Suburban Turmoil: A tale of two kindergartens

Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 1:00am

(NOTE: The names of the mothers and daughters in this story have been changed to protect potential Parent Social Committee appointments and prevent room mother throw-downs.)

Five-year-old Olivia Morrison is coloring and singing and skipping her way through the final days of kindergarten at her Williamson County public school. After a few months of summer vacation, her schoolmates will meet again in the first grade classrooms. Olivia won’t be among them.

Instead, she’ll be starting kindergarten all over again, this time at one of Nashville’s private Catholic schools.

“She was on the weaker side as far as academics go,” her mother, Sue, explains. “Her new school tends to be a little stressful, and I didn’t want her to not be as good as everyone else.”

Olivia is hardly alone.

Every year, hundreds of Nashville-area private school parents “redshirt” their kindergarten-aged children, holding them out for a year or two until they’re bigger or more mature. Many of these redshirted kids go to public school kindergarten in the meantime. Their parents hope it will give them an edge in private school admissions testing and, later, in the classroom.

The double kindergarten practice is frustrating to moms like Maria Anderson, whose own five-year-old daughter will attend Olivia’s new school this fall with only a year of preschool under her 5T belt. Maria’s afraid her child will lag behind the kindergarten vets.

“Obviously, I’m concerned about academics,” Maria told me. “Those kids have a leg up. But also, [with] socialization. They’ve eaten in a cafeteria, they know how to walk into school, hang up their backpacks, sit on the carpet. She’s going to go into a class with 25 kids and I’m willing to bet that 10 to 15 of them have already had a year of kindergarten somewhere else.”

It’s ‘competiparenting’ at its finest. And it’s only getting worse.

“That kind of waiting-out, particularly for boys, has been common at Ensworth, USN and Harding for years,” a local mom and former private school administrator told me recently. “Many of the elite private elementary schools ‘officially’ accept kindergartners who are 5, but in reality, tend toward kids (particularly boys) who are 6 or even 7. My son started kindergarten at 5 years old. There were two 7-year-old boys in the same class. My daughter also started at 5, with three 7-year-olds.”

Some education experts say such a wide range of ages can take a toll on a classroom.

“If you gear the class toward the older children, the younger guys get left behind,” says Catherine McTamaney, a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt. “If you gear it toward the younger children, you spend a lot of your time dealing with behavioral issues with the older guys. We've created a monster in these structures, and these kinds of parent games just feed it.”

It’s bad enough in kindergarten, but many moms have told me that once puberty sets in, the age separation gap in private schools gets even more noticeable.

“When your daughter is in eighth grade, do you really want her with a boy who could be a sophomore in high school?” Maria asked. “Some of these boys in eighth grade look like men to me! Some of them can’t even fit in the elementary school desks for crying out loud.”

I shook my head in sympathy for Maria when she told me this, thanking my lucky stars that as a public school parent, I didn’t have to worry about these kinds of issues. Instead, I can focus my concerns on more pressing matters, like who hid that loaded gun in his locker at my stepdaughters’ high school, or how a drug dealer approached my 18-year-old in the school library, or whether that flasher is still hanging out at the bus stop on the other side of the fence.

Still, it burns me to think that a percentage of kids at my 5-year-old daughter’s public school kindergarten this fall will be there as nothing more than pawns in a parent game to make them seem smarter when they enter private school.

I think the notion that two years of kindergarten could significantly increase a child’s intelligence is ridiculous. Dr. McTamaney seems to agree.

“You can't push kids' development to build a higher-achieving kid any more than you can shake a cocoon to build a more beautiful butterfly,” she says.

At the same time, I have to admit that if I were a private school parent, I would feel a major temptation to keep up with the Frists. If everyone else is doing two years of kindergarten, why would I send my daughter into that environment without the same kind of preparation?

“She’s going into the lion’s den,” Sue told me. After we talked for a few minutes, she admitted she’d never have sent Olivia to public kindergarten this year if the other parents weren’t doing it.

