When is it a good idea to send your child to school?
To send or not to send, that is the question that causes so much anxiety in parents of children turning 5 in the year that they can start school in NSW. There is no easy answer that’s for sure. And no matter how much you google it, or read it about it, you can still be left in a state of flux trying to make the right decision.
So here is why we decided to hold our son back from starting school, the year he was due to turn 5. And whether or not we believe we made the correct decision, almost 12 months down the track.
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In 2014 we went through the enrolment process to start our youngest in Kindergarten, the following year. This would mean that he would spend the first 3 months of the school year being a 4 year old. He went through the whole enrolment interview and orientation with ease – he could write his name, he knew his ABC, he could also count to 20 easily, and had no issues making friends or following instructions. So in our opinion he ticked all the boxes of school readiness.
His preschool teachers had flagged a few concerns with us in regards to his social readiness, but we were still convinced that by the time he started school he would be right.
It wasn’t until we had a chat to the Assistant Principal of the school where he was going, that we started to have second thoughts. She advised us that we needed to look at the long term prospect of his education, not just the here and now.
Basically she had seen in her considerable time as an educator, the change in behaviour of children transitioning from Yr 6 to Yr 7, that older children coped with that process easier (especially boys). The good old hormones/puberty are likely to strike at this time, and can cause all kinds of grief to social situations for the kids, which can then have a flow on effect to their education.
She also mentioned Yr 12, and all the anxiety that this year can bring to a child (and also their parents). The stress of exams and the stress of peer pressure when going out. Her question to us was "do you want your child being the youngest, led astray by kids who have already turned 18, or do you want your child being the older, more mature one"? In her opinion, the more mature the child, the better they coped with all of this.
And then there’s the next transition to tertiary/trade education or working. It’s a tad easier for your children if they are already 18 years old, and not having to sneak into bars etc. with their fellow student/work mates. Once again it boiled down to the older your child was, the more chance they have at making mature decisions that (hopefully) don’t create negative impacts on their lives.
So after considering these points, we bit the bullet and decided to start our son at school a year later, when he would be over 5 years old, in 2016.
Now there have been quite a few children in our son’s class this year, who he is a whole year older than, and these kids have had no issues at all assimilating to life at school. And who knows, they may not have any issues doing the same thing in high school.
However, we are very happy with the choice we made for our son, and have absolutely no regrets in starting his education when he was over 5 years old. He has taken to school life so easily, and loves going to school more then staying at home! And hopefully when he has to make the different transitions later in his education, he will do so with maturity and ease. We believe that when looking at the situation holistically, we most definitely made the right decision.
Here are some other "practical" points for consideration that might help you with your decision about your own child, which have nothing to do with education (but may just make life easier for you):
• Cost – it’s much cheaper to send your child to school, then keeping them in daycare/preschool
• Boredom – will your child get bored doing another year at preschool/daycare
• Drop Off - depending on the ages of your kids, if you have more than one child, you might only have to do one drop off rather than both the school and preschool run
• Freedom – as selfish as this sounds, if you are a stay at home or work from home parent, you will have more to time to yourself when your child is at school 5 days a week
So now it’s up to you, to make your choice. The best advice we can offer is to listen to the educators, and then listen to your gut instinct.
This article from the NSW Department of Education is also worth reading, as it explains the best way to get your little one ready for the next step in their life.