Red shirting kindergarteners
Lindsay over at Suburban Turmoil wrote an interesting post about her experience with a "red shirted" kindergartener. What used to be a bit of a shameful secret, holding a child back from starting kindergarten at their appointed time has become nearly standard practice in some communities and is considered a way to help kids get an academic (and possibly athletic) leg up.
I have an elementary education degree and managed to have three sons with fall birthdays, which meant we had to determine when they started kindergarten. Having seen kindergarteners struggling in school firsthand meant a huge amount of soul-searching. In the end, it came down to using our best judgment as parents as well as taking into consideration the professional recommendations of the boys' preschool teacher, who was an invaluable resource to figure out what to do with our borderline birthday boys.
The oldest of the trio started kindergarten a month before his 5th birthday. He was a great listener, could sit still, pay attention, follow instructions, and got along with others. Years later, he still has these skills and completed 8th grade with a 4.0 grade point, a lot of friends, and because he takes after his tall father, excelled in sports against kids nearly a year older them him.
My 2nd and 3rd fall birthday boys were both held back for maturity reasons. The older of the two later skipped a grade and seems to have landed exactly where he belongs academically and socially. The younger was our biggest question mark. He probably could have started earlier, but I believe it's easier to skip ahead a grade then to be suffer the embarrassment of being held back. He's doing great and loves his teacher and school in general.
Holding a child back so they'll have the advantage of being physically larger for high school sports is a shameful practice that needs to be addressed. However, holding a child back because they're not emotionally, socially, or behaviorally ready isn't the same thing. In those cases, "red shirting" might be the greatest academic assistance a parent could ever give.
There's no prize for finishing high school at the youngest age, the point is to learn. For some kids, allowing that extra year to mature can make a world of difference.