“I wish they’d never started this,” she said. “Kindergarten should be kindergarten. It aggravates me that they expect so much out of them at such a young age.”

But who are “they,” exactly? The private schools? Or the parents?

Or both?

Read more of Lindsay’s columns at

46 Comments on this post:

By: hattahall on 5/14/09 at 9:52

I agree with this to an extent. I personally was a year younger than everyone else I was 4 turning 5 at the end of Kindergarten. I did okay in school and later went on to get a Masters Degree from a half way decent University. Had I been red shirted could I have gotten a Phd from an ivy league? Doubt it. Currently my 6 year old will graduate from K in June. He missed the Sept. 1st cut off with his Sept 28th birthday in WI so starting at 5 turning 6 wasn’t our choice. Now that we have moved and the date is later he seems a little older than some of the kids in his class (he does wear a boys 8 Slim). My daughter is delayed and depending on her development I may wait until she is 6 (August Birthday) to send her to school mainly because the therapy and attention she gets in preschool seems to be more in depth than what is offered in grade school.

By: sadiemae2001 on 5/14/09 at 9:52

Wow. This really scares me. I can't imagine my child being in a classroom with kids who are a couple of years older, more mature, bigger. I'm sure the teachers don't love it either as it sounds like if they really want to keep everyone engaged it could double their already crazy workload. A lesson plan for the young kids, a lesson plan for the older kids.

My little guy isn't even here yet and now I have something else to worry about. Thanks, Lindsay. :)

By: Colorado Mom on 5/14/09 at 9:52

In Colorado, the trend of 'holding back' kids until they're 6 or 7 to start Kindergarten is prevalent...especially with boys. We sent our 5 year and 2 month old son to kindergarten - luckily he's a big kid and bright enough and fit in just fine. However, now in middle school, it's wearing on him that everyone in his 6th grade class is 12 and 13 and he's 11. That's a huge difference. That means the hallways in his public, urban 6-8 middle school have kids as old as 15 in them. Meanwhile, I get to deal with ridiculous parents who say things like, "Oh, my son isn't just GIFTED. He's HIGHLY GIFTED." Duh. If my kid were taking tests meant for children two years younger than him, he'd be a freaking genius. My kid has to compete for spots on sports teams and academic programs against kids 18-24 months older than he is, because everything goes by grade, not age. He's working his butt off and some smug parent somewhere is thinking they're beating the system for their kid. Guess I'll have the last laugh. Mine will be 17 when he graduates from high school, and of to college at 18, they'll still be doing their baby's laundry and when he's 20.

By: ThisHeavenlyLife on 5/14/09 at 9:53

Hmmm...I can see the point of wanting to do it if all the other parents are, but that'll only make the problem worse. I've thought about this quite a few times since your first post on redshirting for sports, and it's fascinating in a train wreck sort of way. Aren't there guidelines? Regulations on age? Don't teacher recommendations have any say in the process?

Really, the only reason I'd keep my daughter out of kindergarten for a year, is so I could have some more mommy-baby cuddle time. But that's certainly not gonna win her any points in classrooms full of older children. And I'd still hate to see her go the next year any way. Might as well bite the bullet at an appropriate time!

Great article. Thanks for showing us the shaggy underbelly of kindergarten.


By: misfithausfrau on 5/14/09 at 9:54

This is incredibly annoying. "They" are the parents. These parents are ridiculously competitive to have the best cars, the nicest homes, the most prestigious jobs, and the brightest, most gifted kids. The private schools merely enable the parents by taking their money.

Don't think that this competition is just in the private schools, however. This competitive parenting occurs in the public schools too. It is just manifested in different ways. Everyone is working overtime to make sure their chidren are the best.

By: kelli1227 on 5/14/09 at 10:11

Great article Lindsey! We were just having an argument about this very topic last week. I have a niece and a nephew who are 2 weeks apart (and only 9 months old right now, by the way). The parents of the nephew have already decided to redshirt their son, so he will "dominate" (their word, not mine). These children are babies and are already in a competition that they don't understand.

Thank you for writing about the topic! I am passing it on to both moms.


