March 5, 2012

"REDSHIRTING" and THE KINDERGARTEN CRAZE

When I first found out I was pregnant and due in September of 2007, I really never considered the implications that giving birth to a child with a late summer birthday would have other than how miserable I thought I'd be at 900 pounds and pregnant during Los Angeles heat waves. As a September baby myself, I pretty much just patted myself on the back for birthing another Virgo and for getting myself (and my unborn child) into the city's most acclaimed mommy and me class for "September babies" at 10 weeks pregnant. That's all I really needed to think about.... Making sure he was in a class (at 3 months old) with other babies (infants, really) who had no more than a 30 day difference age wise than him. Why should my baby already be behind? I'll give him every advantage in the world... always...

But let me tell you, as a new (but lifelong neurotic) mom, when my son wasn't rolling over like every other baby, or spitting up more, or not crawling...etc, etc... I wondered and often blamed his September 20th birthday for the baby with the September 6th birthday. Was the 14 day difference giving that little girl a leg up on my boy? I thought so. After all, I downed folic acid like it was air and flocked to the number one pre-natal yoga guru as if she were god incarnated. I did EVERYTHING right and didn't even look at deli meats or sushi. How could he already be behind? My son is brilliant and developmentally on track isn't he?!?... Oh, those 14 days. They felt like everything....

Eventually things seemed to even out. He walked, talked, and even learned to pee standing up. Those days and weeks that separated my son from the kids that crawled sooner and I assumed were way head of my son developmentally, eventually meant nothing. But 4 years later... I'm back to that place... and now, it's worse than worrying about the fact that he drools more or hasn't given up a bottle.

Now it's about Kindergarten enrollment... AKA: The rest of his life.

Or at least that's how it feels.

Here's the sitch:

Jonah turns 5 in September. He has been in (private) preschool for 2 years. The cutoff for Kindergarten in the state of CA is Nov. 1st. So technically, J can go to kindergarten. However, no one, including his teachers are certain he's ready. Academically, yes. Emotionally, no. SO thankfully, many schools in Los Angeles have what's called a Transitional Kindergarten program.... designed for late summer/ fall born children like little J. Great. The Problem? Thanks to budget cuts, TK might get slashed therefore giving us two options: Send him to kindergarten (like I did when I was 5 years old) OR keep him in preschool one more year (which is really not an option because of financials). So basically, this means, if TK gets slashed, OR if they enroll children starting with December birthdays and work there way back, he won't get it. What does this all mean? I need to wrap my head around the idea of kindergarten at the age of 5... which has become this ooogy boogy, horrific notion amongst parents these days.

Last night, 60 Minutes ran a great segment about this "Redshirting" phenomenon- or holding children back from kindergarten. According to the piece, redshirting has tripled since the 1970's. Now nearly a quarter of all kindergarten classrooms are populated by 6 year olds. Boys are twice as likely to be held bas as girls, and twice more than minorities and of course rich more than poor.

Parents like me are getting scared into thinking that our children aren't not only ready for the curriculum which is now harder and different in Kindergarten as it was when we were children, but that if we allowed our children to be the youngest child, they wouldn't be the leaders.... Socially, they'd be out of place.... weaker... less likely to succeed.

Is it really that serious though? As Morely Safer says in a follow up piece, he doesn't think it makes a bit of difference. (I suppose I would be curious to know how old President Obama was when he started kindergarten.... and also Justin Bieber. Both seem to be doing okay).

In case, you missed it, here's the piece from 60 minutes below. So tell me: What do you think I should do? Kindergarten or bust? TK first, kindergarten second option? Beg, borrow, steal to keep him in preschool one more year? Share your thoughts and experiences here!

Click HERE for the follow up piece.

13 comments:

Christina Simon said...

Such a good post because you're facing the same situation so many parents are. I have a redshirted daughter (turned 6 in July before K) and a son who is the youngest in his grade. Both worked out well. I relied on the preschool teachers for guidance both times. They know your child really well and can help you make the best decision!

Christina Simon said...

I have a redshirted daughter and a son who is the youngest in the grade (both July birthdays). I relied on the preschool director to help make the decisions, which has worked out fine. In private schools, a lot of the kids are redshirted. But, I've learned this does not mean they do better academically or socially. It really depends on the kid.

Donna Tetreault said...

I was just having a conversation about this with a mother in your exact position. She is concerned to say the least.
My boys are both January Bdays so I'll never have to give any of this much thought. But I will say, my sister has a redshirted son and she says she knows she made the right choice. Her son is thriving and very happy at a private school in Pasadena. You know your child best... trust your gut! Good Luck!

Carpool Goddess said...

My kids went to private school and thankfully the school's cut off made the decision for us. They are Fall (Oct & Nov) babies, so they went to pre-k, instead of kindergarten, when they were 5. I look at it as a "gift of a year."

Sarah said...

