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September 23, 2013 9:14 AM   Subscribe

An estimated 8.6 percent of parents now wait until their child is six to send them to kindergarten, hoping that their maturity and increased physical size will give them advantages in the classroom and on the sports field. However, the trend, called "academic redshirting" may actually be extremely harmful, according to recent studies.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (107 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't like the way this term is being misused. Redshirts may attend classes and practice with the team, but they have to sit out the games. Keeping your kid out of school altogether is something else.
posted by three blind mice at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can see the logic in that. When I was in a Catholic school in the 5th and 6th grades due to my reading level I was taking reading classes with the 7th and 8th graders. I know it was beneficial for me. When I transferred to a public school in the 7th grade and was with my peers I remember being bored.
posted by zzazazz at 9:23 AM on September 23, 2013


The idea that you're sending a child to school primarily to compete for magic points, not to learn for the sake of personal development, has always felt fundamentally fucked up to me.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:23 AM on September 23, 2013 [64 favorites]


I'll just point out that 8.6% is not THAT much greater than 1 in 12 (8.3%); a lot of these parents may have children whose birth month is the month is the first month of school, and may be choosing to send their children to school when they are barely six rather than barely five. This was not quite our situation with our daughter (her birthday is about 5 weeks after school starts, and after the cutoff), but it's close. I know that for us, this sentence:

It’s this competitive logic, rather than genuine concern about a child’s developmental readiness, that drives redshirting

was absolutely 100% false.
posted by KathrynT at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2013 [30 favorites]


Man, I am not a parent so I don't really have an Insider's Perspective on this, but I can't imagine this being anything but a disservice to the kids. I was in second grade at the age of six, born something like a week before the cutoff that would've sent me to first grade. Once in a while, when the teacher would be absent and a sub wasn't available, we'd all get split up into different teachers' classrooms and do whatever.

In second grade, I ended up in a first grade class for a day and I can still vividly remember the tedium. Not because I couldn't participate, but because what they were doing was so, so different and so much more boring. Which was odd, because the transition to third grade, and fourth and so on wasn't nearly as jarring as the one I perceived between first and second. I can't imagine being stuck in kindergarten at the time.
posted by griphus at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is what we get when the educational system is reduced to test scores. Sure, it's great for athletics, because the point is to win, but you don't "win" school by getting better test scores for your age group -- you win it by learning. There's a reason we start kids in school when they're young -- because that's when you learn. I bet an 18-year-old who had never been to school would be better than a 5-year-old at kindergarten-level tests, too, but do we want a society of 30-year-old dodeca-redshirted high school graduates, regardless of their test scores?
posted by Etrigan at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Something I like more and more that my elementary school did was a grade called "transition." Basically, you go through Kindergarten when your time comes, and if for reasons of maturity or keeping up with the class the teachers and parents determine that "redshirting" is in order, you could go to transition for a year - where you'd still be learning and socializing and whatnot - before jumping into first grade the next year. All the benefits with none of the downsides, and with the benefit of a year's "experimentation" to determine whether it might be actually necessary.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:25 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


This whole concept is very confusing to me because my expectations for the definition of "redshirting" involve the nameless unfortunate who dies on every mission in Star Trek.
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 AM on September 23, 2013 [107 favorites]


"I've received a report that the teacher's strike seems to have turned violent. We'll need to send in some negotiators from the administration. As the Principal, I must be there. Vice Principal Jones, Nurse Stein, you're with me. Oh, and Timmy."
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2013 [71 favorites]


In a couple years, My daughter will miss the cutoff to attend kindergarten by a two week. This is something we've found vexing, it seems so counterintuitive that ape parents would choose to delay kindergarten
posted by mulligan at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2013


Navelgazer, that sounds suspiciously like what they used to simply call "being held back a grade."
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those parents are also buying one more year of youthful time at home with their kids before they leave for college and move on into the world.
posted by caddis at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mine too, Mulligan, and the cutoff in our state is rigidly linked to state funding, so no exemption. And we have a daughter who's in the 95% of height as it is, let alone if she's 50 weeks red shirted.
posted by ocschwar at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I started kindergarten at four-- December birthday, but I could already read, and I guess my parents figured I'd just get bored staying home for another year. I was always academically precocious, but socially I was WAY behind; I didn't start to catch up until high school.

If I had a kid in that position, now? I'd absolutely wait the year, and spend it getting my kid properly socialized.
posted by nonasuch at 9:33 AM on September 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


People min-maxing their kids like nerds with their D&D characters always trips me out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


overeducated_alligator, I realize that, but this was a little different. It occurred early enough for there not to be nearly as much of a stigma about it, it was based on social maturity (and other relevant factors) rather than test scores, and it was a separate class that (from what I know) wasn't remedial or degrading or anything so much as just suited to the needs of the kids involved.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2013


There is no right answer to this. Some kids are ready at barely 5 for kindergarten. Some at 5.5. Some at 6. (probably some at 4.5 also).

I think the only reason it has become such an issue is that kindergarten used to be what daycare is now--preschool. Not actual school but an introduction. It used to be half-days. Now it's a full day and much closer to what a first-grader experienced 20-30 years ago.

Even an immature kindergartener could probably deal with half a day, but a full day will be too much. We no longer have that option, and so the cutoff is much sharper.

My kid started late because of his November birthday, and it was still hard. He just finished first grade and it was a grind. Why the hell is kindergarten such a shock and first grade a grind? Why did he get homework as a preschooler for god's sake? Because we have gone crazypants overboard for testing and drilling and it's stressing out our kids.

If you are over 30 and you are thinking about this in terms of what your kindergarten was like, you are way off from what these kids are getting now. Way off.
posted by emjaybee at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Every time I try to look into this, my head spins. I guess NYC just changed their rules? So now most "redshirted" kids in NYC don't get held back unless their parents really work the system somehow?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:42 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that if we did away with the cutoff age and let parents choose what is best for their kid, this would sort itself out. Maybe?

I do think it is ridiculous that some kids start kindergarten at six verging on SEVEN, which I have seen in some private schools -- not good for peers, not good for the kid.

Nonasuch, I was in the same boat as you -- always the youngest and smallest, but one of the brightest (she said modestly but honestly.) It SUCKED when it came to Red Rover (put her in the middle between two big kids!) and when my female peers were all into lip gloss and tight jeans and I was still into bugs and the Avengers, but I would have gone insane if I hadn't had all the lovely, lovely books I could read at school.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:42 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The parents I know who did this all had really rambunctious boys. They did this not for any perceived size advantage, but because the felt that the increasingly rigid nature of kindergarten (!) would make their kids miserable. When your five year old can't sit still for more than ten minutes, it's hard to see how they'll manage for 4 hours. Twenty years ago, these boys would have been considered normal; now they'd be Problems, and their parents did not want this for their kids.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are over 30 and you are thinking about this in terms of what your kindergarten was like, you are way off from what these kids are getting now. Way off.

I think it depends where you live. My friend has an almost three year old who is in pre-school two mornings a week.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole concept is very confusing to me because my expectations for the definition of "redshirting" involves the nameless unfortunate who dies on every mission in Star Trek.