By: werled on 5/14/09 at 10:17

I'm not so sure this is for the children's benefit - this is all about the parents. The kids will do much better in a setting with their own peers - not a classroom peppered with children one, two or even three years older than they. It's too much pressure on the younger kids to grow up, learn quickly, and too little challenge for the older kids.

It is the parents who get the bragging rights out of this, the parents who get to delude themselves into thinking that their Johnny is a genius, when in a class of his peers he is probably average. They are doing this not so much to give the kids a real advantage, but to pump up their own egos.

Yet we lament the fact that children are growing up too fast - well, no wonder, if you are constantly shoving them in with kids several years beyond them in development.

By: knewman4 on 5/14/09 at 10:34

I agree that this is really bad. I think we can blame this sort of thing on increasing amounts of information about how "random" things, like birthdates and ages for certain sports, impact a child's potential for "greatness" in this sport. I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and felt sure that if I didn't send my child to a public school I would be ruining him for ever. I've recovered, for the time being, but I'm still nervous about my 5 year old starting at a public kindergarten this fall (after he's been at the best private daycare in the city for 4!).

In the end, you can't control what other people do. All you can do is be a great parent (which you are) and find a community that shares your values. Good luck!

By: MommyMelee on 5/14/09 at 10:54

This is absolutely mind boggling. My son is three and I can't imagine having to deal with this sort of BS when he's older. 10th grade age kids in an 8th grade class affect all students, regardless of gender. Kids that age are experiencing a completely different lifestyle that it's totally inappropriate to expose the younger ones to AT SCHOOL.


By: elenaraines on 5/14/09 at 11:09

I have 5 children ages 8yrs-5 months. My 2nd child, Ava will be 6 in 2 weeks and is almost done with Kindergarten. She tested for GATE this year and ranked in the 98th percentile in the district. We had the option of moving her up into first grade. My husband and I discussed it for all of 30 seconds. Kindergarten is pretty much a child's last chance to just have fun in a relaxed learning environment before school becomes more work than play. I think redshirting is unfair to the younger kids.

When did everything become such a competition? Why can't we just let our kids enjoy life. Adolescence is hard enough without parents creating more reasons for kids to compete with one another.

By: rubberbacon on 5/14/09 at 11:10

Wow I'm just really shocked by all of this. I had no idea parents were doing this. I have a co-worker who shares custody with an ex-wife and she decided to hold back their daughter for a 2nd year of 2nd grade. She had passed all her exams but the teacher said she had passed with low scores so the ex-wife and her new "doctor" husband decided to make the girl repeat 2nd grade so she would be smarter. My co-worker was so upset and tried to block them but in the end, the teacher was on the side of the ex-wife and pushed it through. What a mess.

By: TwithHoney on 5/14/09 at 11:18

And to think that earlier this winter I was lobbying my daughter's preschool to let her in their interim Kindergarten even though her birthday is 2 months after the cutoff. How silly of me!

My daughter is one of those rare kids that actually perform better when she is with older, more advanced kids. Plus her preschool teachers agree that she is more than ready for kindergarten but no one will accept her, public or private, even though she passes their tests because her birthday is after the cutoff date. Part of the problem is the redshirts and I have to admit they are part of the reason I stopped even looking into getting her into Kindergarten for this fall. I don't want my 4 year old in the same classroom as 7 year olds!!

By: Lyndsey2478 on 5/14/09 at 11:45

I agree with you that the practice is absolutely wrong. That being said, I feel like kids will kind of shake out where they are supposed to be. I was semi-redshirted at the suggestion of school administrators. My 5th birthday was within the limit for starting Kindergarten, but barely, so they suggested I wait a year. When the time came I went and I was bored. I should have gone the year before. I ended up staying with my classmates for three years, and after second grade was moved to fourth grade so that i would be more similar academically to my peers... even if that meant I was young.

I think that while the situation that has been created is wrong and certainly not ideal, you should give your kids some credit for being able to thrive in even a challenging environment. Maybe having a more difficult school experience will be just the motivation they need to learn how to deal with life's many adversities.

