As mothers, our lives are full of decisions about what’s best for our children and our families. At Sarasota Moms Blog, we want to create a community where moms are free to share diverse thoughts and opinions without feeling guilt or judgement. So, we’re bringing you a new series: Momversations. Each month, we’ll feature a “hot topic” of motherhood and a conversation between two moms who made different choices. We hope these posts become a resource to others who have yet to make the same decision, and a reassurance that no matter what you decide, you’re making the right choice, mama.
Kindergarten Redshirting – Send Them at 5 or Hold Them Back?
Florida law specifies that children who have attained the age of 5 on or before September 1 are eligible for admission into public kindergarten during that school year. But the practice of kindergarten redshirting – delaying a child’s entrance into kindergarten by a year – has recently grown in popularity.
The concept is that if a child has a summer birthday, they may be better off waiting a year, making them one of the oldest kids in their class, versus the youngest. (The term “redshirting” is borrowed from U.S. college sports, for a student athlete who is kept out of competition their freshman year, to have an extra season of eligibility later on when they’re stronger and more skilled.)
A delay gives a child more time to develop their language and communication skills, as well as have more practice at social and emotional learning – managing emotions, setting and achieving goals, managing relationships and making responsible decisions. On the flip side, the average monthly preschool cost in Florida is $505.48 per month. So many parents decide to enroll their younger kindergartener in lieu of paying for another year of full-time daycare.
Below, Fallon Enfinger and Barbie Lane discuss the details of their kindergarten decisions.
When and where did your child attend kindergarten?
Fallon: Rylan attended kindergarten at Rowlett Academy in 2016. He had just turned 5 in July before school started that year.
Barbie: Cooper started at Freedom Elementary in 2015. He turned 6 five days before. He was the oldest student in his class by a few weeks.
What were the contributing factors that led to your decision?
Fallon: Academically, Rylan was ahead in math and reading. Also, he was tall for his age! He always looks about a year older than he actually is. Socially, he was a bit behind, but we were OK with that. We preferred he learn social skills from classmates that were slightly older than him rather than classmates that were younger than him.
Barbie: When we started Cooper in preschool at age 3, I was called the first day by the teachers with their concerns. We lived in Pennsylvania at the time, and their standards are much stricter than Florida. He was assessed and it was recommended he do speech, instructional and physical therapy. He went weekly for about 6 months and was leaps and bounds better every month. It was so worth the time and effort spent getting him to those appointments. My parents regretted me starting at 4 in kindergarten. This was always in the back of my mind when it came to my children.
What research did you do before making your decision?
Fallon: We didn’t really research our decision. My husband and I knew that we wanted him to start kindergarten as soon as his age allowed because of his advanced academic skills. We also strongly believed his social skills would eventually catch up.
Barbie: I spoke to his preschool teachers, the director of our preschool, and our pediatrician. All said he would be fine either way and the decision was ultimately up to my husband and myself. I also spoke to MANY parents who were sending their child on time AND who were waiting. It was nice to hear both sides of the argument and what led each family to their decision.
Did your child need any academic or emotional/social support from the school during kindergarten?
Fallon: Rylan did need speech therapy to help him with certain letter sounds and with communication skills. He had already been receiving private speech therapy before kindergarten began. He also ended up qualifying for occupational therapy through the school for some sensory issues. He was screened for gifted during kindergarten and was able to enter the gifted program starting in 1st grade.
Barbie: The first few weeks he did cry nearly every day when he first arrived at school. This was due to a longer school day than he was used to in preschool. I emailed the school guidance counselor and she spoke to him and kept an eye on him the first few weeks but assured me his behavior was pretty standard and not to worry. He did amazing in kindergarten. He was well prepared during his Young 5’s program. He knew all his letters, could count to 100, and could identify and spell from memory all the kindergarten sight words.
Discuss your child’s performance during their kindergarten year.
Fallon: Academically, he performed very well. Socially, he needed some assistance. He had difficulties making friends and communicating his needs with classmates and teachers. He was less athletic/coordinated than some of his peers at the time. But, all in all, he remained happy and optimistic about school the entire year. His communication skills had grown tremendously throughout the year.
Barbie: His teacher was very pleased with Cooper. He was attentive in class, participated well, was social with his classmates and had been well prepared for kindergarten. Conferences were very quick because there were no issues to discuss. He was doing well academically and socially. She said that sometimes he was a little quiet and shy but otherwise was making great progress. His grades were always very good and best of all, he was HAPPY!
Do you feel you made the right decision?
Fallon: Yes! We feel that his wonderful teacher and school made his kindergarten year an amazing experience. Rylan’s school focuses on developing character, kindness, and leadership skills. This is exactly what he needed. We also feel that interacting with older students in his class helped to improve his social skills and emotional regulation! He is now entering into 2nd grade, and we are thrilled at where he’s at socially, physically, and academically!
Barbie: ABSOLUTELY. For my second son who also has an August birthday, I fully plan to hold him back as well. Cooper is still thriving in school. He is entering 3rd grade and has mentioned to me that he is intimidated by all the testing the 3rd graders will go through this year. (Don’t get me started on my annoyance with his teacher for putting this fear in his head already.) He is a smart young man and I know he is ready for the challenge. So far, school has been very easy for him, so this year will be interesting now that the curriculum will be more challenging.
What advice would you give to other moms struggling with this decision?
Fallon: Every child is different! You know your child best! This decision was not hard for us based on what we knew about our child. We knew Rylan would struggle socially and do well academically going into kindergarten, and we were OK with both of those! Placing your child (when you feel they are ready) in a positive and loving environment is key to their kindergarten success!
Barbie: Talk to as many parents as you can with children who have gone through kindergarten. They are the best sources of information. You could read a thousand books but what it really boils down to is your school, your child and your willingness to do what is best for them. Don’t force your child to start early if they aren’t ready. I’ve heard so many horror stories of parents starting their kids early and now they’re failing and so behind and schools refuse to hold them back because of the stigma and bullying.