In college athletics, a player is only eligible to play for four seasons, which matches the traditional 4 year college term. A player (with the team concurring) can choose to do everything, right up to dressing for the game, and not play. Such players are called "redshirts", and if you truly don't play, it effectively delays your eligibility one year. You can do this twice, after that, every year under scholarship or full time attendance will count as a year of eligibility, and when you hit four, you are not eligible to play college sports.

You can also get a medical waiver, often called a medical redshirt, if you play less than 30% of the games in the season, with none of them after the midpoint, and suffer a season ending injury. These are called "medical redshirts', but it's really a restoration of eligibility rather than simply not using it.

Traditionally, redshirts did wear a red shirt (except for teams that would naturally wear such, they would wear yellow shirts) during practices and if they did dress, during games to remind everyone that they were being held back from being eligible to play.)

Grayshirting is related, where a new student takes a part time class load, does not practice or play with the team, and receives no scholarship. Such students can attend team meeting, learn the playbook, etc., but since they're not actually a member of the team *and* are not a full time student, they don't use a year of eligibility at all. Typically, these are players who are injured before their college career starts, grayshirting them gives them a year to recover and some experience with both college and team.

Since redshirts can dress to play, a team may remove the status at any time by simply putting them into the game. The waiver that extends eligibility technically doesn't occur until after the season ends, where anybody who did not play but was under scholarship is automatically declared to have not used a season of eligibility.

You do not have to be a freshman to be redshirted, and you can be redshirted the next year if you play this year. Basically, you can be considered eligible for six years, and play four of those years -- but other than the medical exception above, if you play one game, that seasons counts as used.

In general, offensive football players are redshirted more than defense, to allow them to learn the increasingly complex offensive schemes, and freshman are the most commonly redshirted both to give them time to learn the team's scheme and to give them an extra year time to physically mature.
posted by eriko at 9:44 AM on September 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


My nephew is three, and his folks are already considering whether or not to hold him back a year. His birthday falls right on the cusp of our school district's date for when kids are allowed to start kindergarten (New Years).

Their issue with him is that he is small. He's smart and moving along with the rest of his peers, but he's a little kid. He's the smallest kid of his age in his nursery school class. He does not have any physical issues, he just takes after his mother's side (she's no taller than 5 foot, her mother and father are also no taller than 5'6" each).

I'm personally against them waiting for him to start school at 6 instead of 5. He'll be able to get his learner's permit in 8th grade. He'll graduate when he is 19. That worries me more than him being short when he starts Kindergarten.

My brother was a big time athlete in High School (football). There's a part of me that wonders if that plays into the decision-making process here. At a simple level, maybe he wants his kid to be like his old man, and be an athlete too? I'm not sure.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now it's a full day and much closer to what a first-grader experienced 20-30 years ago.

Yeah, I can second this. My daughter got on the bus for kindergarten at 8:25 and got off at 3:55. That's a long day for a kid. Half-day kindergarten is an option in my school district, but the evidence supports the idea that full-day kindergarten leads to better schooling outcomes throughout secondary school. So we chose to keep her in preschool for the year she was 4-almost-five rather than trying to test her in to kindergarten. So far, it's been a great decision; she's in first grade now, a happy social child who loves school and is performing above grade level.
posted by KathrynT at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


My local school district recently made a rule that pretty much eliminates parent-driven red-shirting. If you show up with a child who is 6 on September 1, that child will be enrolled in first grade, not kindergarten. If you show up with a child who will be 5 on September 1, that child goes to kindergarten. The argument is that the school is in a better position to evaluate the child, and if the child needs to repeat kindergarten, the school has a lot more input on it.

Myself, I was so bored in second and fourth grades, I developed a theory that in the odd-numbered years we actually learned things, and in the even numbered years we just reviewed them. And I had a summer birthday, so was one of the younger kids in the class. If I'd been held back, I would have gone crazy with boredom.
posted by ambrosia at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


jfwlucy, I kind of feel like those social deficits can be so damaging, long-term, that an extra year of not having quite as many books as you want is worth it, especially for a four-turning-five-year-old. When I look back at just how hard I struggled, socially-- and how I ended up retreating into books, a lot of the time, instead of interacting with live humans, because that was easier and less scary-- I sort of wish they had, like, Socializing Kindergarten, that you can go to for a year after preschool but before Real Kindrgarten if you need it.
posted by nonasuch at 9:48 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that if we did away with the cutoff age and let parents choose what is best for their kid, this would sort itself out. Maybe?

90-plus percent of the time, this would work. It's the 10-minus percent of the time that would suck for everyone concerned -- the eight-year-old precious snowflake who hasn't ever been told "No" and can do serious physical harm to five-year-olds on the playground, the three-year-old whose parents just want him out of the house for six hours a day, etc.

Big systems require some level of arbitrary rules, because otherwise you have people gaming the system as hard as they possibly can. Good big systems have methods for applying special circumstances to those arbitrary rules, but the rules are still there.
posted by Etrigan at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those parents are also buying one more year of youthful time at home with their kids before they leave for college and move on into the world.

I was anti-redshirted (started kindergarten when I was 4; my birthday is late October) because according to my mother, I would've killed her if I'd had to wait another year to start school.
posted by Lucinda at 9:50 AM on September 23, 2013


A lot probably depends on what you plan on doing for that year you're keeping your kid out. The New Yorker article mentions studies done on students back in the 1930s...and those kids were probably not going to school for reasons that are different than parents holding kids out these days.

My youngest just started kindergarten, and we've already begun the "why are we sending our kids to school again?" ruminations that we do every year with my older daughter. The classwork is pointless, the homework is long and unedifying, there is little outdoor time but a great deal of time standing in line for things. Since there is no real talking allowed, and not much time for mingling during recess, we're not yet seeing any benefit from "at least they're learning to socialize better than they would at home."

I can totally see wanting to keep a kid home from that an extra year...although I think the logic is flawed, because what is boring to a 5-year-old isn't going to be more exciting to a 6-year-old, especially if you've used that extra year for more fun reading books, doing math, visiting people...all the things kids have time for when they're not burdened by school.
posted by mittens at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now I'm curious-- Lucinda, do you feel like that was the right choice, looking back? Obviously it depends on the kid, but man if I could hop in a time machine and slap the enrollment paperwork out of my parents' hands while yelling "noooooooo" in slow motion I totally would.
posted by nonasuch at 9:52 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, my experience growing up anywhere from half a year to a year ahead was rough, but there was an *enormous* social stigma attached to being older than your standard age-grade that pretty much never goes away. Huge. Parents may forget that a year is not a quick and small time difference for a child.
posted by mobunited at 9:52 AM on September 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Our son is a July kid, so we have the choice of sending him to school when he's five or six. We're choosing to give him an extra year to play. It has nothing to do with sports. We just want him to have more time to be a kid. He's attending a "5's preschool" now, where he just runs around with other 5-year-olds for four half-days a week.
posted by rouftop at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a New Yorker, I am glad to see that redshirting has basically been made illegal. It is a huge social stigma to be a year older than the kids in your class.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was pretty rough for me, too, nonasuch, but I have to look at it now from the perspective of my mom, who was going crazy trying to keep me from getting into everything at home. Maybe the entire context of social support for kids who are less mature emotionally (like me!) needs to be upgraded.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


there was an *enormous* social stigma attached to being older than your standard age-grade that pretty much never goes away

Yeah, this. Throughout the entirety of my k-12 experience, anyone a full year older than the rest of their grade was assumed to be either a problem kid or a special ed kid. It's interesting that things have apparently changed? Or that, idk, some parents are so focused on their own endgames that they lose sight of the real-life effects of their actions?
posted by elizardbits at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is a huge social stigma to be a year older than the kids in your class.