By: Keyona on 5/14/09 at 11:47

Oh My GOSH! I had no idea this was happening. My daughter started Pre-K at 3 and moved on to Kindergarten at 4 and that's because she met the cutoff before they changed it in DC last year. She's 5 and will start 1st grade as a 5 year old but she can hang with the kids if not surpass them in her academics and maturity. She recently changed schools and came home the other day telling me that her friend in her class turned 7. I thought that it was a little strange and now it makes sense. I fully expect most of the kids to turn 6 now and over the summer but 7! I have to reall keep my eye out for this.

By: mmmyatt on 5/14/09 at 11:48

i think this sounds horrible. why do parents have to go to such measures to create their kids in the image the parents never had. i started early and did very well in school and in sports. i don't think we are helping our kids by doing this, but it burns me to think that my kid could suffer because of the selfishness of some parents.

i have seen parent competitiveness in my child's classroom in a different form: parents encouraging their kids to lie about assignments to look better for the teacher. seriously? i feel like we need a national reality-check...

By: noteverstill on 5/14/09 at 12:25

I was always the youngest in my class. My birthday is December 26 and I went to a primary school whose cutoff was Dec. 31, so my whole life I was the baby of the class. I started kindergarten at just over 4.5 and graduated from high school at 17. I did fine. I probably did great. I was the smallest, but I don't think that really impacted me (though it might have if I was a boy). I learned to read and write on time and I got into my first-choice college. And I'm gainfully employed and don't have a criminal record and I pay my taxes on time. There's enough pressure our whole lives to be good enough - do we have to do this to little kids? That all said, now we live in an area where the cutoff is Sept. 1 - and I'm so glad that my girls have December and January (middle-of-the-pack) birthdays so I don't have to worry about this!

By: noteverstill on 5/14/09 at 12:26

Oh - sorry -
(Maybe being the youngest was a detriment to learning how to pay attention to instructions?)
; )

By: sparksfley on 5/14/09 at 1:18

I honestly hate this. In full disclosure - my son did do K again. However. He has a heart condition that puts him about a year behind, and he just didn't get it the first time around. So, we got a do-over (at the recommendation of the school.) He stayed at the same school, different teacher. It was the best thing we ever did for him. Since he IS a year behind developmentally, he's now the same size as the rest of the class, he's "getting it" at the same rate as the rest of the class. It is, however, odd that he turns 7 tomorrow and the other kids are turning 6. But it was for his best interest at the time (he wouldn't have made it through 1st grade.) Now he matches his peers more. And most importantly, is actually learning. I don't understand this competitive streak. I was 18 when I graduated high school. An OLD 18, just because of when my birthday fell. I worry about that when Logan graduates, even though it was the best thing for him. I do NOT understand what kind of edge these parents think they're giving their kids. Be bigger for sports? The better to squish your children with? The better way to give them an edge is to keep them with their peers but add things like academic extracurriculars. If the kids have the extra brains to it - it's NOT the extra time playing with glue paste and learning their addresses. They're just legal a year earlier. ::shudder::

By: MissMarovich on 5/14/09 at 1:27

This absolutely floors me. I have never heard of anything like this! I live in Phoenix, where the public schools are notoriously terrible. My daughter goes to a Montessori school and the students are promoted to the next grade based on intellectual and social ability, and not age. There are more than one grade level in each classroom (2 to 3) so there are a variety of ages in one classroom. The older children learn to "teach" and mentor, and the younger children learn to take instructions from peers as well as their 2 teachers. The multiple ages in one classroom works very well, however it is understood that they are all at different levels, which is WHY it works. They are not expected to be on a level playing feild. The children taught this way are significantly ahead of the children taught in the public schools here (which may only be significant because our public schools are really awful). It is very sad.

Maybe that is why I am so confused as to reasons for keeping a child behind. I would want to push a child AHEAD...

