If you're not familiar with the term red-shirt, parents especially need to understand it. More and more parents of young children are making the decision to redshirt their kindergartners.
The term redshirt comes from the sports world - when a college athlete practices with the team, but sits out of the games for a year. And now, it's an approach parents are taking with their future students, waiting a year before they enroll them in kindergarten. As a parent, you do have a choice, but many parents struggle with the decision, knowing it affects the timeline of their children's entire lives.
Mother Kandy Sasser and her husband, "Spent several, I would say hours, trying to debate the pros and cons of sending on or holding back...the words held back sounded like it had a negative connotation to it..."
Both of her kids have summer birthdays. "One of our concerns was that we would be older and too mature for that age group that might be in their class."
She wrestled with the choice to redshirt them. "We were worried...that would somehow hurt their confidence, or make them feel like they were not smart enough or developed enough to go on with their age group"
Gail Piggott is the Executive Director of Alabama Partnership for Children, that oversees the state's Pre-Kindergarten program. She's familiar with the debate. "I want my child to be the oldest, biggest, strongest, most mature, smartest."
And Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Deborah Cowell says success can rely heavily on a child's emotions. "When children are stressed, they can't perform well...it's not academic, it's not do they know their A's and B's and C's, it's how they feel."
Piggott reiterates, "The academic and the social/emotional cannot be separated." That's why it's important to understand what will be expected of your child once he or she enters the classroom.
Kindergarten is not what it used to be. Alabama is one of 11 states that have extended half days to full days of school for Kindergartners - days that are very structured, with high academic demands.
"The number 1 thing you listen to is the teacher who's been working with them everyday," say Cowell.
Piggott agrees. "You've entrusted your most valuable, precious possession to a preschool, a childcare program, a pre-k program, so listen them."
And if the decision is to wait on Kindergarten, it matters what you do with that extra year. According to Piggott, "if you don't have them on a schedule, because schools are about schedules, if you don't have them with a good bedtime time and regimen, if you're not doing language activities, if you're not having your child experience that richness of everyday activity that prepares them for success, then why stay out a year?"
"I've never heard a parent regret holding that child back....I've heard a lot of parents regret pushing them on forward," Cowell says.
And in the end, that's why the Sassers made the decision to redshirt both of their children. "We did a K-5 program at a different school, at a pre-school, and then we did K-5 here... socially, they fit in very well with their class, and academically, they both excelled."
"Whatever decision we made, we had to accept and be happy with it, and go on with it... it may not be the right decision for every child, but for our individual children it was."
The Alabama Partnership for Children has put together two documents to help parents evaluate their children...and get them ready for school.
While these are good resources to help parents, they should be put in context with the child's maturity level and physical development. And teachers recommend some students redo kindergarten, saying it's not holding back, it's just starting over with a new class of students who are all starting over themselves.
ON THE WEB: SmartStartAlabama.org
Kindergarten is not mandatory in Alabama, but it is a state law that children must be in school by age 6. That mandatory age was just dropped down from 7 last year.
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