LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - School starts back in about a month which means so many tough decisions and one tough decision for parents of kindergartners is whether or not to redshirt them.
Redshirting means holding your child back a year to allow them extra time for social, intellectual and physical growth. For every study saying it's okay, there's another study that says it's not. Right now, if your child turns 5-years-old by August 1, they are ready for kindergarten.
So, the question remains, "Should I redshirt my child?"
Kara Aaron is a mother of two boys, 11-year-old Will and almost 8-year-old Tyler. Tyler has a summer birthday so when it was time for him to start kindergarten Aaron was faced with a difficult decision.
"So, I had to figure out he was either going to be the oldest in the class or the youngest in the class and since his letter recognition was low, he really wasn't ready to ready so I just decided to have him do another year of Pre-K," she said.
The same dilemma worried another mother, Kerry Guice. Her children will be 6-years-old and 8-years-old in a couple of weeks. Archer is going into first grade and Violet is going into third grade.
Guice chose not to redshirt but based her decision on the fact that her kids were ready to start. Surprisingly, people questioned her choice.
“Especially with my son because everybody says boys are slower development so they questioned for especially for sports too because everybody wants their son to be the oldest and the biggest and he's already fast and strong and it's about school, it's not about sports for me," said Guice.
Both mother’s decisions are backed up at the child study center which is part of the Psychiatric Research Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
"There is no one best decision, only their decision and their decision is likely to be the right one," said Dr. Margaret Weiss.
Since the 1970’s redshirting has nearly tripled, especially among boys. The National Center for Education Statistics reports it happens at a rate of about 9 percent per year among kindergarten-age children. It happened even more over a period of 40 years, the number of 6-year-old’s in first grade dropped from 96 to 84 percent.
Dr. Weiss believes kindergarten is now a much more demanding environment for children. It used to be milk, cookies and finger-painting. Now it is a competitive foundation for reading, math, and even sports.
"Parents have concerns about whether they want to subject their child to that kind of pressure and may want to hold off to protect them," said Dr. Weiss.
The advantage to redshirting is allowing your child readiness and support. The disadvantage, Dr. Weiss said is parents who redshirt to gain a so-called "leg up."
"You get some sort of long-term academic advantage in terms of size for sports or in terms of being top of the class. Those differences will wash out and it's probably more important to take a less achievement, success view of your child and more of how can I support my child to be who and what she or he needs to be," Dr. Weiss added.
That is the exact approach Guice took.
"It shouldn't be a matter of them wanting them to be the biggest, wanting them just to be the oldest or any other reason other than that they're not developmentally ready," said Guice. "Archer was the youngest in his class this year and his teacher said he was right on track with everything and one of the most mature and I think he was the first boy to take an AR test."
Aaron was also proud of her decision to redshirt her youngest son.
"He's a great reader now and he's very happy in his class and so now he's just one of the older ones," she said.
Dr. Weiss said if you're asking yourself if you should redshirt your child, she has an answer.
"I think the key word is should, I don't think there's a should," Dr. Weiss explained. "I would say it's only case by case."
The Arkansas Department of Education doesn’t track data on how many parents at public schools redshirt their children and said they don’t hold a position on the issue. The ADE added the decision rests solely on the parents.
Critics argued redshirting puts some children at an advantage athletically. But in Arkansas, there’s protection against that. The Arkansas Activities Association has specific age requirements. This means in competitive sports like football or basketball you must play your peers.
The best advice regarding the practice of 'redshirting' per doctors is only you know your child best.