Delaying your Child’s Kindergarten

One popular theme among parents is redshirting your kindergartener. That is, the practice of not enrolling them in kindergarten the year that they are able to attend, but waiting a year so that they enter older.

The thinking is that the child will have an extra year to develop, mature, learn and ‘catch up’ to their peers. That they’ll be ‘more ready’ for kindergarten.

a child in a red shirt whose mom is considering holding him back from kindergarten

And hey, I get it. Kindergarten is scary! It’s even more scary for parents when your child is receiving preschool special education services and is already behind their age peers in some skills.

Redshirting

This practice of delaying kindergarten is known as redshirting. Redshirting is a sports term that has been hijacked to apply here. In college sports, students only get 4 years of competition eligibility.

But, the college athlete can redshirt for a year. This means that they can receive financial aid, attend classes and even practice with their team. They may not compete. They sit on the sidelines for a year, and in previous times, wore a red shirt to distinguish them from the other team members.

So, should you redshirt your kindergartener? Will this affect your IEP?

Preschool Services are Better than Kindergarten

Many IEP parents want to do another year of preschool services because there is this concept out there that preschool services are better and more accessible than school services.

Well, I can see why parents think that. It certainly feels that way. However, I have also found the following to be true.

  • The services didn’t change. Academic, behavior and social demands changed. Children who go from a home setting or play-centered day care will struggle with a classroom setting that requires more seat work. This goes for both disabled and non-disabled children.
  • Parents are unaware of how to use the IEP process. This leads to them allowing the school team to withdraw needed supports from the new IEP.

What I’m trying to say here is this: The Preschool to Kindergarten Transition IEP is one of the most important IEPs that will be developed for your child. Nowhere else have I seen more often the phenomena of “Well, this is how we do that here….” than during a first school-aged IEP meeting for a child.

But we KNOW that all demands are going to increase. It makes no sense to decrease supports and services. Still, most parents agree to this.

My verdict on this one: If this is your concern, learn the IEP process, stick to your guns and don’t let the team withdraw supports. Make sure you have the data to support what you are asking for. And, presume competence.

Repeating Kindergarten

Another thought that I hear from parents is “Well, I’ll just have her do kindergarten twice.”

First, schools are, as they should be, very discerning when it comes to having a child repeat a grade. This includes kindergarten. And that is because almost all data and studies demonstrate that holding a child back a grade is detrimental to their emotional and social wellbeing.

Plus–most parents don’t consider this. If you do the same thing, but just for another year, why would you have reason to expect the child’s skill sets to improve? What will be done differently the second time? Why do you think that just sitting through the same school year another time will work?

Second, repeating a grade is socially stigmatizing. Even if your child says they are fine with it, they may not be mature enough to process and verbalize their feelings. All of their classmates will be moving on, and they won’t.

Failing the year…the very first year of school? It’s just not good practice to do this.

Plus, you’re basically admitting that the supports and services that you are agreeing to are so shitty that your child will have to repeat them. No! Get it right the first time.

Charter Schools and Choice Schools

Charter schools. School choice. Harumph!

School choice rarely means choice for our kids. Some charter schools have very specific eligibility guidelines when it comes to age. Yes, they can do this.

Same thing goes for school choice.

If you are choosing a different elementary school or a charter school, they can decline your child (most of the time) if you redshirt them.

Yes, I know this is not fair. This is why I dislike the concept of school choice as it exists today. It very rarely includes our kids.

The Extra Year now, or later?

If your child has an IEP and it is determined that it is needed, your child can take a 13th, 14th or even 15th year of school. Heck, under some circumstances, Michigan allows our kids to stay in the public school system until 25! Most other states it is 21.

However, with that Age 21 thing. When your child is 21, they get to finish that school year, and then that’s it.

This varies a little by state, but I’ll explain how it works for my state. Even if your child turns 21 on the first day of school, they can attend that year. (that’s how it may end up being a 15th year or more for some kids) But, then that’s it.

So, think about that, as you are now thinking about age 5 or 6 and eligible age of kindergarten.

What is likely more beneficial for your child–an extra year of preschool? Or an extra year of transition-to-adult services?

Most experienced parents will tell you to take the adult services. But at age 5, we’re not thinking about that.

Kindergarten Now, or Wait a Year?

Here are a few more things to think about before I wrap this up.

  • Talk with your child’s developmental team, and I don’t just mean IEP team. Developmental pediatricians and so on. What are their thoughts on your child’s development?
  • Ask to meet with the school team members, not just IEP team. Who did the kindergarten readiness assessments? What do they say?
  • Talk with current IEP team members and the preschool teacher. Are you all on the same page about what skills your child does lack (kindergarten readiness) and what supports should be in place?
  • Most parents are thinking about this when your child is 4. You can consider beefing up both IEP and private services now for a year.

And, in the end, you know your child best. Hopefully I’ve just given you more things to think about and make an informed decision.

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