Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Redshirting- My Own Little Debate

To plain red shirt her or not.... a teacher versus a mommy.
From the moment I heard Ivy's due date - August 3rd (she arrived a bit early) I had plans. I had plans to red shirt her for kindergarten. Without a doubt in my mind, I was not going to send her to school until she was 6. Have I totally lost you.... if you are wondering what is red shirting? Find out here.

I am a teacher and as a teacher this is something that I am PASSIONATE about. School is different than it was when we were little. Kindergarten is no longer a year to sing the Letter People songs, eat a snack of graham crackers and juice, do some pretend play, and go home at lunch to take a nap. Kindergarten has expectations of leaving reading and by the end of first grade you need to be reading proficiently. There is a lot of pressure put on children to start writing, memorize math facts, do homework, and sit nicely for nearly 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Not to mention, the pressure kids have as they become middle, high schoolers, and college students- and being older and more mature usually puts them at an advantage. In my life, as a teacher I have had my fair share of students who weren't ready in some way- academically or socially- and usually their birthday was the culprit.

I know, I know.... there are exceptions to everything and I have had other students who's birthdays were late who did fine. They had friends, they didn't struggle academically, and in fact without peaking at their birth date I would have never known. But those are not the kids who stick with me, I think of kids who cry when mom leaves them at the door, kids who's school anxiety is so extreme, kids who struggle to master letter sounds or remember the b's from their d's... and I just remember thinking if only they had another year. If only they could be a kid a little longer- what a gift! So that is what I wanted to offer Ivy- without a doubt- until about a month ago.

The Great Debate Read more about this huge educational issue at Parent's magazine!

copying words from a book- a favorite Ivy activity

I never had plans to red shirt Ivy due to anything academic. She has always loved to listen to books, learned to write and spell her name before she turned two, has a great attention span to sit and color or draw, and asks all the time "What does that say?" or "How do you spell _____?" I knew that she was curious and interested in learning but that wasn't my hangup. It was social. She had only been at an in home sitter until this year. We kept her in the nursery at church because she didn't stop crying until she was 3! She has had lots of play dates, birthday party adventures, or trips to story time at the library- but structured "school" was not introduced until this year. Which was all part of my plan- being a little kid for as long as possible!

So here was my plan- send her this year to preschool to Jessamine Montessori and let it be a "trial run" of sorts. Based on our history with things like the nursery I thought it might take a bit. She started a new school where she really didn't know anyone- the kids or the teachers. I expected tears, extreme behaviors (shy or wild), and plenty of time outs of knowing next year we will be totally ready for this! But then she has had NO issues. She loves school, she has learned a ton, and she has good little friends in her 3 to 5 year old class- they are all 5! The teachers knew my plans of keeping her there next year, so right before Thanksgiving they had a little chat with me about her "readiness." I blew it off and thought- I am the teacher and I know best, I am not sending her, NO MATTER what!

Then I started asking around and really looking at Ivy and her experiences. I talked to the children's leaders at church and some of my teacher friends who share this age passion but also know Ivy and know Ivy well. I had a real "parent teacher conference" with Ivy's teacher. I watched her with younger kids and older kids. I took her to events where she had to be a big girl and sit and listen. More than anything I had to look at Ivy and her (at times) BIG personality and the fact that this year she has already had 5 days a week ALL DAY preschool. Ivy has no where else to go that I can afford or that works for a family with two working parents and no way to transport to half day kindergarten programs. Her only next step is kindergarten. And my mommy gut started kicking in.

Friends, I lost sleep. A lot of sleep. And God has had to hear about this a bit too much!

Being a mom and having PLANS is hard. Kids rock those plans, being a working mom can rock those plans, finances can rock those plans, and sometimes we have to be willing to change. But it has been tough. I don't like changing my mind. I am a lady on a mission and a change of plans makes me sick to my stomach. This is an issue that I had to realize I had to separate my mommy beliefs of my teacher beliefs. If tomorrow the date to start kindergarten changed to "you have to be 5 by July 1st" would I be mad- NO! I would jump for joy, because in my teacher heart, I think that would be way better for kids. But this hasn't changed and I don't know that there is even any talk of this in Kentucky.

So for now I have to go with the facts and the current laws. I have to go with the experiences Ivy has had and the limitations I face for next year. I have to go into this prayerfully and trying to see God's big picture with presenting us with this new mindset for Ivy. I have to embrace my child's demeanor and put in her a place where she can continue to grow rather than regress.

But at this point, unless we start to see things differently, my big girl will be a kindergartner next year. And that, my friends, is where the real heart break lies.... I was not ready for that. I was certain that I had another year before we would go to school. But for now, I feel like this is what is best for my girl!

Ivy's Take: She is excited!!

So here is our conversation:
Mommy: Ivy, we need you to help us with something. Daddy and I are really praying about you and deciding if you are going to go to kindergarten when you are 5 or when you are 6.
Ivy: You already said, when I'm 6. (Can you tell I share my planning with her?)
Mommy: Yes, but you are doing so great in preschool so we are just trying to decide what to do.
Ivy: Stay at my school. (Someone else doesn't like change.)
Mommy: So at your school, Mrs. Hendren, has different activities for the 3's, 4's, and 5's. So what kind of things do you see your friends doing that you aren't doing yet?
Ivy: Well, nothing. Now I can do all the 100's stuff so I can do everything. (Has recently mastered counting to 100 and is oh so proud!!)
LONG PAUSE..... And I see Ivy's funny face and just knowing she is about so show her wittiness.
Ivy: Well, I know! I guess they can teach me to count to a million!! (And now she is cracking up!)

And that helped us to make our decision.... as we shook our heads and prayed about our sweet girl. We hope that God will continue to guide us and give us peace about HIS big plans!


  1. It sounds like you have done everything right in order to make the best decision for your sweet girl. She seems like a bright one! I hope Caleb takes to preschool as well next fall.

  2. You are a good momma and while I don't know him, I assume your husband is a good daddy. I know that you will have the answer very soon. God will answer your prayers. praying for you!

  3. This is a tough one. Matt's bday is in Sept so he was always the youngest but his mom said he was SO ready for school. Corin's bday is Aug 25th so we will have to address this at some point. Although if we homeschool in the lowers grades it might not matter as much when she goes to "real" school. I personally don't think there is a set in stone "right" answer but rather it is just TOTALLY dependent on the child. I am sure you all will make the best choice for your sweet girl. The only other thing worth mentioning is what if you did keep her out for another whole year? She would know SO much more and I imagine she would be SO bored the following year in kindergarten...which in turn might cause other issues. Just a thought.


Thanks for your encouragement as I travel through this season of life called mommyhood!