school

"My daughter started school at 4. Seven years on, I asked her about my decision."

All I remember were my daughter’s bouncing, white-blonde piggy tails and piercing blue eyes staring straight up at me, her hands on her hips. “If I have to do one more finger painting I’m going to SCREAM!” It was just another day of pre-school, and boy, was she not happy about it.

I had already decided that, with her being born on July 24, she was not going to be one of those kids sent to school early. It was October, and Kindergarten enrolments had been and gone. None of my mothers’ group or my other friends were sending their kids early, none of the mummy bloggers either, and all advice from the pre-school teachers and experts on the matter pointed toward keeping her at pre-school for another year.

However, something was niggling at me. Perhaps it was the fact that I could see she was not enjoying the pre-school curriculum at all. She kept telling me she was so bored. She never wanted to sleep at nap time, and was prevented from doing anything else instead. She was regarded rebellious by the pre-school; a bit of a problem child. I realised she couldn’t sit still at home either. She couldn’t even watch TV for more than 10 minutes. She would get frustrated, always wanting to be out and about. With a toddler to deal with, too, that wasn’t so easy.

What your child’s teacher really thinks about them…

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The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I knew my child better than anyone, and I had a feeling she was extremely bored and needed a lot more stimulation. I talked to my husband and the next day I had her enrolled at the local primary school. After the testing process the assistant principal saw her exactly as I did, which was a huge relief and reassured me that age really had little to do with school readiness.

A few months later, her first day of school was one filled with excitement and confidence. She never latched onto my leg or cried. The only thing about kinder she didn’t like was the mollycoddling from the Year 6 kids!

After her first year we moved her to a Catholic school. As she didn’t meet the June 30 age cut-off, I thought they would want her to repeat. But given that her Kindergarten report was so good, the Principal was confident to let her continue to Year 1. Again she excelled.

Each parent-teacher interview since, I would always feel apprehensive as if I was waiting for a shaking of the teacher’s head and a damning ‘What on earth were you thinking sending her to school so young?’ (Or maybe that was the question I kept asking myself). Not only was she the youngest, she was also one of the littlest and last on the class roll.

Her last primary school year was her best yet. Her reports were outstanding, she was self-assured and so excited about starting high school and most importantly, she felt ready. She will be the first to tell you that.

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Lily on her first day of school. Image: Supplied.

Last week was my first high school parent-teacher interview experience. This time, instead of having one teacher who could potentially judge me for my decision, I had seven to contend with. But I had a very confident and happy daughter with me who was prepared for me to meet her teachers, because she is absolutely loving high school. She may only be eleven, but she can hold her own next to any 13-year-old in her year group.

I can say she’s positively thriving and her teachers had nothing but glowing reports on how well she has settled in, how well she is already grasping new learning areas and already showing signs toward having a positive high school experience. No mention of her being the youngest in her grade whatsoever (if they even noticed).

I have read so many assorted articles on the subject of school starting ages, most containing an overwhelming amount of recommendations for children to be held back, and for the majority that may be the right thing to do. But I’m going to say that unless the Government actually changes the cut-off date, that decision still rests with the parents. For those who have daughter like mine, where it actually would have been detrimental to hold her back, you need to do what feels right for you and your child.

Listen: The new best age to send a kid to school. Post continues after audio.

However, given this article was her idea, I asked her to share her thoughts:

"It doesn’t really make a difference. I think getting sent early is an advantage because you get to finish school earlier than people who are older than you. It’s also been an advantage for me because I get to learn new things to keep my brain active. I might be young, but I have the privilege of being smart. I love sports too like OzTag and touch footy but I still take time to do my homework, study and do assignments, and I don’t let my age get in the way of my education or anything.

"You might be thinking that sending your child later is a better decision, but they will still be able to learn and succeed. I was bored at pre-school and I wanted to learn, and being bored gets in the way of learning so not holding me back was the best thing for me."

- Lili – 11 years old. Youngest in the whole of Year 7.

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