When my daughter started school at five years old she seemed ready. All of the tears on the first day of school were mine. It was such a scary thing to be sending her off into this new environment five days a week that didn’t include me. Her dad and I had separated while she was in kinder and everything just seemed to be changing and moving so fast in her little world. I didn’t need worry, she loved school from the minute she started and that love affair is still going three years later.
I’ve seen so many of friends struggle over the decision of when to let their kids start school. I watched them go back and forth over whether their kid could go to the toilet independently, or count well enough or if they were ready to make friends and interact with others. Going from playtime at home or childcare to five days a week of systems and learning is a massive jump for any kid.
Australia has one of the lowest school starting ages in the world at five, while many other countries wait till children are six years old. Kathy Walker, an education and parenting consultant, who has written a book about the topic, Ready, Set, Go?, says “we want parents to slow down, think carefully and remember, that once your child starts school, they are there for a very long time.”
Holding back a child before starting school has no major impact on kids but being held down after starting school can have a massive impact on a child’s confidence and social interaction. The greatest thing experts look for when assessing whether kids are ready for school is if they are mature and socially ready as opposed to whether they can read or count.
Going from playtime at home or childcare to five days a week of systems and learning is a massive jump for any kid.
Kathy says on her website that “how they feel, how they view themselves, if they are able to act independently, take responsibility, follow directions, initiate contact with others, form friendships, deal with playground issues, interact, motivate themselves and actually be happy at school” is what’s super important for our kids to be happy little vegemites.”
Just before my daughter started kinder Kathy came to talk to the parents about school readiness and if I had any hesitation about my daughter starting school I definitely would have held her back after hearing her talk. She really made me really think about whether my daughter was ready to THRIVE at school and not just cope with it.
At kinder and childcare there are many carers to help kids take off a jumper or go to the toilet but when they hit school, they become one of 20 plus kids in a class and being able to do things independently is key.
We know our kids better than anybody. There is no one-size-fits-all, they all grow and mature differently. Most of all we just want our kids to be happy and if holding them back will give them a better start then we should be directed by them, not whether they are at an age that school will accept them.
My daughter absolutely loves school so I’m glad I sent her when I did. There is much she has gained academically, but mostly that she has a little place in the world that’s hers and she feels understood and loved and that’s more important to me than anything.
Have you considering holding your child back a year?