All about the mind NaBloPoMo

Set for School. But when?

In my line of work, I have sometimes had parents enquire about child readiness for starting school. Or I have been told by some parents that their kids are behaving badly because they started school early (four years and 6 months or 5 years old). Or I have teachers thinking some kids are naughty because they started school too early. I have heard some individuals say that it’s okay to star girls early but not boys while others have said the opposite. Now recently, a study by Cambridge University has recommended that children should start school only around the age of 6 and prior to that should attend play-based schooling (aka preschool here). In NSW, children can start school around 4 years and 6 months and definitely have to be at school by the age of 6.

Now, I haven’t yet understood the whole hue and cry around the age of starting school. I will admit I have not read any research articles on this but what I remember from my studies is that the age or cognitive ability of a child is not as important as their social and emotional maturity. Fair enough. But based on that, wouldn’t each child differ? Who is to say a 4-year-old is not socially and emotionally mature enough to cope with school. Most of the other research says that children who are enrolled at a later age are academically at a disadvantage.

I started school when I was 3 years and 6 months old. Yes, I did.

In India, the schooling system has two kindergartens. There is a lower kindergarten and an upper kindergarten where we have to wear a uniform, follow rules, attend an assembly, sit in a classroom, copy from the blackboard…pretty much all you do at school. We learn to read and write and count. I remember craving to attend school. I would play ‘school’ at home where I was the teacher (but of course) and my grandparents, parents and uncle were my students. I was excited when I attended school and according to my mum, I didn’t cry, unlike every other kid. And then, a few days later after seeing everyone get attention for crying, I did so too. But just for a day. I had to sit for tests and exams since Year 1. I was the youngest in my class but that’s because I’m a January baby. And unlike what the guys at Cambridge are saying, I wasn’t fucked up. They reckon pushing a child to learn at an early age will be a disadvantage and that’s why prior to age 6, a child’s life should involve a lot more play.

I disagree.

I think children should have a balance. The problem today is all work once they begin school and most of the ‘play’ is on the computer or in front of the telly. Also, by attending school, children learn to follow rules and structure. They learn to share and develop their social skills further. They learn patience. They learn that not everything goes their way. How are they going to learn all this at home (especially if they are an only child)? The longer they remain at home interacting with only a few other children, the longer they are likely to take to adjust to school. Again, I understand there are individual differences and when I am talking, I’m sort of taking a generalistic viewpoint (Pretty much like how the researchers do…which probably doesn’t help my case!)

I guess though, to cut a long rant short, why do we need a specific ‘age’ to have to send kids to school? When a child seems ready to learn, send them to school. Period. And then see that there is a good balance between work and play. Get them into sport or music or dance (without pressurising them!) Get them outdoors. Don’t put them for extra Maths and English tuitions in Year 1. That will fuck them up!    

What do you think?

I know there are many parents out there — what did you do or what do you plan to do with regards to your kids? Is age important?

What about others…when did you start school?

And if anyone can share any other research, please do. (I will try to go to the uni library soon and look this up! It’s not purely for blogging…will help me professionally as well)

So do share. I am curious.

Until next time,


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  • Titaxy
    9 November 2009 at 6:58 pm

    i think i started ard 3.5-4 and i did just fine…i think i would agree that there shudn’t be a set age,instead just send them when they seem to be be ready…it depends on how they are long as the kids dont suffer too much of the pressure and get enough time to play and be happy, then it shud be ok.

    but dont know much about the subject, so won’t say more 😛

  • Richa
    9 November 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I started school when I 2years and 6 months. The reason why my mom wanted to admit me early was because we didn’t have many kids around the house we were living in then. And my brother is 9 years older than me so she was worried about developing my social skills and hence got me in a school to do so. Funny thing is that she registered my age one year younger in the school (we didn’t have an effective birth certifacte back then) so I was officially one and the half years old!! And I was talking and everything.. 🙂

    Anyway, I don’t think I messed up at all. I was a very attentive student back then. I would finish my HW right after I came back from school without any help from anyone in family. I loved learning. I hated of anyone in family will tell me to study (yes even at 2.5 years) as it was my responsibilty and they are insulting me by reminding me about it…Yeah, I was a weird kid…

    But I digress. As far as all these researches are concerned, I think they are simply messed up. Kids are very adjustable. They simply need some guidance and they will adapt in most of the situation. I have always thought the education system in most of the developed countries pampers the kids beyond rhyme or reason.

