Recently, the 5th graders from my son’s elementary school were promoted to middle school. They will live their very last days in a school that nurtured them during their most vulnerable and malleable years. These children will move on to an environment that gives them more independence, less structure, and room for growth. My son went to preschool with these children, but he will not be moving on just yet. Six years ago, after my son finished his pre-k year, we made the choice to give him two years of kindergarten in two different settings. Having a summer birthday, we thought it would be the best decision for him. Now we know it was.

According to Emily Oster, redshirting refers to delaying kindergarten entry for a year. Concerns arise because children, who are newly five, can be a year younger than their classmates. Kindergarten is now more heavily focused on academics, causing some of the younger children to be at a disadvantage. This can be a difficult decision for parents as there is no universal recommendation for these children. Parents must consider their child’s social, emotional, and educational maturity as well as his or her readiness for a structured classroom environment. This decision at an early age can impact a child through their educational journey.

Related: Why your kindergartener may still benefit from a nap 

Our active, silly, intelligent little boy was either going to be the oldest or the youngest in his grade. Not long ago, children were pushed through school despite being far younger than their peers. Whether or not their brain had matured enough to carry the weight of the next grade, they were pushed on like cattle in a chute. Now we have the security of age cut-offs and the ability to make individualized decisions. Our spunky little guy was doing great academically, but it was clear that extra time could only benefit him socially and emotionally. We couldn’t have been more right.

The extra year he had five years ago has instilled in him a love of learning, the self-confidence to believe he can achieve, and the gumption to lead the way.

After the summer of his 5th birthday, our son completed a kindergarten program at a private school. Some of the students in his class were a full year older than him. The exposure to the structured classroom environment and the academic curriculum gave him a strong foundation for the following year in our public-school kindergarten program. His resulting success gave him the confidence to fuel his educational future. Without the necessary time to mature, I don’t know if he’d be the child he is today.

He is now ten years old and completing 4th grade. He is a leader, a wonderful friend, and a strong student. He excels at mathematics and has strong interests in coding, science, drawing and the world around him. The extra year he had five years ago has instilled in him a love of learning, the self-confidence to believe he can achieve, and the gumption to lead the way. We are so proud of who he has become.

Deep down, I knew we’d made the right choice for our son.

For five years, he has curiously questioned our choice. At the end of each school year, he’d remind us that he could be one grade ahead, had we not enrolled him in the extra kindergarten. I’d often wonder if he’d ever forget. His constant debate over our choice had me worrying we’d possibly made a mistake. But, yesterday, he came to me, a smile ear to ear, and said the words I never thought I’d hear. “I’m happy I’m not moving on to middle school. I’m not ready yet.”

Related: Before you start kindergarten—here’s what I want you to know, baby 

Deep down, I knew we’d made the right choice for our son. But hearing the words straight from his mouth gave me the assurance that our decision, five years ago, was the best decision we could have made. It may not be right for every child with a summer birthday, but it was right for him.

Childhood should be magical and wonderful. No child should struggle through a school year they’re not ready for. Reaching adulthood is not a race. I think we’d all enjoy an extra year of childhood if we had the chance. We taught our son that taking your time to ensure you’re ready for a life transition will only help in the long run. We showed him that patience pays off. I was hoping he’d understand by the time he graduated high school. But sometimes, children surprise us. He figured it all out while he still has the time to enjoy the journey. That one year has made all the difference in his elementary years, and I can see the benefit will reach far further than what we can see today.