My three-year-old knows how to find Youtube clips of Lightning McQueen in German – also in Spanish and Cantonese – which he would happily watch 24/7, if left to his own devices. Let me assure you, he’s no multi-lingual child prodigy; he’s just addicted to the iPad.
He also throws himself on the floor and wails inconsolably, when he’s denied anything, such as…the iPad. And have I mentioned that when he’s not begging me for the iPad, he’s giving my tummy mouth-to-muffin-top resuscitation. He has a disturbing habit of ripping up my top (or my dress) and face planting into my belly, whispering the words “Oooh, tummy time.” At least I think that’s what he’s saying; it’s a little muffled down there.
All of this has me counting down the months until he can legally go to school with his siblings.
But should he? My baby is a March baby, which means that if he goes to Kindy in 2015, when he is able to go in NSW, he will be one of the younger kids in the class. Not the youngest, but one of the younger ones. I confess I hadn’t given this much thought – he’s the fourth child and it was on my list of things to think about in 2014 – but I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, which got me thinking, perhaps over-thinking and then over-worrying (Me? Never).
Gladwell writes about the factors and environmental conditions that assist children to become exceptional achievers. He notes that Canadian professional hockey teams are largely comprised of players who were all born in the first quarter or the first half of the year. The selection year for competitive hockey runs from January to December in Canada, and scouts start selecting squad players at the age of nine or ten. Children who are older in their year will generally have developed before those born later in the year (duh, you say, keep reading): they will be bigger, stronger and have greater hand-to-eye co-ordination than their younger peers. Children that are older in their peer group, Gladwell argues, are more likely to demonstrate the qualities or “talent” that pro-hockey selectors are looking for. Those children are then streamed and given special or extra training opportunities, and they fulfil the prophecy that was in part created by their advanced age. Gladwell extrapolates this example across a number of other areas, arguing that being older in one’s peer group, gives one an advantage.
Now unless watching Lightning McQueen for endless hours becomes an international endurance sport, I don’t think my son will make it into any national teams. Who knows and who cares? The point I took from Malcolm Gladwell was that being older in the year is somehow better for children.
A quick search on the internet resulted in me getting lost in various parenting forums for days. I was directed to Kathy Walker, an education and parenting consultant who has written a book about the topic, Ready, Set, Go? It was published in 2011 but as with many things that happened in the first 18 months of my son’s life, I missed it back then.
Walker writes about school readiness and emphasises the importance of this, rather than simply age as an indicator of when a child should begin school. So what the heck is readiness – my head was ready to explode and there are times I am ready to drive my son to the local primary school and beg them to take him now.