Red-shirting is an ever growing parenting trend if you happen to have a child with a summer birthday. If you're not sure what red-shirting actually is, it's holding your child with a summer birthday back a year so that when they start kindergarten they're the oldest in the class instead of the youngest. I can see the logic in it, and the idea that your child will be better in sports, more ahead academically... etc... I respect that it works for a lot of families and that there is value in it, but what works for some families doesn't work for everyone.
One major issue that I have with red-shirting is that not everyone can afford to hold their kid back from Kindergarten. So you have mothers who need to go to work, because being a stay-at-home mom is a luxury, I realize that. Some (most?) moms need to work, and that means if they can't send their kid to school when the district says they can, they have to shell out money for an entire extra year of child care. I assume most moms in this situation would send their kid to public school kindergarten to save money- I would. So now you have kids who are age four who just barely made the cut off in the kindergarten class, and kids who are now age six because their parents held them back. Can you imagine being the teacher who has to deal with that huge age range? You now have kids who are at least 18 months apart in age, some of them just barely potty trained and tying their shoes with kids who have been doing those things for years now.
I understand that there is also readiness. Some kids aren't ready, and some parents really are doing a service to their children by holding them back, but I don't always think it's the case. I think with parenting you just have to go with that your gut tells you. My gut has told me a lot over the years, and following that feeling has always resulted in a positive situation for us. My gut has always just told me to not hold Jay back.
We had three big reasons that made all of this feel like the right option. One, we take Em to physical therapy each week, and the therapist is always telling us how advanced Jay is for his age. The things he says, the way he plays with toys in the office, the way he behaves, she's always been super impressed with Jay, and all of this coming from someone who specializes in tracking children's developmental milestones, I consider her a good source of knowledge.
Two, we have a special needs child. It's demanding. If you've been following along for any period of time, you know that Em is behind in her gross motor skills, even from where her therapist thinks she should be right now. I can't help but think if I had individualized, hands on time with her each day while Jay was getting his needs met in a classroom setting, she would be able to hit more and more milestones in a more timely manner. It also means I'd have more time to work on speech and OT with her at home too.
Three, Jay really struggles socially, and while I can teach him everything he needs to know at home, and go through more and more homeschooling workbooks with him until he's six, I can't give him the social skills he needs at home. He needs to be out interacting with kids and other adults on a daily basis to help get him out of his shell. These are things that he just can't get two days a week at church on Sunday and a weekly music makers class. (Note: These things are GREAT for most kids, but as I mentioned in my post about Jay and his anxiety, he needs more practice at this.)
So what is our solution? Pre-K. Another controversial topic in it's own nutshell. There are so many options from full-day, to half-day, to four days a week, and then five. If you do Pre-K through your public school system your only options here in Georgia are full-day programs. That, I know for sure would be too much for Jay. It would be too demanding on him in basically every aspect, and I know he would not thrive. (This is me talking about our individual situation, lots of kids do full-day Pre-K and are fine, I'm a product of full-day Pre-K and aside from wetting my pants a couple times, I did just fine).
When researching alternative Pre-K options we found options that cost $11,000/year for the ritzy private school, $5,000 for the local Catholic School (yes, I'm Mormon and don't oppose the idea of sending my child to a Catholic School), and then the $2,450 option to send your kid to a Pre-K ran by a local Baptist church (P.S. so many Baptist church options here in Georgia, and the Mormons thrive off of them).
We went with the Baptist church option. We managed to find one that was a 10 minute drive from our house, close to Derek's work, and the teachers there are amazing. When I walked in for the tour a few months ago I had this overwhelming feeling of, "this is it!". It was the feeling that I didn't get at the million dollar private school, the less expensive Catholic School, or the ever so popular Baptist church preschool that most of my friends send their kids to (which is totally fine for them, it was just far from our house and didn't have the exact program we wanted i.e, their Pre-K was 4 hours instead of 3). The thing I loved about this school was that their class sizes are 12:2 meaning there are twelve kids for every two teachers. This is a very low ratio compared to most other schools and so I knew it wouldn't be completely overwhelming for Jay and his needs.
The other thing that was important is that it's only three hours each day, four days a week. Three hours is enough time for Jay to get the social interaction that he needs without feeling completely overwhelmed. The four days a week means that I also get the pleasure of not having to bring him everyday, especially since Derek has every other Friday off of work, it will be nice to relax on his days off.
At the end of Pre-K we have the option to decide if Jay is ready for full-day Kindergarten through the public school, or we have the option for him to do a half-day Kindergarten program through the same Baptist church, where their class size right now is currently eight kids per class. Eight kids. That's worth it's weight in gold right there. And yes, there are multiple kindergarten classes, there weren't just eight parents who were dumb enough to send their kids there... believe me, I had a raised eyebrow when I first heard that too.
After Kindergarten we'll go to first grade through the public school. At the end of that year we'll evaluate the situation and see where we're at. It very well could be the case that Jay just isn't where he needs to be, but I feel more comfortable that if he's going to be held back, to do it in first grade where the kids already know how to behave in a class room setting, they know how to stand in line, and it's just mostly all learning that takes place. Repeating Kindergarten would basically mean repeating an entire year of learning classroom skills which by that point he would likely already know.
This is the plan that we've come up with for our family and our needs. I know every family and situation is different. I also realize that this three-year school plan that we've made before our child even starts school this fall could completely change as things evolve, but this is what we've got for right now. I'd love to hear what's worked for your family and your kids, what you've done for Kindergarten and Pre-K, and if you've ever had to hold a child back, and what all of that was like. There are so many different options and things that work, and I'd love to hear them!