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Holding My Kid Back From Kindergarten Would Have Been a Huge Mistake

Photograph by Twenty20

Parents of summer babies know the dilemma: Your child just barely turns 5 when the school year starts. Do you let them start kindergarten, knowing they’ll be one of the younger kids in the class, or do you hold them back a year and give them that extra time to be ready for school?

I first heard the term "redshirting" from my son’s Montessori pre-kindergarten teacher. We were discussing how he was the youngest kid in his pre-K class when she mentioned I might want to hold him back a year before letting him start kindergarten in public school. His birthday falls just a few days before the cutoff in our school district, so my husband and I went back and forth over whether it would be better to give him an extra year of preschool.

The last thing I wanted was for him to dislike school before he’d even started his academic career.

On one hand, holding my son back a year would have given him an additional year to be ready for the rigors of public school — which has a more intense workload than he was used to in pre-K, or even what I went through at his age. On the other hand, he had already mastered the work in pre-K and was well on his way to reading independently. While I wanted him to feel confident when he started school, I was afraid that holding him back a year would have left him bored and impatient with a routine that didn’t challenge him. The last thing I wanted was for him to dislike school before he’d even started his academic career.

After a lot of discussion, and weighing the pros and cons, we decided to let my son start kindergarten when he turned 5.

Whether to redshirt our son or not was a very personal decision based on a variety of factors, like being able to anticipate how he would respond in a formal classroom setting. My son’s voracious interest in learning was one of my main considerations in letting him start kindergarten. He’s also consistently been in the 75-80 percentile for height and weight for his age, which makes him one of the bigger kids in his class. No one is likely to single him out as being younger than the other kids, a concern that some friends have expressed with regard to their summer babies starting school.

I would hesitate to recommend our path to every parent because, as we all know, every kid is different. But I'm also relieved to say our decision worked out better than I could have hoped. My son is in first grade now and although sometimes I worry that we might hit a bump when he gets to middle school, it seems silly to hold back a kid who was clearly ready to start kindergarten based on what might happen in six or seven years.

My son is a gregarious, curious kid who has been thriving in school, despite the fact that he’s younger than the rest of the kids in his class. He loves school, is in the highest reading group in his class and likes to do math problems "for fun." For nearly two years now, I've watched his confidence, skills and happiness soar — and that is more than worth delving into the numerous discussions and doubts we had.

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