Since I started the week on an educational bent, I thought I’d stick to that. Because over the weekend, 60 Minutes did a segment on a new trend known asredshirting“.

Wikipedia defines redshirting as:
“… the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This occurs most frequently where children’s birthdays are so close to the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their kindergarten class.”

Parents are doing this purposefully to give their children an advantage not just in school–but in life. The theory holds that if they begin school as the oldest student instead of one of the youngest in their class they will step to the head of the class in kindergarten because they’re bigger and more mature. Which in turn means they’ll begin first grade ahead of the curve and so on and so on, with the effect mulitplying over the years. It is thought that these children will grow up more confident and likely will become leaders at an early age. Schools are balking at the idea and holding staunchily to their entry dates. (Which vary by state.) Too many parents were redshirting children and causing problems in school districts.

Of course if a significant number of parents hold their child out of school then several “older” kindergartners will end up in the same classroom and negate the whole reason for keeping a child back. And many schools are finding second and third grade students who were redshirted have become behavior problems because they’re bored.

My husband has an early September birthday and he did begin school at 4. He is a smart man, but struggled all through school and didn’t really come into his own until he went to college. So when our son was born in mid-November, we were pleased he didn’t make the Oct 31 cutoff. He did begin school at 5 and was one of the first to turn 6. But you know what? He wasn’t a reader when he went into school. (Mostly because as an educator, I knew he had the ability, but not the interest and I didn’t push it.) He actually didn’t show an interest in reading until a third of the way through 1st grade where he went from the lowest reading group to the top reading group in two weeks when he figured out he enjoyed reading books, not just listening to his parents read them. As the youngest of three he is a gentle soul and defers to others and their feelings when it comes to making decisions. It’s just not in his personality to be a leader.

I don’t know about this whole thing. I guess I’m just a little jaded. I’ve watched the kids who were ahead of the game in the first few years of elementary school flounder as their peers caught up with them then surpassed them. Very few held on to those positions. They seemed to stumble and faulter when they were no longer number one, not sure how to handle a setback. Leadership and confidence is so much more than age and maturity. As a parent we can encourage our children, but there are some things that are part of who they are no matter how we push and cojole. (Not that I did that, I’m just saying.) Natural leaders just seem to step out of the crowd. Maybe not in kindergarten, but they certainly come into their own. They can’t help it. It’s part of who they are.

So what do you think? Have you heard of this redshirting? How do you feel about it? Because even when it’s not related to writing, I’m curious.