Is 4 too young to start school?

starting schoolThis time last year, I started agonizing over whether my daughter was ready for school. Her birthday is in June and in the state we live in, the cut off for sending children to school the following January is July 31st. Most of her preschool class was going to school the following year. She would be 4 and half when she started school.

It weighed heavily on my mind. Being the youngest of three in our family, she had the added advantage of already following the big kids socially and could hold her own. She could write her name, count to 20, identify shapes and colours, read some words and knew her left and right. She could ride a bike without trainer wheels, was learning to tie her shoe laces and could easily resolve conflicts. She had her own back pack and lunch box and made friends easily where ever she went. She wanted to go to school and be with her brother and sister. She was still having a little sleep in the car in the afternoon and I knew this was one of the tell-tale signs she wasn’t ready to do a whole day. The Mum’s at school who had gotten to know her said she was definitely ready. The teachers were asking if she was coming.

I was worried if I kept her back, I was slowing her journey into the world.

After some serious thought, I kept her back. She will start at the beginning of next year when she is 5 and a half. This extra year has been a god send for both her and I. Two days a week we spend our days together. It is such a special time for both of us before she goes off on her own journey. In the past couple of months, she has blossomed. Her face is changing. We talk about her silly and sensible persona and she gets it. We play snap and memory together. We go to the beach, have coffee and go to parks on our days off. We ride our bikes, walk the dog, meet friends, play tic tac toe and scissors, paper, rock and play the iPad together. It is a year I would not miss out on for anything!

She was a little bit upset at the start of this year when her old friends at preschool had gone to school and she had new friends in her class but now she has made her ‘best friend ever’. For three days of the week, they play together all day long and are lovely little buddies.

While she had it together socially and academically at the beginning of this year, by keeping her home an extra year, I have allowed her the time to develop emotionally. She is learning resilience at the rate of knots and hopefully this extra year will help her enjoy her first year of school more. And what’s more she won’t be the oldest in the class. Friends have kept their kids back with birthdays in February and March. It is not just a choice for now. If I sent her this year, she would be 13 and a half when starting Year 9, while some of her peers would be 15. That is a huge gap at this age. Or 16 and a half as opposed to 18 when starting Year 12.

In saying all this, my eldest daughter started school when she was 4. Her birthday is in March so she was 4 and 10 months. She did fine in Kindergarten and was little miss independence. We then moved to America and back to Australia – so she went to 5 schools in just under 3 years. Not because of her age, but because of her missing out on so much learning early on, we repeated her. She is one of the oldest in her class now and it is not hurting her one bit. She is mature, independent and doing well.

The decision on when to start your child at school is hard and many interrelating factors play a role. Your own circumstances of work and suitable care also plays a role. The deciding factor has got to be what works best for your child and your family. In our case, I was fortunate to be able to stay home two days a week with my daughter this year and she is in a lovely preschool three days a week. I am grateful I could share the last year of her being little until she is physically, emotionally and socially ready to start the school journey.

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