All parents want their children to be the best in the classroom.
Which is why some choose to wait a year to send their kids to kindergarten, even though they’re old enough to go.
It’s dubbed kindergarten redshirting.
But some research shows it may not be giving kids an advantage after all.
Michele Richardson admits making the decision to hold off on sending her twin boys to kindergarten this fall wasn’t easy.
“I agonized over it, I agonized over it. I talked to the boys’ principal, I talked to my friends, everywhere I went, I talked about it. The general consensus, the message I got from from everybody, was Michele, you’ll never regret if you do it. But you might regret it if you don’t.”
Brock and Brody, who turned five in July, spent last year in Bangor’s pre-k program. Now they’re back in a private pre-k and daycare with plans to head to kindergarten next September.
“I wanted them to be more ready. I wanted them, instead of being the youngest in the class and the least developed in the class, I wanted them to be older, bigger.”
UMaine Associate Professor Mary Ellin Logue, who’s in early childhood education, says children who start kindergarten when they’re 6 usually do perform better, in the beginning.
“They’re going to be the biggest, they’re going to have the biggest vocabulary, they’re going to score the best on the test, with the assumption that’s just going to continue all the way through. And now we’re finding that’s not necessarily true.”
Logue says research shows the gap between younger and older children often closes in a few years.
But she says there’s also a growing theory the older kids in class are eventually found to have less grit and ability to persevere.
“It’s always coming easy to them, they can score well on the tests, they can do well and boom! They hit college and it’s up to them to organize their time, set up a study schedule – and it’s darn hard.”
That can have an impact on an entire generation.
“Failure’s not all bad. That learning how to not do well at something and figuring out how to practice to get better is an important life skill. And if you haven’t had to face that, you never learn some of those coping mechanisms.”
Logue says parents who hold their kids back from kindergarten and see that trend developing should feel like they can move their children ahead in class, too.
“It’s a child at a time and a year at a time. And maybe the decision you make is good for now. And maybe it won’t be in a couple of years.”
For Michele, she’s finally settled with her decision to wait to send her sons to school and believes it will make a difference for their futures.
“I’m thinking it’s going to help them all of the way through their school career. College, jobs, sports, drivers licenses. I just think that they will have started that much more ready.”
Mary Ellin Logue says it’s a good idea for parents to consider the overall makeup of the classroom their kindergarteners will be in – and all throughout their schooling.
If they’ll be the oldest in the class, give them other experiences where they can be the youngest in a group and learn from older kids, instead of leading the way.