By: MissMarovich on 5/14/09 at 1:28

By: ahabighorst on 5/14/09 at 1:40

This is just terrible! By doing this, they are making the parents who choose to have their children start at the correct age to put their children at a disadvantage. My oldest has a July birthday and the cutoff for our school district is September 1st and they were starting an all day kindergarten program the year he started school. I almost had him start a year later because he was a preemie and shouldn't have been born until October. He did exceptionally well and has been in the high reading group all three years so far.

By: suburbanpsychotic on 5/14/09 at 2:37

You should read the book, Outliers, the story of success, by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he talks ALOT about the advantage of being the oldest and the disadvantage of being the youngest in a group, whether it be in a classroom or on a sports team. That book, makes this redshirting practice seem hideously unfair to the kids who begin at the age of 5.

By: ComfyMom on 5/14/09 at 3:16

My oldest is semi-redshirted. The cut of here is Sept 30 & his b-day is Oct 2, so he has a year on his classmates. (the next birthday in his class is Dec 22) There was a brief discussion of bumping him a grade this year because of his grades but he's a shy kid & I'd rather he was the big, smart, shy kid with glasses rather than the small, average shy kid with glasses.

Redshirting isn't much of an issue here. Our private schools only go to 8th grade & they enforce the public age limit. If you took kindergarten in public school & passed, you go to first grade in private school & if you are six by Sept 30th you go to first grade. Having your child repeat kindergarten, or be 7 and in kindergarten is something of an embarrassment in my area. It implies they aren't very bright. Sports are run mostly by the county park & recreation department and go by age not grade, until high school & even then, only football & basketball are run by the high school. All other sports still fall under parks & rec. So there is little advantage to holding your child back for sports, he'll be playing with kids his age until he is 15.

By: FyreGoddess on 5/14/09 at 3:41

I think it's a bad idea, in part, because those kids are going to be stigmatized. My son is, according to NYS, a year behind where he "should" be. He went to a small alternative school until he was 9, but when it was time for him to go to public school, we let him choose if he wanted to be in his "right" class, where the work would be a little tougher, but he could handle it or if he'd rather be a year behind and have easier work and probably an easier time adjusting to the social aspect. Since he's always preferred the company of kids slightly younger than him, he chose to enter 3rd grade, rather than 4th.

The academics of the school where he started were sub-par, so even though he will wind up spending a year longer in school than many of his peers, it cannot be said with accuracy that he "repeated" a grade. Most of those fundamentals were things that he was lacking anyway, hence the decision to put him into public school.

He's 15 now, and a freshman in high school, in advanced placement classes. The problem is that many people, adults and his peers, often ask him if he was held back. There's a question of whether or not he was, at some point, too stupid to advance on time, and it's an assumption that's made quite often. This, I think, will be rife when these kids start high school at 15, 16 or 17 years old.

Also, while I don't think this is an issue if we're talking about a year difference, some of these older kids are going to have a rough time adjusting to the real world. The expectations of them will be that they're developmentally further along than they really are and their peers in their early 20's are likely to judge them harshly for their lack of world experience.

I do wonder, however, if having significantly larger and older children surrounded by much younger and smaller kids will create an increase in bullying, especially if those older children are also stigmatized by an unearned label of being stupid or behind.

That said, I am torn on the subject. I think that many children are pushed ahead too soon, or at least that many were. There are absolutely kids who need to be allowed to age into school and to adjust to the politics and socialization of school at a slower pace.

I also want to touch on something you mentioned on your blog post. The issue of 9 year old girls being in the same class as "pubescent 12 year olds". More and more girls are developing at a younger age, both socially and physiologically. It is far from unheard of for 9 year old girls to start menstruating and developing breasts. For these girls, it may be highly beneficial to have older girls going through the same thing. It also may serve to take some of the burden off of developing early. If other girls are becoming women, the one or two very early bloomers are less likely to become spectacles.

Honestly, though, it makes me really glad that I had my son as early as I did. I'm not planning to start again, and topics like this make me really happy that I don't have to face these parents, their children or the decisions that surround them.

