This month my recently-turned four year old daughter started her second year of Preschool. My husband and I made a very conscious decision to raise our children in this particular community so they can be taught in this district; in 2010 Manhattan Beach Unified School District ranked # 3 in the state and received a API score of 926!
Recently, while at a play date, another mother asked me if I was going have my daughter wait an extra year before starting kindergarten. I almost took it as an insult, assuming she was suggesting my daughter was not ready or mature enough to handle kindergarten at five years old. However, she explained that postponing the start of kindergarten is what all of the parents are now doing to help their little ones avoid falling behind by being the youngest. The idea is that having an extra year to mature helps with future test scores of the students and the district as a whole. Well, it seemed a bit of a stretch at first. In fact, I thought maybe this mom was referring more towards boys who some say have a slower maturity level, and not specifically my little girl.
So, I started asking her teacher and just about every mom of older children I knew. Sure enough, the parents are choosing to “Redshirt” their children by holding them back a year. Originally this term referred to college age athletes’ to defer 1 year of participation in sports to prolong their eligibility. Well, now parents are using this same approach towards their child’s educational career.
Call it perfect timing since this has become my latest parent-obsessive concern. I just read a related article in the New York Times, “Delaying Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril”, written by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, two neuroscientists and authors of “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows From Conception to College.” Just as I started to become convinced by so many stories I’ve heard of other mothers in this community to wait an extra year before Kindergarten, I read this article which has made me question the latest redshirting trend.
Basically, Wang and Aamodt believe that learning is maximized by not getting all the correct answers, but by learning from your own mistakes. I couldn’t agree more. The more exposure of education a child has, the better prepared they are. So, just because you prolong the start of kindergarten doesn’t mean your child will be at the desired level or ahead of his/her peers.
I know many parents whose reasoning for the delay is so their child won’t be the youngest in the class. They fear that it will set their child up for struggling to keep up with their older classmates, and that they are not ready to sit and follow directions for a paper-and-pencil-type curriculum. However, Wang and Aamodt say that surrounding your child with influences of peers the same age or older is actually more beneficial.
California is 1 in four states in the U.S. who has a cutoff date later than December 1st. Currently, our cutoff date is December 2nd, but it will move up to September 1st in 2014.
I really started to believe I was set on holding my daughter back so she wouldn’t be the youngest in her class, since she has and August birthday. However, I’m not completely sure that is best specifically for my daughter. Being a parent means every decision I make for her affects her path for success. I know my Hubs and I have a year to figure this out, but it’s a big decision that will ultimately affect her overall educational career and I am really starting to feel the pressure. Have you already been through Kindergarten and beyond? Do you agree with “redshirting?”