As with every part of parenting, everyone has an opinion on everything. The topic of what age to start school for your child is no different. The amount of information out there is exhausting and it seems like every year a new study comes out and with different or repetitive results.
And then of course, there’s the ruling from the Court of Public Opinion: your parents, your sister, your neighbour and your Uber driver. Everyone has a story to tell about their own experience, and it can be thoroughly overwhelming. But also, extremely helpful. That’s because each piece of information serves to help a parent put their case together for an individual child.
Which is why Mamamia‘s parenting podcast This Glorious Mess spoke to Karen Seinor, a mother, educator, and the author of the book, Is My Child Ready for school? to get the latest thinking on the perennial question: what’s the best age to send your kids to school?
“It’s not a blanket statement, we can’t say that all children are ready at five,” Seinor says. “Some children are, some will benefit from another year at preschool.”
Expert Karen Seinor talks to TGM, on what parents need to weigh up before sending their child to school. Post continues…
How can a parent tell? What are the signs to look for when you’re deciding to send your child at say 4.5, or 5.5?
“One of the biggest things is language development. The children who begin school with the strongest language skills will be the ones that are most successful.”
Social skills are also important, because the children who have friends are happier at school, and that makes them more confident in the classroom.
“It effects all parts of learning.”
Seinor believes that emotional and physical development are also important considerations.
“It’s not just about parents doing flashcards and reading with their kids prior to school. Things like posture. Handwriting is a physical skill. Reading involves tracking.”
Looking at the child as a whole is vitally important. But does that include the ability to sit still and concentrate? Is it true that boys find that harder to achieve, and that a child will fail if they can't do that?
"It's not a myth - if you look at a group of kindergarteners, you can always tell the younger boys. Boys produce less oxytocin than girls and that's why many of them can't sit still, and why boys especially benefit from an extra year at home before school."
Seinor advises that she's speaking generally, and of course, every child is different, but that it would benefit parents to pay attention to these factors when making the decision about when their child should start school.
However, this is not to say that if you have sent your child early, or at the government-suggested age of right on five years old, that you have disadvantaged your child in any way. Seinor stresses that the criteria is very subjective and relies especially on parental instincts.
The only definite is that play, communication and socialisation all have an importance place in pre-school learning. Which is why the author also believes it's worth considering the approach in different countries.
For example, she notes "in Scandinavian countries don't start formal learning until seven. Until then, it's a lot of play-based learning, immersion in literacy and numbers."
How old was your child when they started school? Tell us in the comments section below.