"Mums, they're five years old, stop competing over this please."

It’s out of control. 

It’s one of those questions that when you get asked you bristle. Here we go. This is where it starts and when it will stop is anyone’s guess.

It’s a continuous game of comparisons, and one-upmanship, of gloating parents, and others feeling like failures. It’s a sure fire way to undermine a mother’s confidence – not to mention what it is doing to our kids.

Have you felt it? Are you in the midst of it? Or are you a perpetrator?

The craziest thing about this is it isn’t starting in high school.  It isn’t just over selective school entrance exams or NAPLAN scores. It isn’t just over accelerated classes. Where I have seen it starting is kindergarten, with five-year olds and it is something fierce.

What reading level is your daughter on?

Oh still on golden words.

They’ve given Jake a reader with all his sight words in it so he just memorizes it and repeats it back to me. Don’t they realise he can read?

I just have to go and talk to Clara’s teacher. I am just not sure she understands what level she is at.

I’m here to tell you mums, the teacher knows. The teacher does what teachers do for a reason – and that is, teach.

Your child has that book level for a reason – and they have those particular words or spelling list or homework sheet for a reason. And the fact is that the reason they have it is totally different to the reason your next-door neighbour’s child has it and you can’t compare the two.

Focus on the reading skills that your child is developing.

Sight words are a way that schools help children learn high frequency words. In many schools they are given colour-coded words, and once they know those words at first glance they are moved up to the next level, or colour.

It’s a terrific way for the kids to know the top 100 most high rotation words – and a not-so-terrific way for parents to compete.

In a blog post called What K-2 teachers want parents to know, Education educator Kelly Pisani wrote, “It is interesting to teach Kindergarten in the first term. Not for all the obvious reasons but rather to observe the way parents use reading levels as a way of competing against each other.”


She says, “As a parent, it is important not to show your child your interest in the number, colour or letter but focus on the reading skills that your child is developing.”

She’s right. Its damaging and distracting so how about we stop?

Because I am over it.

I have an admission to make. My five-year old son has been studying his kindergarten sight words for three weeks now and he is still on his golden words.

Let's allow teachers to teach.

After telling you that I feel a sudden need to offer proclaimers – his teacher was away, they don’t always test his class, we’ve been busy, it has only been three weeks... I feel to need to offer justifications, excuses and I think to myself some of his friends are on red already.

Red. That's the level after golden.

Part of me has the fleeting thought that by revealing this, parents from his school might judge him. Golden still. Gosh what is she doing wrong?

And then the fleeting thought vanishes and I think I don’t actually give a damn what they think.

The thing is that two years ago – with his older brother I might have been more bothered. By child number two at school, I am a little less ruffled. I know mine are smart, happy, confident kids. I know that they complete their homework when asked and that if my second son is anything like is brother by the time he is in Year Two he will be devouring books daily. I know they go to a great public school with a good reputation, and I know that there is no point in comparing kids because they are all different and that is what makes them so amazing.

And I know that the level they are on, they are there for a reason because the person who teaches them chose it – and I have complete confidence in that.

So, let's stop competing okay?

Do you find school mothers are overly competitive over reading levels? 

Want more? Try:

 Are teachers stepping over the line when it comes to our kids?

The discipline tactic almost every child uses cases harm to children.