~FG };^>

By: angelilqua on 5/14/09 at 4:04

As a parent of a kid JUST starting preschool, I had no idea this was even going on! I am highly disturbed that parents are pushing their YOUNG CHILDREN in to such competitive places so young! Stop trying to live through your children!


By: WhisperingWriter on 5/14/09 at 4:08

I had never heard of this before. It is not something that I'd ever do to my children. To be honest, I think my son would be insulted that I held him back. On purpose.

I hate how everything seems to be a competition these days. I could not play those competition games. If I knew someone who was all, "I'm holding my kid back so she'll be as good as everyone else," I'd probably be tempted to say, "Have you lost your mind?"

By: WisconsinMommy on 5/14/09 at 6:27

This was a big consideration for us this year as Little J will be turning 5 in July and the cut-off date is the end of August. I was originally okay with him starting 5K until I learned that every other boy in his preschool class (even the ones with b-days over a month before his) were waiting a year. When I realized that he would be 14 in his freshman year in HS with 16 yr olds in the same class, I started to rethink our plans.

In our town, we have half the population holding their kids out as long as possible and half trying to get them into 4K even if they are after the cutoff date! As a former teacher, I don't see the value in pushing kids to excel academically at such a young age. Kindergarten is meant to be a half-day introduction to school where children learn their ABC's and start to learn to read. Around here, kids enter the now full-day kindergarten (after having completed town provided 4K!) already knowing their letters and many know how to read.

Numerous tests show that all of these early gains are lost by 2nd to 4th grade, where kids with no kindergarten at all test the same as those who start school at age 3. Most of the push for 4K and all day 5K seems to come from parents who want to use school as a subsidized replacement for daycare.

Sorry to go on so long - perhaps I should do a post on this as well!

Wisconsin Mommy

By: badassdad05 on 5/14/09 at 6:29

I just had a conversation with a former coworker about this very thing. She wanted to start her kid in private school at 5, but if he didn't get in she was considering putting him in public kindergarten for a year hoping he'd get in the following year. Seemed reasonable enough, but the way you describe it sounds more calculating and frankly like gaming the system.

Each family must decide what's best for their children. I hope they do it in a way that is also with an eye to what's best for the community, but I suspect that is a secondary consideration for most.

For our part we plan to start our child in kindergarten at 5 and keep him in public school for as long as the schools are up to par, which may mean only until Jr. High. At that point we'll explore charter schools before private. My wife and I were both public school kids, and believe in supporting the system as long as it can servce our children's needs.

By: sweetpeamom on 5/14/09 at 6:31

WHOA! I had absolutly no.clue. that this was even allowed! As a person who had to repeat a grade, I was often questioned about my age/grade by others. I always felt stupid, not superior. When I made straight A's I felt like they should all have an * beside them like sports records because it wasn't my first time seeing the material. To me, this is a prime example of the parents complete disregard for their childs needs and the parents need for superiority. If there is a real need for retention then I'm all for it. But to just get ahead? Um, no. an HR Manager...if I was looking at hiring someone and saw they graduated several years past their scheduled time? I would wonder what kind of employee I was hiring. I wonder if the parents have thought that far ahead?

Thanks for the eye-opener. And reminding me why I am so grateful my kids are older!

Oak Ridge, TN

By: Formerly Gracie on 5/14/09 at 7:11

The practice of redshirting sets a horrible precedent, not only for the reset of the community, but for the kid. I mean, where does this competitiveness and drive to succeed at any cost end?

Well, I just wrote a post about exactly where this ends. You can find it here:

Formerly Gracie

By: joybells07 on 5/14/09 at 8:01

I'm one of those kids with a late summer birthday and my mom waited a year to put me in school so that I'd be among the oldest instead of the youngest, and I think things have worked out pretty well that way. But holding out a whole extra year or even two seems pretty incredulous to me. It's no wonders the teachers have trouble in their classrooms, trying to teach to such a huge age range, and with such pressured parental expectations. It's too bad there's no easy way to level the playing field now; from your article it sounds like it's too prevalent for any sort of quick fix. I feel bad for the normal age kids who are being practically demoted.