  • miss carly
    9 November 2009 at 11:03 pm

    dont the people at the universities think that children learn when they are at preschool?

    hmm. for me. i had to wait – im a july bubba. and attended school through nsw public schools.

    having just worked with 3-5 year olds. parents have the expectation that at preschool their child will be able to read + write. but what is the use of me ‘teaching’ this as when they get to kindy they go back to learn a is for apple? parents dont understand how poor the australian school and prior to school settings are. they dont understand that there is no cohesion between the two.

    anyway. dont want this to span too far. so i shall stop now. and more than likely will be posting in regards to childcare within the next few days.

  • Matt Parker
    9 November 2009 at 11:18 pm

    School?Around 3-4 I guess.

    I would say only until Year 2 or so should children be going to school ‘full time’.

    It all depends upon the kids choice, some of them want to go to school while some of them dont.Its their choice.i personally didnt like going to school at such an early age.

    And i certaibly wouldnt want my kids(in future :P)to start school at such an early age!!Socializing is ok and fun but as you said wearing a uniform ,and doing the school stuff at an early age is not nice for me(and my kids):P

    I second your view,my nephews-all they do after coming from school is gaming or watching the tivo.There should be a balance!

  • evanescentthoughts
    10 November 2009 at 1:24 am

    Agree with you girl.. there should be a balance of both work and play.. I dont remember the age at which I started. but I skipped LKG and directly attended UKG. Because it seems I knew the LKG syllabus, so I was one yr ahead (compared to others) but I still did well throughout my life.

  • Nu
    10 November 2009 at 4:29 am

    Me started with schools around 3.5 I guess… hahaha[ this tells me that I don’t even know this perfectly 🙁 ] Well I started talking when I was 9 months old..yeah…you read it right…and that’s why when now I’m a grown up I need some more people to listen to my rants,hence blogging 😉 LOL…

    Anyways, I never thought about this point but now that you have mentioned I think I would agree to ‘not having a certain age bar’ to get entry to the schools. But on the contrary if this system is developed and being continued since ages there must be something behind we need to find it and analyse it be able to properly comment on that,I guess ! Ya ?

    Also today’s kids are totally on a fast track and it would be fine if they start schools early..they are capable of learning and mixing with people other than their probably this early start of schools might help 🙂

    But you have brought up a nice topic..Never ever struck me and now that you have mentioned it,it has got me thinking on these lines..nice to think differently on different social topics 🙂

  • Legal Alien
    10 November 2009 at 6:49 am

    I went to my first big school at 5 but before that I went to montessori, and preschool before that. Therefore, I think I started going to school when I was 2 years old!

    And I agree, kids need to “play” more. Outdoor play.. not just Nintendo etc.

  • mimbles
    10 November 2009 at 11:06 am

    Hi, I’ve found my way here via NaBloPoMo.

    My oldest kid is an April birthday and he started Kindergarten in the year he turned 6 and prior to that he’d been attending a day care centre with a good pre-school program from 2.5 yrs old – one day a week at first and working up to 3 days a week in the year before he went to big school. He’s off to High School next year and I’ve never doubted for a moment that I made the right decision not starting him early.

