Academic trend gives children an extra year before starting scho - WNEM TV 5

Academic trend gives children an extra year before starting school

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Jonathan Noel was red-shirted by his mom, giving him an extra year before going to kindergarten. (WNEM) Jonathan Noel was red-shirted by his mom, giving him an extra year before going to kindergarten. (WNEM)
WEST BRANCH, MI (WNEM) -

Some people believe it works for athletes.

Sit them out a year, they get a little bigger, stronger, and maybe become more skilled.

The practice is called red-shirting, and it’s primarily used in college athletics.

But now, it’s gaining popularity in the classroom, long before college enters the picture.

Jonathan Noel is in Miss Emery’s kindergarten class at Surline Elementary School in West Branch.

At 6-years-old, he’s learning spelling, writing, coloring and exploring some other things he likes to see and do.

"I like green colors and sometimes i like to sing about the day," Jonathan said.

Jonathan's mom, Teresa Noel, decided to wait until he turned six to send him to kindergarten.

Academically, she said he was ready for kindergarten at five, but she wanted to give him an extra year to prepare.

"We wanted to make sure he didn't miss nothing with all the new stuff they have to do," Noel said.

Noel isn't alone, according to Melinda Wenner-Moyer of Slate Magazine, nearly 10 percent of parents are holding their children back, red-shirting them, until they're a year older, so their 6-year-olds can handle the curriculum.

But, the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists along with the National Association for the Education of Young Children oppose the practice, saying it labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience.

According to Slate, new research by David Deming, Harvard University economist of education and Susan Dynarski, education and public policy expert from the University of Michigan suggests redshirted kids tend to have lower IQs and earnings as adults.  

Noel isn't buying it. 

She said she already sees how comfortable and well-adjusted Jonathan is and believes his success will continue throughout his education.

"He's doing pretty good,” Noel said. “We pushed him forward and his test scores are good."

It's a big decision, but how do you know if your child is ready to start kindergarten? There's not just one formula.

Parenting experts from WhatToExpect.com outline both sides of the argument.

They said holding kids back from kindergarten gives them another year to hone social skills like sharing and listening. 

If your child has trouble following two to three step directions, another year might benefit them.

They said a child who has just turned five may not have the fine motor skills required for coloring, pasting, counting, cutting, and holding a pencil properly.

So, the extra year is critical. 

But there can be a downside to redshirting your child. Experts said holding your child back may mask learning disabilities.  If you’re holding off on kindergarten because your child can't sit still or focus, they might have specials needs that could go undetected. 

Another issue, a redshirted child will be older than most of their classmates, every year. 

They may tower over their peers and even hit puberty earlier.  That can cause social and emotional problems down the road.

Gail Hughey, the Surline Elementary School principal, said before deciding to redshirt or not, parents really have to do a little homework. 

"Get some input from educators anyone who knows your child," Hughey said. "Then make some observations in the classroom and see where your child fits."

Hughey said kindergarten is really the new first grade.  It's often a full day of academics, gym, art, music and – goodbye nap time.

"When students come into kindergarten they should know all of their letters/sounds and we work on teaching those," Hughey said.

Whatever your decision, Hughey said don't stress out.

"Don't stress out about making a decision whatever the decision you make will be the right decision," Hughey said.

Noel said red-shirting her son Jonathan was the best decision she could have made.

“Honestly, I think you have to do what's best for your kids,” Noel said.

And what's best about kindergarten for Jonathan? Well he's still exploring what he likes about kindergarten.

“Only one thing that I like: free play,” Jonathan said.

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