Kirksville, MO

By: CherF on 5/14/09 at 8:02

In my parts of the woods (columbus, OH) I have been annoyed by the fact that many mom's hold their kids born in June, july and August back for a year. Our cut off, mostly, is September 1st-ish. It just seems like such a slap in the face to their kid. It's like saying, "you aren't smart enough to keep up with kids your age." I don't know, maybe it bugs me because I was always the middle of the pack, both age wise and inteligence wise. I was nothing special and I am thrilled with my life. I hope my kids one day can say they are as happy as I am right now. I will do nothing to push them in either direction without advisement from academic professionals.
I plan to blog about this topic in the next day or 2 and link to your post. I think it's a hot-button issue for a lot of parents.
Feel free to "visit" me in the next day or so.

By: MusingsfromMe on 5/14/09 at 8:39

I'm in MD. With my 7th (January birthday) and 5th grader (August birthday) the cutoff for K was December 31. The 7th grader was almost 6 when she started while the 5th grader was 4 almost 5. The difference between the girls is remarkable. The 7th grader was reading in preschool, while the 5th read fluently by the end of K. The 7th is in all GT classes. The 5th grader is on grade level. My 7th can hold her own with kids who should be in 8th grade. My 5th grader has to deal with an older, mean contingent of girls who should be in 6th grade -- these girls have been an issue since 3rd grade.

My son is in K right now -- the cutoff is September. He has an April birthday. I never considered holding him back. Of all three children he has had the best experience. He is reading and doing math at late 1st grade level. There are older kids in his class, but both were held back due to special ed/developmental issues. He is tall for his age and a clasroom leader. I'm left wondering why he is doing so well. Is it because he is a boy, tall for his age, the youngest child, or is it because he had my undivided attention for 5 years. I was a SAHM with him, whereas I was WAHM with his sisters. I'm now back working at home.

You need to do a post on the education of the on-grade level student. The GT and Spec Ed students get enrichment and special resources, while the middle of the road student gets none of these resources. I worry about my 5th grader ending up in classes with kids with behavior problems.

By: CeCeSays on 5/14/09 at 11:55

Wow. I remember when Kindy was about playing, learning and trying not to accidentally call your teacher "Mommy"

SO glad I home school. Not that some H.S. moms aren't just as manipulative.

CeCe at

By: Tracy C on 5/15/09 at 6:47

Very interesting stuff. I have a 16 month old boy and was just thinking the other day about what I would do when pre-k, Kindergarten time rolls around. I live in another country so an international private school is our option. It is a terrific school but extremely demanding and structured. If he is the same very active little boy at 5 that he is now I would want to wait to put him in K. A full day of rigorous schooling for an active 5 year old seems nuts and unnecessary. That said, I had not thought about the age differences in years to come and I certainly was not thinking of it to give him an advantage. I was thinking of it as necessary to not set him up for failure if he is not ready. When the time comes for a decision I think it will be a tough one. I can't believe parents are so competitive, though. I had no idea.

By: tonyarenee1972 on 5/15/09 at 6:54

Redshirting should be outlawed. These private schools that do it, kill me. When I was reading the article, my mind jumped to what is happening in t-ball, specifically not letting them be kids. You can read about our experience at

As always, I love reading your blogs and articles.

Tonya Ingram

By: mindy6540 on 5/15/09 at 8:05

Sounds like another example of 'preparing the path for the child'
No wonder we are raising a generation of narcissistic kids.

By: PastorMom on 5/15/09 at 12:05

This is obviously a case of parents who feel as though their children's success reflects directly on their value as parents. Don't we already know through piles of research that pushing our children academically at a young age doesn't make a bit of difference in the long run?

But I guess what bothers me the most is the idea of a 7-year-old in Kindergarten. My son will miss the cutoff in TN by about a month, so he'll spend the majority of his year of K as a 6-year-old...but 7? Really?

I'm just shaking my head. I can't even form a coherent thought about the myriad of ways in which this is just wrong.

