So, You’re Redshirting Your Kindergartener?


kindergartenThe school year is just around the corner and I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce our family. Meet Us: Mr. and Mrs. Unpopluar, Mr. and Mrs. Unconventional, Mr. and Mrs. That Family. First-Born-Type A-Competitive-Valedictorian marries First-Born-Alpha-Male-Collegiate-Ballplayer and succeeds in procreating enough little warriors to man an entire basketball team with a bench three-deep (that’s eight if you don’t speak sports). Yes, eight… eight children with absolutely no hope of a laissez-faire upbringing. Go, go, go! Achieve, achieve, achieve! But wait, before you start heckling from the sidelines, grab a front-row seat and let’s go over the playbook:

Ten strong, it’s all zone defense at our house; we rarely have the energy for man-on-man. But a long time ago, we called an audible: we redshirted … our kids… more specifically two of our kids, and since then, four more. Redshirting is usually a term reserved for collegiate athletes who, during their freshman year, sit out from competition to grow in strength and ability so that they may be better prepared for success their sophomore year. Redshirt years don’t count against NCAA eligibility, so in essence, athletes are taking a gap year from competing in sports while still attending college. WIN-WIN. Lately, however, redshirting has become an increasingly common phraseology for parents who hold their children out of school until they are six years old – a year later than the conventional five-year-old kindergarten entry age. A heated controversy, there is little evidence of grand-sweeping ineffectiveness or effectiveness of this parenting choice. But, most recently, studies have emerged about the long-lasting effects of redshirting kindergarteners, and they are encouraging. In fact, one study by Dr. Suzanne Jones actually found that several years afterward, redshirted students had significantly higher levels of life satisfaction. (Jones, 2012) And, in our experience, I concur. Though we will never know what may have been, we know what we see now that some of our first redshirtees are in college and high school: high-achieving, confident, socially healthy, athletically competitive, organized, and compassionate humans who are leaders in the classroom, in their peer groups, on their teams. We credit a lot to the confidence they gained with early success in school when they were ready to learn and lead with emotional maturity and fortitude.

Redshirting is a tricky call, one we didn’t (and don’t) make lightly or with broad strokes for all of our children. Holding a child out of school may be based on several tangible contributing factors now. Still, there are a plethora of unforeseen future events upon which parents are theoretically gambling: puberty, social maturity, academic aptitude, emotional development, athletic development, and familial or societal changes… like a global pandemic. Not every family shares the same set of circumstances; we each raise unique bundles of DNA. Life choices are not based on the same personalities or economics, or capabilities. We have made our decisions from the lens of a professional educator, a kindergarten teacher, parents to both boys and girls, a collegiate athlete, spring-born late bloomers, coaches. Ultimately, we want our children to succeed. We want them to explore the differentiation between good and great, because like it or not, we live in a highly competitive society. We’ve had our critics, those accusing us of greedily seeking athletic advantages or stacking the system against those who choose to send their children to school at five. But, before you call foul, this is a choice we all have with our children. Yep, it is definitely more expensive. Yep, it requires sacrifice and a high level of personal accountability to ensure the extra year at home is productive and well-spent. But, we never regret an extra year with our child(ren) at home. I am in NO rush to scoot these babies out the door. Twelve months could better equip a generation who will work into their seventies and inherit a challenging world in which to live.

And, if all the philosophy feels too insubstantial, consider your child’s school readiness; it should not be based on academic ability alone. Young fives who can read but cannot sit still for more than a few seconds may have a very negative first-school experience. Frustration can manifest itself as cycles of poor behavior in the classroom – causing problems for your child and his or her classmates. Kindergarten is becoming increasingly academic, and students need to be emotionally equipped to handle it. Fast forward to junior high, a notorious adolescent cesspool of emotion, and what seemed manageable at five becomes a teenage Hunger Games in which only the strongest survive. A year of maturity may make all the difference. Therefore, redshirting becomes more than an “I-don’t-want-to-spend-another-year-paying-for-daycare” decision… It sets the emotional, physical, and academic tones for the next thirteen-plus years of a child’s life. Since crystal balls are hard to come by and predicting the future is never a sure bet, we must work within our circle of control. For us, that means challenging a societal norm to do what is best for our children. Early on, I did a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, but I’m confident we made the right call over a decade later. Redshirting our little team has produced a winning record for this Mr. and Mrs. Unconventional.

Jones, S. (2012). Academic red-shirting: Perceived life satisfaction of adolescent males. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations:


  1. I have been thinking to keep my 5 year old from kindergarten I know all kids do it and they are just fine, but the hours now are crazy, my oldest son did it 8-12:40 but now it’s 8-2:40. He also has tons of food allergies plus asthma and I feel like it would be harder for him to deal with that. But I also think he needs to socialize and stuff. I’m so confused and don’t know what to do!

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