Parents weigh myriad of options in decision to red shirt kids

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- For decades parents have asked themselves the same question: If my kid is on the age borderline, should I send him to school a little early, or hold him back to make him one of the older kids in the class?

It's a question that's getting new attention from researches and the studies show the question has more than one answer.

Brady Sullard just turned five in June. Brady's mom, Ashley Sullard, said he's energetic, social, and bright, but he's still not ready for kindergarten. The main reason is that he has some growing up to do.

“The biggest was his maturity level. He still has a hard time paying attention," Sullard said.

Brady will be held back one year from kindergarten to give him time to mature. It is common; one researcher said one in eleven kindergarten-age children in the U.S. didn't go to school in 2011.

Pediatrician Steve Lauer said parents ask him all the time if their child is ready.

"It's not just strictly at five, everybody's ready to go," Dr. Lauer said

While he agreed not every child is ready to go at the same time, he believes starting kids in school as early as possible is the best idea.

"I would probably be the one who'd say ‘Let's get going, let's go ahead and get him in there’," Dr. Lauer said.

He also said if you choose to wait, know the reason, and fix it.

"If you're holding them back for a year, how are you going to address that? You don't want them to be in the same situation a year from now," Dr. Lauer said.

That's what Brady’s family plans to do by sending him to another year of pre-school.

"If they offer any extra classes or activities throughout the year to prepare kids for kindergarten of course we will probably participate with those activities." Sullard said.

But this issue tends to be reserved for one gender, boys, more than girls.

"Traditionally said, and we really think it's true, girls just are a little bit more organized and able to approach those activities like school a little earlier than boys," Dr. Lauer said.

Still, is it worth holding your child, male or female, back in the long run?

"When you're an adolescent- a 14 year-old with a bunch of 12 year-olds in a grade is a huge difference," Dr. Lauer said.

Dr. Lauer said if you're choosing to hold your child back in hopes it will give them a better shot at Harvard, for example, or at getting an athletic scholarship, it's not worth it.

"Whatever that benefit is, probably isn't there by the time you're in middle school and high school, it all washes out," Dr. Lauer said.

Dr. Lauer said there are so many other factors besides age that can affect a child's success.

"’Who are your friends?’ ‘How are you enjoying school?’ I think have a whole lot more to do with somebody's success in the long run," Dr. Lauer said.

Brady's family hopes their choice is at least a good foundation.

"One of the biggest fears Dustin and I had was we went ahead and started him and then a year or two into school he really struggled and then. You know that would be where we might have to hold him back," Sullard said.

They just want this energetic five-year-old to have the best future possible. Missouri law states you must be five-years-old before August 1 to go to kindergarten. Kansas law states you must be five-years-old on or before August 31 to start kindergarten.

While public schools in the area follow the laws, Pembroke Hill, for example, set their cutoff date at July 1. Administrators there said their kindergarten is all-day and academically intense, so it works better to have older children.

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