LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Some parents will do whatever they can to give their children an edge.
“Redshirting” is a new trend sees many parents delaying kindergarten a year to give their kids an advantage in class, and in life.
“The kindergarten of today is like first grade. The expectations are far greater and to expect everything they expect from a four-year-old…it’s almost cruel,” said mom Jen Levinson.
Levinson made the call to hold her son, Zachary, back a year and have him start kindergarten right before his 6th birthday.
“Some parents would say, ‘What you’re doing is unfair.’ I would ask them how – there is nothing unfair about it,” Levinson said.
Now, at nine years old, Zachary is one of the biggest players on his school’s football team and he’s also one of the oldest.
When Dominic Deberry was four years old his parents decided he was ready for kindergarten, despite the fact that some of the other kids in his class were already six years old.
“I had people tell me, ‘He’s got a late birthday. You should put him in a year later,’” Dominic’s mom, Stacie Deberry said.
Deberry realized that many parents in their Valencia neighborhood were holding their children back and they told her she was making a mistake putting Dominic in kindergarten early.
But Dominic’s parents knew that he was ready for kindergarten.
They also had to consider Dominic’s size.
Dominic, like his sister, is big for his age. Their dad, a former UCLA football star, is 6’4” and Deberry knew if she held her son back, he could be awkwardly bigger than the other kids.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that since the 1970s, the number of 6-year-olds in kindergarten has tripled.
Some parents say they were influenced by the bestseller “Outliers.” In the book, author Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to success. He says delaying kindergarten does impact a child’s future.
“The kids who are closest to the cut-off date, relatively speaking, are the eldest in their class and have a small but not insignificant advantage…not just in first grade but throughout their schooling history,” Gladwell said in a 60 Minutes interview on redshirting.
In some cases, there are legitimate reasons for delaying kindergarten. Children might not meet the academic standards or be socially ready for school.
TV host Dr. Phil says delaying children from entering kindergarten, unnecessarily, won’t help them.
“As soon as the child is able, let’s get ‘em out there,” Dr. Phil said on one of his shows.
“I do think it’s a very competitive world out there, but it’s not going to get any less competitive with your child sitting home on the couch with you for another year. And you say, ‘I’m going to teach them.’ Well then start that few years in advance so you can get them out in the year!”
In an attempt to standardize kindergarten enrollment, the California legislature just passed the Kindergarten Readiness Act. It used to be that a child turning five years old by December 1 was eligible for kindergarten. The new age requirement is that all kindergartners will have turned five by September 1. The law will be phased in over the next three years.
The Levinsons and the Deberrys are convinced they did the right thing. And the boys are thriving, doing well in school and in sports.
Some people believe that redshirting kindergartners is a disadvantage for low-income families. Because child care and pre-school can be expensive, they often can’t afford to delay kindergarten.