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It’s Come To This – ‘Redshirt’ Kindergartners
Is the red shirt appropriate? No, I’m not talking about college athletes. I’m talking about kindergarten teachers.
The most common use of the term “redshirt” refers to the delay of a college athlete’s participation in regular-season games for a year to give him additional time to practice and develop his skills. Generally, a college athlete’s eligibility is four seasons. Redshirting allows them to enter their first season as stronger players, with a year more development and experience than those players who start straight out of high school.
As a mom of two young daughters, however, the common usage of the term in my world does not refer to college athletes, but to kindergartners. Academic red-shirting is the practice of withholding children when they are legally eligible to attend kindergarten. Parents of these children believe they will be more successful if they have an extra year to grow, get stronger and mature before starting school.
Take, for example, the school district where my daughter goes to kindergarten. All children born before 1 September 2005 were entitled to start school last August. However, not all children born before the cut off did. Every year, some parents worry that their summer-born children will be at a disadvantage as the youngest in their class. They decide to give their children an advantage by starting them a year later. Not surprisingly, this practice causes parents whose children were born in the spring to wonder, in turn, whether or not they should send their own children, as they may now be the youngest. It’s a vicious circle.
A large faction, especially among staunch redshirt parents, argues that parents make this decision in the best interest of their children. They know their particular child best and their decision should not affect others. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. When I have to decide whether or not to send my youngest daughter—who, by the way, was born in July—to preschool, I have to consider not only the state eligibility deadline, but also the percentage of parents who keep their children with the spring. and the summer birthday a year back.
I want my daughter to be in a class of her peers. When you are 5, is a child 12 to 14 months older than you your age? If I send her a new 5, how many of her classmates will already be 6, or even 6 and a half? Is it fair to expect young children with such a large age difference to be in the same class? Furthermore, is it reasonable to expect a teacher to be able to teach such a wide range?
The kindergarten curriculum today is a far cry from what my team and I experienced. Today’s kindergartners learn to read (fluently), write sentences, do basic math, and recognize “challenge” shapes like the rhombus. (As a side note: I think the first time I really learned about a rhombus was in geometry.) Essentially, kindergarten is the new first grade. Is academic redshirting a response to the unfair expectations we place on our youth? Probably, but by sending older kids to preschool, we help set those higher standards in the first place.
Be aware that some of the parents who make their children red will complain that their child is bored or not challenging enough in class.
At this point, my daughter will be starting Kindergarten when she qualifies in August 2012. She is developmentally on par with all her milestones and I have no reason to expect that to change – unless, of course, her milestones it’s suddenly appropriate for someone a year older than her.
For some children, such as those with significant challenges or who are developmentally delayed, it is necessary to wear red shirts. However, state eligibility dates are in place for a reason, and I believe there should be an end date for kids too old for kindergarten as well as too young. Parents cannot decide on their own whether to raise their child up a grade once they start their education and I believe the same principle should apply to red-shirted nurseries.
We should focus on removing some of the unrealistic demands we place on our children in favor of more developmentally appropriate expectations. Let’s send our 5 year old to kindergarten to build social skills and learn letters and numbers and send our 6 year old to first grade for the current kindergarten curriculum. This is the kindergarten that I and my colleagues experienced. We were all fine.
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