Yeah, I can't speak to anyone else's experiences, but in elementary and jr. high school in NYC in the early-mid 1990s, if you were a year older than everyone else, the general assumption was that you were left back for academic reasons. In high school, when kids had a bit more sense and understood the concept of "my parents had me start school late" it was much less of one, but in the early years, damn.
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe the problem isn't so much starting kids to young or too old. Maybe it's that the education system is not set up to handle kids whose skillsets have wide discrepancies-- if you're academically gifted but socially behind the curve, there aren't really resources to address the gap. And kids who are classed as 'gifted' from an early age are assumed to be 'smart enough' to make up for any deficits they have on sheer brainpower, when that's... not really how it works.

Hm. I appear to have turned over a rock labeled "issues with my school experience" and there's a whole bunch of wriggly stuff under it.
posted by nonasuch at 9:59 AM on September 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Naive, shy, nerdy kids unite!
posted by jfwlucy at 10:01 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I might be missing something here, I've only skimmed the slate article, but do they suggest why this is happening?

It doesn't seem to be linked to absolute school starting age (many Scandinavian countries don't start educating until much later and they have a way better record than the US), but age relative to other children. It seems the most likely to me that that's down to the reasons they suggest: that if someone has a minor learning difficulty or social problem then their parents are more likely to hold them back for a year.

I also didn't see a mention of age differences within school years which can be as big as the age differences between school years. Is there a reason why they don't run the study with cohorts of children from opposite ends of the school year to cut out most of the bias?
posted by Ned G at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2013


The New Yorker seems to really love articles trying to make parents feel bad about their parenting decisions. In particular I love statements like "It’s this competitive logic, rather than genuine concern about a child’s developmental readiness, that drives redshirting." O rly?

Socialization, learning through play, and simply enjoying being a kid are all very important in that 4-6 age range. I really like the Waldorf approach, which (at least at my kids' school) starts "mixed-age kindergarten" at about age 4 and graduates most kids to first grade at about age 7. The older kids in K get a chance to be leaders among the kids, helping the littler ones out with the skills they have acquired. By the time they go into first grade they are really ready to start. And the kindergarten teacher makes the call about "first-grade readiness", not the parents. Since the whole cohort mostly starts first grade at 7 there's no "redshirting" issue at all.

Also, as KathrynT said, kids with July/August/September birthdays are often really on the edge and can benefit from individual decisions. Depending on the kid it may really make more sense to start them as an older kid in the next year's class rather than as the youngest kid in this year's.
posted by bgribble at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


This whole concept is very confusing to me because my expectations for the definition of "redshirting" involve the nameless unfortunate who dies on every mission in Star Trek.
posted by elizardbits


I'm also confused as to why so many parents would want to risk their children's lives. My kids are going into either the command or science streams, maybe engineering, but definitely not security.
posted by jb at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Naive and nerdy, yes. But shy? Oh, I wish. Shy would have be *easier*, in a way, because then I wouldn't have wanted to participate in the social interaction I was failing at. I am, and was, an extrovert, which means I desperately craved human interaction while being terrible at it. It took *years* to puzzle out How Humans Interact on my own; the idea that other kids are still being dropped in the deep end the way I was makes me shudder.
posted by nonasuch at 10:08 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I get it now. Ouch.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2013


Previously.
posted by Chuffy at 10:13 AM on September 23, 2013


I really like the Waldorf approach...

The Waldorf approach is great, but it has a more-or-less absolute requirement that the parents have to buy into it. When you have parents who sign on with the teacher making the call for first-grade readiness, it works well; when you have parents who think the teacher is calling their precious child dumb and this will hurt his chances of getting into an Ivy League school and how dare you not promote my kid when that other kid over there is clearly a moron...

That's what the public school system has to deal with, and I don't envy them the task. I guarantee you that any public school teacher you talk to has nightmare stories about kids who could have benefited from being held back, but the parents simply WOULD FUCKING NOT entertain such an idea.

Redshirting, on the other hand, is great (from the parent's view) because the parents get to make the call, not some dumb teacher who doesn't really know their kid, and it means that even if he's a little behind everyone else in his class because he didn't go to kindergarten at an appropriate age, he's not a year behind everyone else. If your 5-year-old is 80 percent ready for kindergarten, even if he has no other formal education for the next year, as a 6-year-old, he'll be at least 90 percent ready for kindergarten.
posted by Etrigan at 10:17 AM on September 23, 2013


We have two kids in Senior Kindergarten with diagnosed social anxiety and with November birthdays (so among the youngest in their class.) Since starting Junior Kindergarten "on time" last year they've made great strides. I'm convinced holding them back a year would have hurt, not helped. Maybe it's different in Canada though.
posted by howling fantods at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2013


We put my son into Kindergarten a year early because his birthday is in early October and he was bored in daycare but in retrospect, it may have been a mistake. He ended up always being the youngest kid in class and always had some social issues due to not being as mature as the other kids.
posted by octothorpe at 10:30 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like a couple other people in this thread, I was on the opposite end of this. My birthday is in November, so I was 4 when I started Kindergarten, 17 when I started college, etc.

Honestly, the only issues I ever had with being younger than most of my classmates were purely social, and definitely of the "first world problem" variety. I was embarrassed at being one of the last in my class to get a drivers license (and still walking to school while many of my classmates drove) and I felt a little bit left out when most of my college friends had turned 21 and could go to bars at their leisure, while my going was dependent on how well constructed whatever fake ID I was using at the time was (or how liberal the ID policy was in general).
posted by The Gooch at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "As a New Yorker, I am glad to see that redshirting has basically been made illegal. It is a huge social stigma to be a year older than the kids in your class." Not when you are taking the carload of your friend's to the deli in 10th grade instead of 11th!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:35 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My son, who turned six in August, did a young-5s program offered by our school district last year. It was called "Begindergarten," and it was for kids who met the age cut-off but who were maybe not developmentally ready for Kindergarten. All of the parents I've spoken with felt like it was a good choice for their kid; I know that it hit my kid right in his sweet spot academically, it was a very successful year for him, and he's ready for kindergarten this year in a way he wasn't last year.

