“Redshirting” Is Trending: Here’s What It Might Mean for Your Kid

If you’ve spent time in a preschool lately, you’ve probably heard about “redshirting” or delaying the start of kindergarten by a year for certain kids—usually those with fall or winter birthdays, depending on your district’s cutoff date. (The term originated on the football field, where older college athletes wore designated red jerseys.) And while studies show that only 5.5 percent of parents are doing it nationally, the practice is trending big-time in affluent areas, where up to 25 percent of parents willing and able to pay for an extra year of nursery school do just that. So what are the benefits and risks? Here, a breakdown.

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Your Kid Might Be More Mature When He Does Start School

Kindergarten demands a lot of little kids: Sitting still, focusing during circle time, following multi-step directions, resolving conflicts independently and learning how to read (thanks to Common Core). Due to the natural classroom age range, a four-year-old who won’t turn five until December could be expected to meet the same behavioral and academic standards as a six-year-old. Giving a kid an extra year (often called "the gift of time") to develop and practice those skills may sound like a no-brainer.

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And He Might Gain Confidence

A kindergarten student who perceives himself to be a fast learner, an awesome athlete and a leader on the playground might get a self-esteem boost, right when it really counts.

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Or His Confidence Might Take A Hit

Older children—first grade and up—who know they’re being held back to meet academic testing standards (most likely in literacy or math) might feel crappy about their educational prospects from the get-go. The negative social and emotional consequences of this perceived failure could be a long-lasting drain on both confidence and performance. Yikes.

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She’ll Start College Older

Educational experts (like the Dean of Admissions at Harvard) are all about the gap year. And studies back this up, showing that college freshmen who took a year off had a higher GPA than would have been expected. But whether your kid takes a year off post-high school or delays a year of kindergarten, starting college at 18 could very well give her more focus and (a mom can dream) better judgment than her 17-year-old peers.

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She Could Have An Academic Edge

One oft-quoted study from the University of California Santa Barbara shows that the youngest members of each class score 4 to 12 percentiles lower than the oldest members in grade four (and 2 to 9 percentiles lower in grade eight). The oldest, on the other hand, were 12 percent more likely to go to college down the road.

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But Could End Up Pretty Bored

A student who is way past her classmates both physically and academically may not set as lofty goals for herself or work as hard to meet them, some experts suggest. Goodbye grit, hello entitlement? Other research suggests that less mature kids may work harder to keep up with—and as a result, excel beyond—their older classmates. Long story short: Do what feels right for your child and family.