I think this decision is made all the more difficult by the conflicting reports and studies which argue for and against redshirting, especially in the case of boys. I too have a fall baby (Oct. bday), so we will face this same dilemma depending on whether we go to public or private school. In this case, I'm sure the best thing to do is listen to your gut to determine if it's best to enroll J in TK or K. Also, if you know where he'd be attending Kindergarten, could you informally meet with the Kindergarten teacher to see if s/he felt he was emotionally ready? Maybe they offer a lot of one-on-one attention so it's not a concern? Maybe they embrace certain teaching philosophies that are a good match for your son?

ChecklistMommy said...

Follow your teachers' leads. TK or break-the-bank for preschool (easy for me to say -- it's YOUR bank). Great post, though -- I'm in Cali, too, and my 5 yo is a girl, so emotionally she's doing fine (as girls seem to be a bit ahead on that one FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES ;)). But my twin boys have her same birthdate, basically, so I'm sure I'll be going through the same thing in a few years.

Jennifer said...

Working at a NY-based tutoring company that works with younger children what we see happening is that oftentimes parents applying to private schools do even have the choice to decide whether or not to redshirt their children that have birthdays falling after July. Many private schools in NYC will automatically not accept a child with a birthday falling in the latter part of the year. Private schools are concerned that these younger children, particularly boys with late birthdays, may not be able to keep up or be as comfortable as their older peers.

It's a case-by-case basis whether this type of birthday deadline is favorable or not for a child. Some children with late birthdays are rather mature and ready to start learning in a kindergarten classroom, and therefore the parents of these children believe their children are missing out of an extra year in the classroom. Other children benefit from waiting that extra year. We recommend that parents that are frustrated with their children having to wait that extra year either look for an academic-based preschool or perhaps apply to public school program for kindergarten. Those with children being cared for at home can start to introduce their children to Core Concepts material, such as learning their colors, numbers, or size words.

Something interesting to ponder is that the scenario of having a late birthday child attend public school kindergarten before attending private school kindergarten works in NYC because NYC's DOE follows a different birthday deadline from that used by ISAGNY private schools. Any child that turns 4 in a given year, whether in January or December of that year, will have no choice but to apply for admissions to kindergarten for that following year. Therefore a child with a November birthday may complete kindergarten one year at a public school and then be forced to repeat kindergarten at a private school.

Hearts Inspired said...

I believe that while we should be aware of the trend, we have to make the decision based on each child individually. Our son is a late August birthday so we had him evaluated before deciding to send him to kindergarten when he was 5. Academically and Socially he is at the top of the curve. However, physically he is behind which affects his ability to compete in sports.
Our daughter on the other hand is early October and has a speech impairment. We sent her and ended up retaining her in the 1st grade. Now she is the oldest in her class and it works for her. It is a big decision to make for your children without knowing the outcome but I always say: You know your child best. Go with your Mother's intuition with the help of the experts not your neighbors! BTW - Our son is a freshman on the honor roll in the toughest school in the state! Our daughter is in her 1st year of middle school and handling the rough seas with a good head on her shoulders. I wish you well!!

Gina Osher said...

This is one area of parenting that I haven't given a huge amount of thought to as we had the "luck" to have our children born at the end of February. However, it seems to me that given how the curriculum of K has become what 1st grade used to be when we were kids that it doesn't seem like such a bad thing to start K at a later age. Obviously, it makes a difference financially, but I don't see the detriment to children starting a little later as they're allowed a little more time to develop socially & emotionally. I agree with the others about getting advice from your son's teachers & school director - and then trusting your gut.

The idea of TK (or DK or whatever a school calls it) is a terrific one and I am keeping my fingers crossed for you that you are able to land there. Keep up in the loop & let us know what happens!

Missy said...

It is a very stressful situation to be in. There isn't always a right and wrong decision to make. You have to go with your gut instinct because you know your child the best. Of course you listen to the advice from teachers, directors, etc... But you have to do what is best for you and your family. Only you know all of the details that need to be weighed when you make your final decision. All that being said, I think it's best to give kids as much time to mature because putting them in kindergarten. Hopefully those budget cuts won't take effect until much later and TK will be an option. Good luck!

Elle_Renee said...

My daughter turns 5 on 11/20 - she falls perfectly into the TK range for our school in Studio City (turning age 5 between 11/ 2 and 12/2). I was thrilled when I found out about the program and was so excited for her to start in August. My excitement only lasted a few months, though, and now I am in this awful state of limbo - not sure whether to sign her up (and pay the enrollment fees) at her current preschool or just wait it out and hope the TK doesn't get cut at Carpenter. I was hoping that with my daughter in TK, I'd be able to send my 2 1/2 yr old to her preschool next year (sending them both at the same time will be a big strain financially.) But now, I just have to wait it out..

Melanie said...

Ask around! You will find parents who regret not giving their child the extra year, but hard to find one that says "gee, I wish I would have pushed mine forward!"

w w said...

Don't do this. You don't know what the future holds. My nephew was very bright, eager to learn. Sister missed deadlines to put him in private/public schools. Already year late.
Middle of 8th grade, moved across country, didn't meet standards and held back. 10th grade, moved back, held back again. Had to fake age and residency to get a school to accept him as an over-age senior. Summer schools weren't enough, he was denied graduation and now has to pay for GED at 20.
Please prioritize education enough to keep kids on their normal age and grade track.