I have some doubts when I consider that he'll be almost 19 when he graduates from high school. That seems ridiculously old to still be a student, and we'll probably consider some other options to letting him go straight through. His two older brothers are homeschooled, for instance, so maybe at some point we'll do that with him, too.

It was kind of a hilarious class. 20 kids, 16 of them boys. One day, some of us parents were lined up outside the classroom waiting to pick up our kids after school, and the teacher and class passed us on their way in from the playground. You could tell looking at the teacher and aide that it had been a draining day. One of the other moms and I commented on it, and I said, "Yeah, a roomful of young kids, all chosen to be there because their parents thought they weren't mature enough for kindergarten!"

The other mom said, "I know! My husband and I call it the Island of Misfit Boys."

The program will probably disappear in the next couple of years, though. Since I was a kid in the 60s, the cut-off date for kindergarten has been that a kid has to be 5 by December 1. But the state is now phasing in earlier cut-offs: this year, it was November 1, next year it will be October 1, and the year after that it will be September 1, where it will stay.

I find this interesting. The creation of Young Fives classrooms is a response to the increased academic focus of kindergarten, and the fact that some kids aren't ready for it. So is the rollback of the eligibility date. First, you create a kindergarten curriculum that at least 1/4 of your students aren't developmentally ready for, and then you change the age requirements so that 1/4 of kids, who were going to be the youngest in the class, will instead be the oldest kids in the next year's class.

That was one of my reactions to the linked article, too: in classes segreated by age, there are always going to be kids who are nearly a year older than the youngest of their classmates, and there are going to be advantages and disadvantages for both of those sets of kids. It seems to me that redshirting, like shifting the start date, just shuffles the kids, and changes who gets those advantages and disadvantages.
posted by not that girl at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


JohnnyGunn, the vast majority of teenagers in NYC have no need to drive anywhere.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, it would've been nice to not have been the last person in my "grade" in college to turn 21...
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those parents are also buying one more year of youthful time at home with their kids before they leave for college and move on into the world.


Therein lies the truth of why some (many?) parents do this. I know it's anecdotal, but I've witnessed this very thinking amongst homeschoolers too. Not a big fan of this, personally.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2013


When a group of economists followed Norwegian children born between 1962 and 1988, until the youngest turned eighteen, in 2006, they found that, at age eighteen, children who started school a year later had I.Q. scores that were significantly lower than their younger counterparts

I wonder how many of the older kids would have had lower IQ scores either way. The people I know who've waited a year have done it mostly because their kids needed the extra time -- they weren't ready for Kindergarten at the standard age.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:42 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quite a few of my first grade classmates did two years of kindergarten; I didn't. No one really told me why this was common, so I assumed those kids all flunked the first year, which made me terribly smug because what kind of idiot kid fails kindergarten. But it still hurt colossally when Katie P., a double-kindergartener and my first-ever frenemy, walked up to me in the girls' room and snotted, "You should be in kindergarten."

It took me an embarrassingly long time, like years, for me to come up with the appropriate response: "Well, you should be in second grade." So I'm assuming the second year of kindergarten, the one I skipped, must be when kids learn all the sick burns.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


I cannot condemn these parents for wanting their kids to be more mature when they enter school. There's a definite balance to be struck between matching your peers maturity vs intelligence.

I'm another anti-redshirted kid. Birthday in December, went into first grade at 5, both way smaller and way smarter than everyone else in my class. On the one hand, I could barely handle the tedium of first grade; I was reading novels and doing long division. On the other hand, I was absolutely less mature than my classmates both physically and emotionally, and thus an easy (and let's face it, deserving) target of bullying.

I eventually turned out OK, but I was a slacker fuckup from (basically) ages 10 to 25. Nevertheless, I often wonder how I would have turned out if my parent's had pushed me ahead more or held me back.
posted by modernserf at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole concept is very confusing to me because my expectations for the definition of "redshirting" involve the nameless unfortunate who dies on every mission in Star Trek.
Well, like the post says, redshirting may actually be extremely harmful.
posted by Flunkie at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before reading the comments on this item my first thought was "Here come the anecdotes".

You did not disappoint.
posted by Pararrayos at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My birthday is about 3 1/2 weeks after school begins, so my mother put me in private school for the first grade to get around the "must be 6 y.o. rule" so I wouldn't be almost a year behind. I think it was a mistake. I was always the youngest kid in my grade and usually the smallest. I think it was bad for my self confidence.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:03 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think what may not be taken into account is that the cutoff date is different for different school districts; ours is 5 by August 1, and just in this thread I've seen December 1 and January 1. So by virtue of a five month difference in cutoff dates, we're already seeing kids anywhere from 4 to almost 7 in kindergarten. Our oldest was held back in 1st grade due to a lot of moving around, and our youngest missed the cutoff so started kindergarten at 6. The oldest graduated HS right after he turned 19, and the youngest will do the same in six years. I think they would have been fine either way, but the practice of sending a kid to school a year older is happening by design in some places anyway. Kids already develop differently, there are already kids of varying physical and mental ages in all grades. This seems to me to be making a big deal out of not that much, and a bunch of helicopter parents seeing a potential advantage that may not actually exist.
posted by jennaratrix at 11:07 AM on September 23, 2013


I know that the phrase "correlation doesn't equal causation" can be overused, but it absolutely applies in this situation. The primary data cited in the article is simply "older kids in the class tend to do worse". But the article is ignoring the more obvious explanation for this pattern -- that many kids are held back because they aren't ready for school, not just because their parents want to give them some advantage over their classmates. In general, the kind of kids who start late because they aren't up to the standards of kindergarten (either in content or attention span) are probably going to get lower grades.
posted by svenx at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2013


My youngest son could have enrolled in Kindergarten a year before we let him go. He was sharp as a tack but he was a little guy for his age, we just figured a year of growth would help a bit.

He never realized for a few years that he had started late, for a few years he was all, like, "why did you do that to me?", then he hit the age when he was one of the only people in his class that could drive and his status escalated tremendously, he thanked us later.

And, he turned out great, has done wonderful things, and can only be faulted for being part of the team that cast Ben Affleck as Batman ( but I don't think that had anything to do with when he started school).
posted by HuronBob at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Before reading the comments on this item my first thought was "Here come the anecdotes".

I can link you to some academic papers on the subject, but they're mostly just doodles of Batman fighting Freddy Krueger I drew while bored in class.
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


i'm a cut-off date cusp baby. further, i'm one who moved around a lot, so i lived in places where cut-off dates varied. but i wound up in the younger class, and thus i was almost always among the very oldest in my class (born late september 1981, graduated class of 2000).

i hated being the oldest. i'm not sure why. i might have also hated being the youngest for other reasons. however, even as one of the oldest kids in the class, i was, until about 4th grade, a head shorter than the next shortest person in the grade, and at least a year more socially immature (maybe this was from being an only child, or maybe it's just from having a life-long terrible personality. who can say!). in first grade, say, i could read and do math well above grade level, but i couldn't not have tantrums and not pull hair that looked so very pullable and not keep putting my thermos in the toilet because hee. i can't imagine how much worse that would have been if i would have also been at the very young end of the spectrum. it was still hard to not put my thermos in the toilet because hee when i went to grad school at age 27, where i continued my lifelong theme of being among the oldest and tiniest and least mature.

i always did well academically and i never played a sport and i was never not tinier than almost everyone else. i guess the point of this comment is "other results can happen too," but we knew that, so bye!
posted by millipede at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


HuronBob, yeah, the older kid getting to drive to school as a sophomore put paid to any lingering resentment he might have had about being held back.
posted by jennaratrix at 11:14 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily blame the parents here -- my school district, back in the late 80s, heavily pressured my parents to keep me (July birthday) out of kindergarten for another year so I'd be 6 when I started, not 5. I started anyway, and it was absolutely the right decision for me.

