My children, both born at the end of August, are the youngest in their respective classes at school. In fact, I remember joking with my OB that if my daughter, due September 1, was even a day late, it would mean an entire extra year where she couldn’t go to school.
I know there are many parents who decide to redshirt their kids–that is, wait a year before starting them. In fact, my in-laws chose to and my parents were forced to by my October 1 birthday. (Back in the ’80s and ’90s, September 30 was the cut-off.) For some people, this works. It is what is best not only for their family, but for the child in question. Just ask Mandy.
So why didn’t we redshirt? Well, there were a lot of reasons.
Our children were ready.
My son, from a young age, has been interested in school. My daughter, a peanut who looks much younger than she is, is fearless. They are both incredibly verbal. On my son’s first day of 4K, he bounded off the bus and was mad that the school day wasn’t longer.
We want our children to struggle when they’re still young and the stakes are low.
If you had asked me what skill I thought my ninth graders needed most when I was still teaching, I would not have even batted an eye before responding “resilience.” I strongly believe that children need to learn to work through frustrations and difficulties, because life will throw them plenty of them. As hard as it is to watch my children struggle, I know that clearing their path of everything difficult will only hurt them in the long run. I believe it is best for them to learn to overcome problems while they are still young, so that working towards solutions is something they are used to by the time that more difficult problems come along and mom is no longer there to help them.
It is not a permanent decision.
Choosing to let my children be the youngest in their classes is not a permanent decision. If, down the road, it turns out they would benefit from repeating a grade, I will be the first to push for that. My children will learn that failure is not fatal. (In fact, it’s inevitable.) If I have another child born in the summer, and they are not ready, I will wait for them. I decided for THESE children, not every child I will have. I have not locked my children into a set path. We have decided for our present reality, not forever. We can always change our minds.
To redshirt or not to redshirt was—and is—an incredibly personal and difficult decision. What works for my family may not work for someone else’s, and it’s entirely possible I’ve made a mistake. For now, however, my mom gut says to let them fly a little.