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By The Quiet Voice

The benefits and pitfalls of redshirting your child

Many individuals can recall the carefree days of kindergarten, the time spent at recess, running around the playground without a care in the world. The toughest part of the day involved waking up to go to school, and by the end of the first hour that minor hardship was well forgotten. Only a few decades later kindergarten has become a different experience altogether.

Playtime has been abolished in favor of regular instruction and testing in order to improve the performance of the student body. In essence kindergarten has become the new version of first grade.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise any longer that a very substantial percentage of parents no longer send their children to kindergarten at the required age these days. Instead they redshirt their kids, meaning that they hold their children back a year before sending them off to school. What redshirting does is allow the children another year to develop and thereby enter school with a distinct emotional and psychological advantage. This method was first used to keep athletes from competing until they were bigger and much more skilled. As an educational method it is highly controversial and is openly opposed by the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Their reasoning is that redshirting sets children up to be labeled as failures before they've ever set foot upon school grounds. Despite this, many studies have shown that redshirted children have little trouble adjusting academically and socially, but can still suffer a slight disadvantage.

While it could possibly be a positive experience, many parents have consented to redshirting their children for very controversial reasons. The overall plan of redshirting is, to some, a chance to advance their children above others and make their academic career that much easier. Not only does this place unnecessary stress on the child to succeed, but it also puts other children at a distinct disadvantage.

There are experts who claim that redshirting can be appropriate and even helpful. The impact of redshirting is a difficult thing to evaluate, as kids who are held back experience a greater number of differences than those who are sent to school when they reach the required age. Even if the practice isn't entirely beneficial there is a chance that a subset of students who experience true benefits from redshirting could develop.

One of the main problems of redshirting children is the long-term effects that can develop later on. The expectation of their parents and others in relation to their social and academic development is often much greater and can place added pressure upon their academic achievements. What might seem good enough for a student that is progressing at a normal pace through each grade might seem below average for an older student who is expected to know more by dint of their age. At some point it becomes unfair to expect so much out of a redshirted student. This can cause a severe decline in the student's study habits and interest in school. Various studies that have been conducted throughout the past decade have shown that redshirted individuals have a tendency to drop out of school and not bother with college. In fact one of the only true benefits to redshirting comes in the form of sports, where a redshirted student will have a distinct advantage in many cases.

There is no doubt that after such findings redshirting seems like a very bad idea for the most part. Not only does it place too much expectation on the student, but it also places extra pressure upon the teaching staff as they must accommodate a more advanced student amidst those who are progressing at what is deemed a normal pace. In theory this will make kindergarten all the more difficult if parents continue to redshirt their children.

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