By: coupe on 5/15/09 at 3:01

My daughter is about to finish kindergarten. This topic really frustrated me this year. Her birthday is just a few days before the deadline. After a few months we had meeting with the teacher to discuss her progress. The teacher was worried about her. She could do all the work, but didn't always have the maturity to stay focus on it. The teacher talked about another kid and raved about him. He was also 7 years old and should have been in 2nd grade!!!! The other problems is the schools are adapting to this and starting to do 1st grade work in kindergarten. The teacher even said the school work they doing in November, used to not be done until the kids were in 1st grade less then 5 years ago. I know my daughter can do the work. My concern is pushing the kids so hard so fast. Will this makes kids start to hate going to school, where as bringing them along slower and find a love learning.

By: CeeKay on 5/15/09 at 4:20

I think it is a problem created more by parents than by schools. If schools make the admission criteria more restrictive, some kids might face problems. A friend of mine decided to hold her son back one year because he is lagging a little in physical development and she is afraid he'd become a target for the bullies AND have problems with day to day tasks. I understand such parents' concerns. It is the other parents who are twisting this criteria to suit themselves that tick me off. But a small part of my mind also wonders if that is so bad. It IS a parent's duty to give whatever opportunity they can possibly give to their child. I would never redshirt my child but I am just trying to understand what makes a parent do this.

I wouldn't worry too much about the academic "leg-up" these kids will have over my kid. Research has shown that kids who lag behind due to a late start usually catch up by sixth grade given the right environment. I am not sure if that happens with regards to their mental, emotional and social development. I would, definitely, worry about the mental, emotional and social advantage the redshirted kids will have in later years.

I blog at

By: MathGeek on 5/17/09 at 9:52

Interesting article, I'm just sorry you grabbed the most sensationalistic stereotype for your step-daughter's public high school that you could for a comparison point.

By: LindsayFerrier on 5/17/09 at 1:27

Unfortunately MathGeek, those really are the kinds of things I worry about, and I'd even say they're just the tip of the iceberg. If you think it all sounds over the top, then I'd guess you're either not the parent of a Metro high school student or your teen doesn't tell you much.

By: jennatjugglinglife on 5/17/09 at 6:24

Any academic gains these kids make are offset by having competitive idiots for parents. These parents are guaranteed to be helicopter parents who rob their children of the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency and true self-esteem (based on genuine accomplishment.

My four kids are 24, 19, 16 and 14. My youngest was a November birthday and started school at 4. In first grade 13 of 20 students were over a year older than her. It was tough, but she survived. She's an honor's student, cheerleader and water polo player for her high school and is doing just fine, thank you very much.

By: jennatjugglinglife on 5/17/09 at 6:25

See above--my url is

By: Rae Ann at Crit... on 5/20/09 at 8:23

It's interesting that parents in your district are trying to get their children into school later. In the large urban district where I taught for 7 years, we had the opposite problem. Parents were always trying to sneak their 4 or sometimes even 3-year-olds into public kindergarden so they wouldn't have to pay for day care. You end up with the same problems, though.

-Rae Ann from Critical Mass

By: Kylie on 5/22/09 at 11:41

I taught kindergarten at a private school for two years. I had one child who was behind the entire school year and I could never get the parents to help me out with the issues we were having. Finally at the end of the year, the mom came to me and told me that she never had any intention of her child going to first grade the next year, but that our private school was "cheaper than daycare" and that she would be attending public K the next year. Honestly, it hurt my feelings. I am degreed teacher. I am not a daycare worker and the fact that this sweet child was so behind all year kept back the whole class because it took so much of my focus.
Where I live, sending a child to a private school for a year of Kindergarten and then on to repeat K and finish all the way through public school is what is common. Especially for parents with high hopes of high school athletes.
Anyway, I do understand holding back little boys with summer birthdays who could be behind their peers who had been 5 since September. I actually agree with parents doing this.
However, it is a dis-service to the teacher (as I was) of the first year of K who is apparently only intended to baby-sit the child.