My brother, three years later (May birthday) was similarly pressured to wait till he was 6, but my parents enrolled him at 5 anyway. He did alright in the end, but he's one of those who would have benefitted a lot by waiting a year.

But we were both always among the very youngest in our classes -- most other parents caved to the "start them when they're 6!" pressure.
posted by olinerd at 11:14 AM on September 23, 2013


This is just an awful, lazy piece. A few years ago the talk was all about how older kids have the advantage, and now 'studies show' that the opposite may be true. There are few studies cited, some of her citations are just articles published in the past, and few actual details other than 'many parents do this' and 'recent information' points to that.
As most of the mefi's posting here indicate, there are a plethora of reasons that influence when a child begins school, and it's not like the parents are locked in once they've made the decision anyway.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:17 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a December birthday, which put me just after the cut-off. I was always the oldest kid in the class. I got my driver's license in 10th grade and had great fun driving everyone around (all my friends had summer and fall birthdays). I was always a good student and bored by most classes.

I was also always socially a mess and the shortest kid in the class (until 9th grade, when I grew 6 inches in 6 months, which girls aren't "supposed to do"). I can't imagine the nightmare that would have been me starting kindergarten at age 4, very tiny and very socially/emotionally immature.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:17 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know that the phrase "correlation doesn't equal causation" can be overused, but it absolutely applies in this situation. The primary data cited in the article is simply "older kids in the class tend to do worse". But the article is ignoring the more obvious explanation for this pattern -- that many kids are held back because they aren't ready for school, not just because their parents want to give them some advantage over their classmates. In general, the kind of kids who start late because they aren't up to the standards of kindergarten (either in content or attention span) are probably going to get lower grades.
But the article claims that the older kids actually do better than the younger kids -- significantly better -- and only gradually start declining (in a relative sense). They stay better, on average, than the younger kids until eighth grade. Then they keep declining after that, winding up with lower income and so forth in their thirties.

I doubt that kids who were held out for a year because they were not up to the standards of kindergarten would perform better than their peers from kindergarten till almost a decade later.
posted by Flunkie at 11:19 AM on September 23, 2013


it seems so counterintuitive that ape parents would choose to delay kindergarten

For gibbon parents, though, it makes perfect sense.


Sorry that was just such a wonderful typo I couldn't resist
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did anybody find any evidence in any of the cited pieces that there is actually data backing up the claim that the increase in rates of children entering kindergarten after age 6 is in fact driven primarily by the intention to boost children's performance by having them enter kindergarten older? Because I couldn't find any. I didn't follow up all the links (there are a lot of them) but I followed what I took to be the most likely ones and saw a lot of what seemed like taking for granted the idea that the decisions leading to these children entering kindergarten after 6 were primarily elective and driven by performance-theorizing by parents, but no actual demonstration of it.

Actually going so far as to call all children entering kindergarten at age 6 "redshirted" seems like a shitty and questionable thing to do in general: in the context of a scientific paper I'd call it flatly contrary to an appropriate attitude of neutral bias for the topic at hand - which obviously didn't stop these guys. While they cite some research (of course as is always the case in these cite-a-thons, by the second tier of citations any ability to follow up claims is typically lost for the casual observer) showing the mentality of elective educational delay (a term I just coined because really, this "redshirting" label is some bullshit) is a real thing that's out there, I don't see any evidence that, once they get down to sifting data for outcomes, they are identifying a cohort based on anything other than age at enrollment.

As for other citations I'll note in passing that, as is universally the case when I drill into science journalism presented in non-scientific journalistic contexts, there is a lot to question about the interpretation of the citations - just one example, if you agree with the Slate piece's author that educationally delayed children have "lower IQs and and earnings as adults" is an acceptable, unqualified takeaway from this article... well, I guess I'd like to hear more about your reasoning.

This article from the New Yorker piece claims to demonstrate the basis for these increasing delays but I don't see that it does so. It's basic argument seems to boil down to "it isn't this so it must be that". I can buy that they demonstrate that it's essentially elective (I'm not 100% convinced because there may be variables I haven't thought of). That's all.

Here's a completely unsupported argument that fits a superficial grazing of the presented data: for whatever reason there are more kids with borderline issues - be they behavioral, social or cognitive - being held back because parents feel like they are not ready. They do worse in school because of these problems. It is prevalent among the affluent because affluent people can afford to not send their kids to school absolutely as soon as it's possible. Is that at all supportable? I don't know, but the fact that these complications is not even considered seems problematical. And given the kind of lackluster, oversimplified conclusions being cooked out of these papers, I'm sure not convinced it's not included because it's been excluded by careful examination of the research.

Looking at the rest of the first author's output on Slate frankly does not impress: looks to me like someone has found a solid niche with link-baiting "baby controversy".

The New Yorker article's author is not quite as bad in the manufactured controversy department but certainly shows a propensity for tagging hot-topic issues for pop-psyche journalistic treatment.

I think I'll reserve judgement on mentally tagging any parents whose children enter kindergarten at age 6 as wicked "Redshirters" who are doing something "extremely harmful" to their children.
posted by nanojath at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


KathrynT: " I know that for us, this sentence:

It’s this competitive logic, rather than genuine concern about a child’s developmental readiness, that drives redshirting

was absolutely 100% false.
"

Sigh...

OK, one more time: the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

And the converse is equally true:

The average does not represent any individual datum.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2013


"Sigh" yourself, IAmBroom. That claim was hardly "data," it was a completely unsourced sweeping generalization. If you have ACTUAL data that suggests that "competitive logic" is the primary motivation behind a delayed start for kindergarten, then cite it.
posted by KathrynT at 11:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The best school I ever went to - both academically and for teaching positive social skills - involved multi-age classrooms. Only every interacting with kids exactly your own age is socially stunting, imo (and I think there's research about that too, but am being too lazy to look it up right now...).
posted by eviemath at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My daughter was two months premature. Those two months put her barely over the cutoff for starting school; she'll be among the very youngest in the class, and developmentally a couple months younger than that. She's quite small for her age, too.

And me, I skipped a grade early on, so I was always among the smallest kids. Socially, things were pretty horrible for me for a lot of elementary school and junior high. I have no doubt I'd have been a very different person if I hadn't been so small and young compared to everybody, and I'd probably have had a lot better time of pretty much my entire childhood.

