Should the pram face forward or backward?
Should the first solid food be pear or rice cereal?
Should I supplement with formula?
Should I tell him about the tooth fairy?
Should I leave notes in his lunch box even though he can’t read because he’s only three?
This is just a tiny fragment of the unnecessary babble I worried about when my son was young; pretty standard worries that are long forgotten when your child moves on to the next stage of development.
It’s completely natural and normal to care deeply (even worry) about things that mean a lot to us at the time, it’s hard not to fixate on some of these issues and believe they are really the most important decisions we have to make. It’s also extremely common to realise years later that actually it makes no difference at all.
Even some of the really big decisions are almost impossible to discern in later years. I challenge anyone to go into a room full of teenagers and point out who was bottle fed and who was breastfed, who was subjected to controlled crying and who co-slept with their parents until they walked out of the bed themselves. These often very important decisions have no real ramifications on the 16-year old child provided they grew up in a loving environment.
But there is one decision we are forced to make early on in our children’s lives that I am still fixating on. It’s a decision we often look at in terms of the four-year-old and very seldom in terms of the 16-year-old. And that is school starting age.
Recently The Daily Telegraph reported the kindergarten starting age could be raised to meet a new national standard. This would be done to avoid circumstances where four-year-olds share kindergarten classrooms with children as old as six.
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The proposed plan would only allow children to start school if they turn five on or before April 30, instead of July 31. While this push follows concerns from parents who worry about social and emotional gaps between kids of different ages in the same kindergarten class, which I can only imagine being harder on the teacher than anyone else, I can’t help seeing this from the vantage point of the mother of an older child.
Like any parent, the decision at what age to send our son to school was huge. We looked at our four-year-old and saw that he was small for his age, he was young (some might say immature) and needed more time to play. It seemed given that he should spend another year playing in the sandpit and making a mess before he entered formal education.
But he was so bright (no bias right?) and he seemed ready to learn. What if he got bored at preschool, what if we were potentially damaging his whole education by keeping him back a year and making him slide down the slippery dip when he could be mastering phonics?