This time last year I was in a quandary.
My daughter, Emme, had just turned four. She was lively and creative and funny and vibrant. She was thriving in her pre-school program alongside all her friends. She could climb a tree and kick a ball and pretend to be Queen Elsa of Arendelle almost all at once.
But while she was happy and settled, I was in a state of turmoil about what (at the time) was one of the biggest parenting decisions I had yet to face.
Emme has one of “those” birthdays, you see.
If you have a child with a similar birthday you’d know what I mean. That grey area where she could go to school the following year, or she could wait.
Each year thousands of parents with children born in the first six (or four depending on where you live) months of the year face a similar decision throughout Australia: should she start school next year at four and a half, or should she wait till she was five and a half?
Shauna and her daughter Emme. Images: supplied.
We’d never faced such a decision before. It was one that felt monumental, almost too big for just us. We were just Emme’s parents, after all.
Together we went back and forth, over and over. I looked at statistics and research. I studied school systems around the world and in Australia. I consulted friends and Facebook and strangers on the street and I found that while everyone had an opinion, no one had an answer.
“Oh she has two big brothers, she will be ready.”
“There is no harm in waiting and spending that extra year with them.”
“You can always repeat them”.
I was told if I held her back it would be “unfair” that other children, of a similar age who went would be at a disadvantage.
I was told I would be crazy to send her so young.
It was tough.
On one hand, she went to an amazing early learning centre with a dedicated school readiness program. She was starting to learn letter and number recognition, science and maths concepts, technology skills and social competence.
Emme at preschool, where she undertakes a school readiness program. Image: supplied.
On the other hand, she was still socially immature and reluctant to leave me.
I debated the fact that many of her friends, some even born just weeks apart from her were going to school that year, and I looked at her medical history and eyesight problems that saw her wear a patch for several hours a day, and wondered whether just one more year might really be the best way to go.