Despite all that, we're not going to redshirt our daughter. Oh, we won't force her into kindergarten if she's really not ready, but it's looking like she probably will be ready. I think the benefits of being surrounded by older kids generally outweigh the drawbacks, and we're seeing some support for that idea now that she's the youngest one in her preschool.

So it's all warm and fuzzy to have an article like this to back us up in what we were gonna do, anyway.
posted by gurple at 11:45 AM on September 23, 2013


I have two children that I'm delaying until age 6 because it is right for them. They are both born in the Summer and developmentally there is an immense difference in the span of a year at age 5. The effect on sports never crossed my mind even though we are a physically active family.
posted by dgran at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2013


IAmBroom, these articles rely heavily on anecdotes from the opposite perspective to support their cases (which as I go on at length earlier, I dispute the basis of). There's a bit of personal anecdote hating going on in here which I'm generally kind of sick of: a person claiming their experience is definitive is one thing; a person demonstrating by their own experience that a particular situation may be more complex than the favored explanation is perfectly appropriate.
posted by nanojath at 11:50 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are over 30 and you are thinking about this in terms of what your kindergarten was like, you are way off from what these kids are getting now. Way off.

I guess this must be one of those things that varies pretty strongly depending on where in the country you are. My son's kindergarten day sounds almost exactly like mine did, except that the 'I' comes at the front of the Apple products they use in their weekly "computer lab" and not in the back and isn't part of a roman numeral.

Oh and the blocks they use to help teach simple math are cooler.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've mentioned this in other threads, but my birthday is in late October and my parents were given the option to start me in Kindergarten when I was 4 1/2 or wait until the next year. Happily, they chose to start me early. Considering they were also given the option to have me skip third grade (which they declined), I think I did just fine academically. Socially, other than being a 17 year old college freshman, I never really felt left out or picked on because of my age. Yeah, I couldn't drive until well into my junior year, but most of my friends could and it wasn't a big deal. I was short, but then again, I'm a girl. There was that one week in 5th grade that I grew and all the boys hadn't started growing yet and I was the tallest, but then Patty Buchanan got her growth spurt on and put us all to shame.

The thing that I noticed the most was that people just assumed I was the appropriate age. When all my classmates were ten, my teachers just assumed I was the same age. When we were all supposed to be becoming adults and turning 18, everyone forgot that I couldn't vote yet. But everyone pointed out the late birthday kids. Every time. I remember one driver's ed class with my November birthday cousin, and the teacher was telling us about driving and so forth, he pointedly said, "Now this will all be old hat to TeleriCousin. As the old man of the class, you've been driving for ages, right?" Of course, my aunt and uncle had refused to let my cousin get a license until took driver's ed. Which was only taught in your junior year.
posted by teleri025 at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2013


When I was a widdle kid, the cutoff was October 1st and my birthday was September 30th, guaranteeing me being the youngest in my grade.

After third grade, I was performing so well academically that the school "let me skip a grade" to fifth (my parents' opt-in, not mine) and I was subjected to epic levels of bullying. My parents then went shopping for a private school, and I spent my first year there repeating fifth grade... and learning that private schools still had bullies, just a higher socioeconomic class of bully (including one son of a TV legend whom I will not identify).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:21 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was it Ron Burgundy?
posted by gern at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2013


This whole concept is very confusing to me because my expectations for the definition of "redshirting" involves the nameless unfortunate who dies on every mission in Star Trek.

Yeah, I thought "academic redshirt" was just a euphemism for "humanities grad student..."
posted by officer_fred at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will say, anecdotally, that it seems like more parents are opting to hold their kids out of school when they're close to the cut-off. They are concerned that their kids will have a hard time, won't have the social skills, will be disruptive, etc.

To which I say, that's more or less par for the course, the kid's 5 years old! If he's rambunctious at 5, he'll still be rambunctious at 6. I know there are cases where it really makes sense to hold the kid for a year, but I think some parents may be exercising an excess of caution.

But, you know what? Those parents are involved in their kids' lives. They want them to do well, they want good things for them, and that is far more important to the kids' future than their exact age on day 1 of Kindergarten.
posted by Mister_A at 12:46 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well put, nanojath.
posted by chinston at 12:51 PM on September 23, 2013


My birthday was nowhere near the cutoff and I was often bored and also socially inept. You can't always say that every kid is going to be popular and successful if you can only figure out when to have them start school.
posted by Sequence at 12:52 PM on September 23, 2013


I think that if we did away with the cutoff age and let parents choose what is best for their kid, this would sort itself out. Maybe?

I certainly don't think it could hurt. I started Kindergarten on my fifth birthday and it was plain to everybody expect the idealogues in the Admin office that it would have been better off for me to go right to the first grade. I was doing everything on a first-grade level. I was physically bigger than everyone on Kindergarten and had a larger vocabulary. And yet the school ha d a firm policy against grade skipping because "she won't have anything in common with the older kids." Yeah, like I had TONS in common with the younger kids who weren't even reading books, which was already my passion. I had to hide them during the day to pretend to learn the alphabet and colors with the other kids.

My sister (November birthday, started Kindergarten at 4) never tested at anything below two levels above her assigned grade, usually much higher. Her huge vocabulary sometimes kept her from casual conversations with kids in her own grade. Same deal - "We care a lot less about her academic growth than her socializing with kids her own age." Verbatim from the principal's mouth. "She doesn't need to learn handwriting. She needs to learn to have fun."

The private Baptist school we ended up in had more than its share of flaws (A school whose copies of Little House on the Prairie are redacted is going to give you some issues to work through) but the one thing they did right was mixing ages like Montessori. I was with older kids and younger kids in the same room, working with older kids on my more advanced subjects and younger ones on the others. Never had a reading group of more than 1 in my whole K-6 career, though. Kinda sucked - they could have sent me to the oder kids' room for that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports published an article about the relative age effect in Canadian hockey players. The conclusion, as you might expect, is that since 1951 coaches have been more likely to notice older children's performance and encourage their development, so their likely hood of becoming professional players is higher. Once in the NHL however, birth month isn't predictive of hall-o-famer status.

The explanatory notes in the conclusionn are pretty interesting though. It blames... the Soviets. A Sputnik moment for hockey!
Clearly, over the years, other factors have had to contribute for the RAE to continue in Canada. Nevertheless, all signs point to the series of events surrounding the Soviets’ emergence on the international hockey scene in the early 1950s as the initial catalyst for the RAE. The circumstances that led to the RAE were meant to lead to the discovery of the best hockey talent in Canada but, unfortunately, because of the RAE, a lot of genuine hockey ability is wasted.
posted by Winnemac at 1:09 PM on September 23, 2013


My family were outside the country with me at ' normal' kindergarten age.
I would have been bored shitless in kindergarten, and really only needed first grade for arithmetic.
I started at age 7. Never skipped a grade. I would have loved to.
I think my parents did not want me being too conformist. Their thought was that kindergarten was fairly pointless.
My younger sister did end up going to kindergarten, mostly because she begged and pleaded to go to school.
She was bored all by herself at home.
My thinking is that it all depends on the kid (s) and parents involved.
Do 7-8 year olds belong in kindergarten? Hell No! Physically too big to be with little kids all day.
I think most of these studies are bogus.
School districts themselves vary quite a bit.
Kids vary as well. So there is going to be acrimonious debate on this topic forever.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2013


I started kindergarten at 4 (I'm a Halloween baby), and I think the only difference that it made was that I didn't turn 18 during high school, so could never sign myself out.
posted by amarynth at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2013


My birthday is in Oct, but school starts in Sept. If I had started school in some states (like Texas where I now live), I would not have been permitted to start 1st grade until I was actually 6. (They didn't have kindergarten in Texas then.) But since I started school in California (which did have kindergarten), my parents had the option letting me start K either the year I would turn 5, or the year I was already 5. They choose to start me early, so I started K at 5, which I am very glad I did.

