Redshirting, or waiting to start your child’s academic education, is growing in popularity, and further evidence suggests the benefits of the practice may outweigh the drawbacks. Estimates of redshirting rates often fall between 3.3 and 5.5 percent of children eligible to enroll in kindergarten based on their age.
What is Redshirting?
As a term, redshirting has its origins in collegiate sports. The term is applied to an athlete who is kept out of competition to develop skills and develop additional eligibility. The term comes from the red shirts typically worn in practice by athletes training with the team but who may not participate in competition themselves.
Academic redshirting means allowing a student or child an additional year to gain different skills. This could mean anything from taking time to improve reading comprehension to instilling social skills before sending them off to school.
Making the choice to redshirt a child is never easy, and it should be a constant conversation between parents, school administrators and the kids themselves. Redshirting often happens if a child’s birthday is close to the cutoff date for a school year. In these cases, the decision determines whether the child will be the oldest or youngest student in the class. It will affect their learning and social education.
However, it is important to note that redshirting appears to be a luxury item. The phenomenon is almost twice as prevalent in schools serving affluent student bodies as it is among those whose mean household income is close to the poverty line, and it is significantly more common among white students. This is unsurprising, as redshirting also implies an additional financial burden.
Earlier Isn’t Always Better
There is a modest but significant correlation between the initial age difference in children and student performance, but many have proven the relative-age effect to be negligible. If there is a benefit, it often diminishes with time. Still, there are several reasons aside from academic performance that could warrant redshirting, especially when it comes to child development.
Redshirting a child or student can help with social skills. If a student attends school when they are not ready, it will affect the way they interact with other students, possibly changing the relationships they carry with them through their social and academic career. Redshirting can increase social confidence and provide the advantage of gaining popularity among peers when they eventually enter school. This can be especially important for children with forms of autism and/or personality disorders.
Redshirting can also be extremely beneficial for children who have ADHD or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Taking an additional year to develop focus and attention skills and have benefits that extend beyond your child’s grade school years.
Making the Decision
If you are considering redshirting your child, meet with the school before you enroll. This will provide you the opportunity to ask the teacher for the curriculum they plan to teach for the year. Speak with school administrators, other parents, and your child to gather as much data as possible.
It is important to remember that redshirting a child does not guarantee failure or success. Most kids are afraid to attend a new school, especially if they’re entering kindergarten. Regardless, it is important to be an invested, supportive parent. Assess your child’s needs, talk to them about it, and make the decision together.