Redshirting and why the whole thing makes me see red

I recently read yet ANOTHER article talking about red shirting…for those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the term, it means holding back your child an extra year before starting school so that they are among the oldest, rather than youngest kids in their class.

I am pretty much the opposite of a red shirt parent…I’m a green shirt parent…let’s call it that.

This is not to say that I advocate throwing a child to the academic wolves at the earliest possible age.  Rather, I believe the following

  • Academic readiness should be based on skills, not age.  Some 4 year olds are ready for Kindergarten.  Some 5 year olds are not.
  • Academic promotion should be based on mastery, not age.  Social promotion is the ruin of many a child.  Enough with sixth graders who read on a third grade level.
  • Why not have a mixed age classroom?  What are you so scared of?
  • Stop holding your child back because you think it will up their shot at Harvard, Varsity football or whatever idiotic nonsense you have in your head.

I was always the youngest or among the youngest kids in my class.  My birthday is October 24th, and my district’s cutoff (changed the year after I started, thankfully) was October 31rst.

Yes, I occasionally had social issues.  Those had far more to do with being socially inept than my age.  It wasn’t that I was immature, it was that I didn’t know kids or how to talk to them.  I went home to 5 adults and their friends, who mostly didn’t have children.  There weren’t a ton of kids my age in the neighborhood…there were plenty of younger kids.  I was also precocious and no one likes the only kindergartener who is allowed to take out chapter books.  That I had nothing but scorn for those who read “baby” books probably didn’t help matters.

Honestly the question isn’t should I have started K at 4…it’s should I have skipped K or 1 altogether.  My mom was given the option (remember when we skipped kids and didn’t just talk about holding them back???) but had too many people scare her about how “young” I was (note, none of these were my teachers or people who saw me in the academic world every day).

As the parent of a November baby (soon to be 2 November babies or a November and a late October baby), the whole cutoff date nonsense is an issue near and dear to my heart.

Ravi and I have researched which districts in MA (if we move back there) would let us put E into K at 4 going on 5.  We are leaning towards a move to NYC, specifically because it (and NY state) has a Dec 31 cut off date.

If we move back after E has completed K2 or P1, our goal will be to get her assessed and properly skipped as grades are done differently here (and the average K2 student is doing work that isn’t attempted until 1rst/2nd grade in the US).

If we move back before E’s 4th fall, we have the financial wherewithal to do the “year of private school to force the local school to take her for 1rst the year she’s 5 going on 6” trick, which for the record was also my in-laws strategy when it came to Ravi (another October b-day in a Sept 1 district).

I think what annoys me most about the red-shirt crowd is how little they think of their children.  Yes, some kids aren’t ready for school at 4.  But someone is always going to be the youngest and someone is always going to be the oldest.  Changing the cutoff from Dec 31 to September 1 doesn’t change anything except the months that parents are freaking about…soon it will be the May bdays that we’re holding back.  It never ends.

Children are FAR more capable than we give them credit for.  Elanor constantly shocks me with her recall, how quickly she can memorize a song or words to a story.  I probably underestimate her far more frequently than I overestimate her.  These past few months where I’ve had the chance to observe her in school situations, I’ve been constantly blown away by how focused, how disciplined and how attentive she can be.  How eager she is to learn.

We’ve consented to move her to N1 in two weeks, 3 days a week.  Part of me is sad to be losing my baby, and my time with her in school…but she is more than ready.

And unlike a redshirt parent…I know it’s time to let her spread her wings and fly on her own.  I’ll be right here on the ground, applauding her, supporting her, and checking in with her teachers…after all, she’s only 2 and a half.

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