I'm not sure about kindergarten, but I do remember when I got my very first school reading book, and I know I could already read all the stories in it. My parents actually had the option of letting me skip a grade, but that would have put me starting 6th grade at age 9 when all the other kids were 11 or 12, so they didn't. I'm not so sure that was the correct decision, but that's all water under the bridge.

I think this is something that is probably better to leave up to the parents, as they presumably know their kid better, but what do I know -- I've given up trying to teach my fur-babies anything and I have no other babies. I think if you have bad parents who are determined on doing things for their own prestiege as parents or to compete with others, they will have oh so many more ways to screw up their kids than just when they start school. This may not be the war to start -- advise the parents, perhaps, but leave it up to them.
posted by pbrim at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2013


It's not like all five-year-olds know the same things, anyway. When I think of my daughter's Kindergarten, there were kids who could read and write, and kids who couldn't write their own name, and kids who didn't speak English... Age was just one more variable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:14 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only was I a late birthday, I got held back for another year of kindergarten due to being a picked-on nerd ("socially undeveloped."). I was LITERALLY 19 when graduating high school, and I could have been driving a car freshman year had I not fucked up driving big time. It's...pretty ridiculous to be that old. On the other hand, I look years and years younger than anyone else, so thankfully it wasn't totally conspicuous unless someone asked me my age.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:42 PM on September 23, 2013


I wish my parents had redshirted me. With a mid November birthday and a late November cutoff, I was the second youngest kid in my class from 6th-12th grade. I think it really hurt me, at least socially and athletically (academically, I was in great shape, though I reckon I could've done slightly better if held back). Socially, I was just slightly awkward and lagging slightly behind my classmates. Athletically, I was an "also-ran" in my own class, but could have been in the top tier of the class behind me.

Ultimately, I turned out just fine, and it's not with dwelling on at this point. If I ever have kids of my own, though, my parents' choice and my own experiences will strongly influence my decisions regarding their schooling.
posted by brand-gnu at 3:12 PM on September 23, 2013


Ugh I've been mentally wrestling with this issue since my son was born just one year ago. He technically misses the the cutoff to start kindergarten at five by ONE DAY. He's also destined to be a giant. His father (summer birthday) was held back and had to do pre-first due to his immature social skills. So my son will either be the oldest and the biggest, or the youngest and the biggest, and I'm not sure which would be more damaging to his social and educational experiences.
posted by Safiya at 3:16 PM on September 23, 2013


My personal experience growing up was the opposite (blue-shirting?). I was too young to start first grade according to the public school system, so my parents sent me to a private school. I was intellectually ready, but was not a very socially adept kid, so my grade school years were somewhat awkward and by the time I got to junior high in a public school, I was clearly out of my league. I caught up somewhat, but at the expense of my educational development.

At the advice of experts we red-shirted my younger daughter. I think it can be a mistake, especially for a kid who is ready to start more intensive learning. It's not like they stop developing in the intervening year. The risk is that they will be so far ahead of their peers that school will bore them and if they're not lucky enough to have a teacher who is aware of the problem, they can stagnate and be put off school.

I suspect there are some kids who benefit from red-shirting, but it's probably a minority and identifying them is a challenge. This presents an open research opportunity for those bent in that direction.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:28 PM on September 23, 2013


We’re in Australia so I won’t mention months of the year, but my son was close to the cut off period, could have stayed at home another year (we’re more flexible from what I’m reading here, it’s more a 14-15 month window thing than a strict 12.0 month thing), but he has a child in his class that is a full 2 months older than him. “Redshirted” quite probably, because he is really very immature, and is also unfortunately a nasty bully (now they are in grade two). So his social and emotional skills are at his peers level (at best), while his physical ability is much greater, which causes massive problems. So I’m not sure what the solution there would be for that boy.
posted by wilful at 5:18 PM on September 23, 2013


my parents made this decision for me in 1967. i never even realized that i was a year older then my classmates until sometime in middle school.

It is a huge social stigma to be a year older than the kids in your class.

i finished my high school education at a small private boarding school in vermont. during my senior year i was one of the few people who was legally able to purchase alcoholic beverages. this made me quite a popular person on campus.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:20 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have two kids with mid-August birthdays. One went to K as a 5 year old, one as a 6 year old. It worked out perfectly for both of them-- the former probably could've excelled in K as a 4 year old, the latter was finally starting to enjoy and relate well to peers in the last year of pre-school which was called pre-K. I think we did the right thing with both kids, but thought a lot about the implications of both decisions both times, and were lucky enough to have a great pre-school that actually helped us figure it out.

The problems with this trend seem to come from a very small subset of parents who read "Outliers" and genuinely think their kids will get cumulative advantage from being older. I would guess most of the others are just parents trying to make the right decision about if their kid should be among the youngest or oldest in the class.
posted by cell divide at 5:20 PM on September 23, 2013


My birthday is the cutoff date in California (Dec 2) for deciding when you start the 1st grade. I recall my mother arguing with the school district to get me sooner rather than holding me back (probably due to the cost of another year of kindergarten/day school).

I kinda wish I was bounced, I always thought I was going to be short because everyone else seemed bigger and taller than me (kids grow fast). Never picked for any sports and always trying to please everyone because I was the small fry. Not a great place to start socially in a public school.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:23 PM on September 23, 2013


if you agree with the Slate piece's author that educationally delayed children have "lower IQs and and earnings as adults" is an acceptable, unqualified takeaway from this article... well, I guess I'd like to hear more about your reasoning.

Uh, yeah.

If I were a parent who was giving serious consideration to delaying my child's school start date by a year, and I read that article, I'd come away with the conclusion that there are no serious downsides to the year's delay at all.

Specific points:

- The difference in IQ scores at 18 is SMALL. "Small" means, in other words, something very unimportant for the purpose of making decisions and also something that could have a multitude of causes. (For example, there is almost certainly at least a small bias towards lower IQ scores in students that are started the year later--let's say for example that developmental delays factor into even 5-10% of decisions to start a child a year later. That would be enough to od it. So, we have a small effect with a simple, likely explanation. Again, nothing that would sway my decision in either direction.)

