The Cut-off Date. “Red Shirting” – Trending Towards Later Kindergarten

We live in the NC where school begins in August.  Our son’s birthday is in August.  So, starting Kindergarten just as he turns 5 puts him as one of the youngest kids in his class.  So, we did a lot of research on whether we should wait a year to start Kindergarten.  It turns out, there is a big trend toward holding off on Kindergarten for kids who fall close to the enrollment cut-off date.  Here is our approach:

Last year, he was in pre-school 3 days/week form 9am – 1pm.  He was the youngest in the 4-5 year-old classroom.  It gave him social exposure and got him used to being around other kids and adults.  He did great.  This year, rather than Kindergarten, we decided to do pre-school 5 days/week from 9am-1pm.  The thought here is that this will better prepare him for Kindergarten since it is now full-day from 8:30am – 3:00pm!  That is a huge adjustment for a 5 year old.  Plus he gets to be one of the older kids in the class (still not the oldest) and hone his skills learned the previous year to really hit the ground running in Kindergarten next year.

I can say first hand that starting Kindergarten too early leads to a school-long struggle.  I started Kindergarten at 4.  I was always the youngest, less mature, struggling with subjects, lagging in sports (even though I liked them and tried).  There is no time machine to start over one year later to see how thing might have been different, but I am not willing to take that chance with my son.

There is a gray area that I find reasonable – give or take a month from the cutoff date.  Holding back a child so he start kindergarten at 6 1/2 is a bit extreme and probably does not make any long-term difference.  There is a level of reasonability that needs to placed on the parent.  As a parent, only you can tell where your child is in terms of maturity, development and ability.  Some kids may be ready earlier or later than others, and that is a parent call, not a school administrator call.

There is a ton of research out there that argues for or against holding a child back for Kindergarten, whether it is more effective for boys vs. girls, and what the long-term advantages are, so I won’t post hundreds of conflicting reports.  I’d like to hear from parents, not researchers or psychologists on their thoughts about this trend.  Please post a comment.