next cohort in a split-grade program, and that was great and I liked it. Then everyone in the split-grade program were demoted at grade 7 because of school-politics (damn them all). But I did get to spend much of grade 8 in the school library reading whatever I wanted (which is swell!) This anecdote occurred in a rural school back in the 20th century and does not apply to your contemporary school system. Every case is different.
posted by ovvl at 7:23 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe he'll be a little bored in class if it's too easy — is that really that big of a deal?

I still 'hate' my mother for *not* letting me skip a grade when I went from private to public school. And I had already started a year earlier because it would have been HORRIBLE to not let me start first grade with my friends. Being forced to be bored is horrible and much worse than being the youngest in the class.

Oh, and you may eventually have to hire a driver's ed student driver sort of thing if they're too young to get a learner's permit when it's taught at school. There may be a couple of other things age difference in there.

Y'know, I think I'd hate being the *oldest* kid in class. It's like a bit of failure feeling even if you weren't held back for a year for learning difficulties .

Really yeah, because the cutoff it's either-or. The youngest? The oldest?
posted by zengargoyle at 9:22 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

A big determinant, after you consider his temperament and behavior readiness, is, honestly - is he reading? Like, actually reading, at the time he would start kindergarten? Barely starting to sound out three-letter words, ok, you're fine with putting him in kindergarten. But if he's going to be beyond that, already well-versed in phonics, and capable of reading sentences out loud - if he starts when he's already at THAT point, you may well have created some problems for yourself, potentially big ones.

It's just as dangerous to put a competent child, especially a boy, into a situation where he'll be bored academically. It's asking for behavior problems and acting out, and it's pretty darn rare that the institution recognizes it appropriately. Instead, they'll assume the child, again, especially if male, is behind - and that compounds the problems to an exponential degree.

It's yet another reason why educating to the slowest common denominator is detrimental to all the children in the class.
posted by stormyteal at 11:50 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

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