- The "effect on earnings" is super-small, negligible, and disappears by age 30. In short, nothing to worry about and definitely nothing you should be using to make an important life decision around. The complete difference appears to be simply because people who start school a year earlier also end it a year earlier and then enter the workforce a year earlier. Ah, yeah--I didn't a high-falutin' Slate article to figure out that complicated piece of logic for me. The actual research reassures that by age 30 the actual difference of that one year plus or minus in the workforce is exactly nothing--the word it uses is the difference "disappears".

- The most interesting effect seems to be that earlier starters have a higher teen pregnancy rate. (So, a reason to hold my precious child back a year!!!!111!!!1!) But that probably has more to with the one-year age shift vs the definition of 'teenager' than any real difference in outcomes, too. An 'early starter' who has a baby the year after high school graduation is a 'teen pregnancy'. A 'later starter' who has a baby the year after HS graduation is 20 and therefore not a teenager. That sort of thing affects teen pregnancy numbers because of the way the data is collected but doesn't actually affect anything of substance that I as a parent care about.

Conclusion: Crappy authors with an axe to grind will grind it on any available research regardless.
posted by flug at 6:11 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


wilful: "We’re in Australia so I won’t mention months of the year, but my son was close to the cut off period, could have stayed at home another year (we’re more flexible from what I’m reading here, it’s more a 14-15 month window thing than a strict 12.0 month thing), but he has a child in his class that is a full 2 months older than him. “Redshirted” quite probably, because he is really very immature, and is also unfortunately a nasty bully (now they are in grade two). So his social and emotional skills are at his peers level (at best), while his physical ability is much greater, which causes massive problems. So I’m not sure what the solution there would be for that boy."

Between a quarter and a third of the kids in my daughter's kindy class are redshirted/on their second year of kindy by parental choice. So far it's been because "I don't want them being the youngest" and "I don't want them to be expected to behave like older kids when they're younger than the rest of the class" and "I want them to be better developed" and "I want them to have the advantage of being better developed". Those same parents have also started lobbying her teacher to adjust the curriculum so their kids aren't 'bored' any more. Because the curriculum and standards are very explicit about being play based and social learning only for the first year, with opportunities for the kids to extend their reading/writing/math skills where they want but no classes, no worksheets, no lessons. For a kid who has done it once, watched their peers leave, there's no challenge and no real opportunity for challenge because it's a standalone kindergarten.

Which means my 3 years 8 months daughter started kindy with kids a full 12 months older (who are also 99% and big for their age AND with a year of kindy already done) who are not learning to their potential because kindy is about the social, not the academic. Who find it difficult to play with the littler kids. Who aren't being challenged by their environment in a productive way.

A year before kindy started, I was sure kiddo wasn't ready but figured I would send her, see how it panned out, do a second year if the teachers recommended it. Six months before, we knew she was academically ready (as such) but socially, maybe not. The crux is that she will not be socially ready for school without learning those tools in a school-like environment. So she went, and has learnt a lot - being quiet, listening, group work, negotiating, all of those crunchy things. She's learnt things like 'teachers can help' and 'some kids are jerks' and 'how to talk about your day' and 'I can find friends who are like me' and a bunch of concepts and how other families work and it's been great.

But not great enough that I'm willing to sacrifice a year of academic development in order to explicitly give her an advantage over her peers.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:25 PM on September 23, 2013


erm, only when my comment was cited and I read it again did I note that I meant my son's peer is 20 months older. Not 2 months, that would have made no sense.
posted by wilful at 7:41 PM on September 23, 2013


My son was born four days before the cutoff date for entering school. Four days! Which means he is the youngest kid in his class, and my area doesn't allow any wiggle room for parents to decide. But in any event, my wife and I wouldn't have held him back anyway. My son is somewhat small and thin, and even if he were a year older there are other boys a year younger that are simply bigger.

I thought it unfair for about five minutes but then realized that I can't be a hover parent and protect him all the time. He's entering the world, in an albeit limited fashion (preschool), but you have to let them go. In degrees, gradually, with love and support.

Attitude and mentality are much more important, and it doesn't seem to me to be a lot you can do to control that. My son is a gentle, peace-loving type, just as I was as a child (and still am). Other kids--regardless of their size--are naturally aggressive. Or, as the case may be, conditioned to be aggressive by their environment; it doesn't matter and is beside the point. Though, I have to say that a lot of shitty behavior by my son's fellow preschoolers goes completely unchecked by their parents, who seem to think that little Timmy biting my son's cheek and pushing him into a bush is just a "oh, man, kids will be kids!" moment.
posted by zardoz at 8:09 PM on September 23, 2013


Sequence: "My birthday was nowhere near the cutoff and I was often bored and also socially inept. You can't always say that every kid is going to be popular and successful if you can only figure out when to have them start school."

Thank you for pointing this out. I went ahead and started kindergarten at four and first grade at five as the youngest kid in my class because I was academically good to go, though socially, I was not exactly a prodigy.

My small size made it easy to blame this on my age -- though I wasn't actually the smallest kid in my class. There were kids born earlier in the year who were certainly much more socially/emotionally immature -- lacking a handy late-birth-month excuse, this was just rationalized some other way.
posted by desuetude at 9:27 PM on September 23, 2013


It is a huge social stigma to be a year older than the kids in your class.

That's what I always thought. I was either the youngest or close to it in my elementary school, high-school and college, and always thought of it as a badge of honor. I would've disowned my folks if they ever tried to hold me back a year... who wants to spend an extra year in elementary/high school when you could be mucking it up in college?
posted by amorphatist at 1:23 AM on September 24, 2013


September birthday - I was placed in the grade with kids slightly younger than me. Never faced any social stigma from it. I was one of the first people in my class to get my driver's permit, which was pretty awesome.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:26 AM on September 24, 2013


nonasuch:
I was one of the oldest in my class, because of being I think, only a few weeks off the cut-off dates? In a school that did not put kids up or down (we had too many kids coming in with no english at say, 9, so where would you put them? Kindergarten?). And still small for my age (actually, in highschool, I still hit puberty a good couple of years after my peers anyway - I'm resigned to the fact I was never going to match, even if they'd held me back further, although at least I'm a perfectly normal adult height [growth height in females basically stops at menarche, so I'd slowly caught up]).

Anyway, try and imagine the screw up of still being a socially awkward geek, but now, instead of just being a year or two ahead of my age-peers, I was so far ahead that my teacher frequently let me sit and read books during classtime because I was so bored, and my peers were bewildered my interests.

I wasn't intellectually or socially matching anyone in my class. I just look back and go, oh my god, if only I'd been in the same class as most of my age-peers, or better, even been put up a year (so two years ahead of where I was). There would have been kids who had the same interests, and I wouldn't have been such a freak. I might have actually had to learn to do work, rather than pay no attention and still pass everything.
When I did manage to make friends, they were all older than me, and forgiving of this enthusiastic, geeky kid because we had stuff we could talk/work on together.


So yeah, it's easy to look back and go - if only it had been different! Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't've.
posted by Elysum at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2013


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