Having four children who are all boys, including identical twins makes our family quite unique. It’s like living in a science experiment on nature versus nurture. You see so strongly how many traits must have been there at birth and they all have their individual quirks. It is the beauty and mystery of having many children. “You don’t make your child, you meet your child” are the words of the very wise Steve Biddulph.
So when our twins were in kindergarten and the question arose as to when we would start them at school, my mind boggled. The pros and cons, the consequences and the benefits. If I’m honest, the answer to me has always been pretty obvious. Having two brothers go before them helped paint a recent and clear picture of what the early school years would be like. Having two brothers myself, memories of their teenage years also helped.
The Australian school age is relatively young compared to other countries across the globe and there is great debate as to when is the optimal age to start school. Boys especially are under the microscope, and since our twins were born on December 30, they could have started school at just five years and one month of age.
So after a lot of reading from experts, discussions with their teachers and family, we decided to “repeat” our twins in four-year-old kindergarten. We “held them back” for another year before they started primary school. Firstly, I’d love to create some new terms for this decision as both of these have negative connotations. “Repeat” implies that they didn’t get it right the first time. They weren’t good enough to keep moving forward, they had to do it again. “Holding them back” implies that they couldn’t handle what was ahead of them.
For me there has been nothing negative about making this decision. We’ve given them an extra year of innocence, more play time, an extra year of fun. An extra year of being pre-schoolers where behavioural expectations are lower and their minds are catching up with their bodies. Outwardly our boys are physically strong, socially they can hold their own. As the youngest of four, they were bursting to put on their prep uniform and join their brothers at big school.
But what about after that? Entering high school and all of the emotional and social obstacles they will encounter? What about the pressure of year 12? What about the euphoria of finishing school, getting their driver's licence and legally being allowed to drink alcohol all within the same month? What about their first job interview? Perhaps living out of home, without their mum? With another year under their belt I have no doubt there will be a better outcome for all of the above.
It wasn’t an easy decision though, there are the cons that go with all of the pros. They had been in kindergarten for two years with the same group of children who they adored. They had made some really special friendships and they would have to start all over again, making friends with younger children. There is also the financial cost of another year of childcare or ELC school fee’s if that has been your choice. If not, there is the opportunity cost of perhaps mum not being able to go back to work enough hours a week for another year.
More importantly, would they consider themselves ‘dumb’ if they didn’t progress with their peers? Would there be any stigma put on them? Would they question our choice when they were old enough to understand it? As in so many parenting decisions, sometimes you just never know if you made the right choice. But in all of my discussions I had not heard of anybody regretting that they gave their child another year.
As a mother, I asked myself why the rush? Childhood is so fleeting and the pre-school years are so full of innocence and joy, so why not prolong that a little longer? Another year for my restless boys without sitting at a desk or bringing their readers home or having to navigate the schoolyard minefield. Another year for our family to enjoy them as the hilarious pre-schoolers they are.
Another year to be ready. Ready for now and ready for later. Much later, when I can’t just scoop them up at the end of each day and make everything better with a bit of my magic dust and a cuddle.
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