    My other 2 kids are both October birthdays, as am I, so we all started kindy at 5 1/4 🙂 I went to pre-school in France at 3 yrs old and also in Sydney when I was 4. My daughter went to the day care centre from 18 months old primarily because she used to cry and beg to stay when we dropped her brother off in the mornings – I had planned to start her at 2. I was all set to start my youngest at the day care at 2 years old and we tried for some weeks but he wasn’t settling in and I didn’t really need him to be in care so he stayed home and went to the pre-school on the school grounds where my other two went when he was 3 1/4.

    Some kids are ready for more structure earlier than others and, as I see it, the problem with sending kids to school earlier rather than later is that there is less flexibility in the school classroom routine to accommodate the kids who aren’t quite ready for it. It’s easier to make them all wait, so that some kids will have been well and truly ready for months before they start but it gives others the extra time they need. Of course it’s by no means a perfect system! A friend of mine has a son who is pretty definitely not ready to start at the beginning of next year but will be more than ready by the time he turns 5 in the middle of the year, she’s wishing we could return to the practice of having a second kindy in-take half-way through the year.

  • soin
    10 November 2009 at 11:18 am

    i also started some where around 3.the school was more fun than studies.. so i dint even know the alphabets at the end of the second its sort of mixed.. depends on the kid i guess.. some kids wont cry in their first day and some can we explain that..i guess they can send and see.. if it doesnt work out sent the next year. if u never try u never

  • livemorenow
    10 November 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Sometimes the issue is not what age a child starts but the age when they finish. My son started school in Victoria aged 4 but due to moving to Qld where there was (not now) a whole year less of schooling he finished year 12 just after his 17th birthday.

    He was not keen to take a gap year so at 17.5 years he left home to start his degrees at UNSW. His results were very good throughout school and he is making a success out of his university experirence but I think another year of maturity would have been beneficial.

  • Psych Babbler
    12 November 2009 at 3:03 am

    @ Titaxy: Seems like most of us in India started school around that age.

    @ Richa: Wow! 2 and a half! 🙂 Explains why you are now doing your doctorate! But you are right in that kids are probably the most adaptable creatures on the planet and if anyone can adjust, it’s them. Researchers seems to forget that!

    @ Miss Carly: Yeah…I noticed that since I started working last year! Some kids that attend preschool have an idea about the work but kindy any way starts from the beginning in terms of learning.

    @ Matt: Lol at your view about no full time school after Year 2. 😛 You gotta understand though…kids are not cognitively developed enough to make decisions such as not going to school and that’s why we have rules around that. I think what would be better is if schools catered to kids of all abilities…so not just reading, writing and maths but also focus more on the creative side of things.

    @ Avada: Oh yeah, I remember you mentioning that you got to skip LKG! 🙂 And exactly my point…there’s so many of us out there that started school early and majority of us are okay.

    @ Nu: Speaking of kids today being on the fast track…I reckon most of their initial socialising is done within the family and online and hence they need school to actually communicate with people face to face. What do you think?? 🙂

    @ Legal Alien: Oh so you did montessori. What’s it like? Don’t have a high opinion of it based on what I learnt in Ed Psych. But someone’s experience might give me a better idea.

    @ Mimbles: Welcome to my blog!! I agree with you that it’s definitely not a case of one size fits all. I’ve seen some 5 year olds at kindy that are just off the planet and have only settled in with the structure and everything mid-year. But making a statement like ‘schools should enrol kids only from age 6 onwards’ and there should only be play before that is a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Kids need to attend preschool even a few days a week to understand what’s it might be like at school. And I didn’t know about the mid-year intake for kindy…wouldn’t that be tougher on the kids though?

  • Psych Babbler
    12 November 2009 at 3:05 am

    @ Soin: Exactly. Schools tend to allow the trial period.

    @ Livemorenow: Welcome! Hmm…looks like your son did the same as me…I finished my HSC when I was 17 years and 2 months and started undergrad when I was 17 and a half. I guess again, it depends on each individual, doesn’t it? Some people need that gap year to figure out what they want to do…