school

'I sent both of my kids to school ‘early’ at 4. This was my experience.'

‘Is Molly going to school next year?’ is a question I must have heard five times a day in November last year. To be honest I didn’t know the answer, until I did.

Molly’s birthday (as well as my eldest son, James, who started school in 2017) falls between January and July, so in NSW we had the option to send her off to school or wait another year.

For both of the kids, I agonised over the decision, talked about it at length with anyone who would listen, and read way too many online opinion pieces.

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For my son with his January birthday, I took on board something that a friend pointed out to me. “If he had been born three weeks earlier, he would be going to school anyway,” she said.

That really helped me. For Molly with her April birthday, this was less relevant. She was in the murky grey area.

In the end, my husband and I decided to send both of them off to kindergarten ‘early’ – at just-turned-five for my son and four-turning-five for my daughter.

It’s a really tough call, and you don’t want to mess it up. Are they emotionally ready for the five days? Will they be able to sit still and concentrate? Will they be able to keep up with everyone else?

My story has a happy ending. Both of my kids have not just survived, but thrived. Sending them to school was absolutely the right decision for our family.

But does this mean that I think all kids should start school as soon as they’re legally able? Hell no.

The rules in NSW are flexible for a reason. They give parents the chance to decide what is best for their child. Since nobody knows your child as well as you do, this puts you in the perfect position to make the call.

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early start kindergarten
"Both of my kids have not just survived, but thrived. Sending them to school was absolutely the right decision for our family." Image: Supplied.

What did we base our decision on?

Familiarity

Molly had been coming to drop-offs and pick-ups for James for two years. The school was very familiar to her and she was confident enough to go and play with a friend or on the equipment without me. School would not be seen as a ‘scary’ new place for her.

Size

Both of my children are tall for their age. This made me feel more confident that they wouldn’t stand out as being ‘little’ compared to the other students.

Pre-school

The pre-school educators recommended that any child born from January to July should stay in pre-school for another year.

"So you’re basing this on Molly’s birthday rather than on what Molly is like as a student?" I asked. I was told that this was their position and left it at that.

early start kindergarten
Lee considered a lot of different factors. Image: Supplied.
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Orientation

Schools allow parents to bring their child along to orientation even if they are still deciding.

I shared the pre-school report with the school principal and teachers in the week prior and asked if I could speak with them after each session.

All of them said she was confident, engaged, attentive, completing tasks, singing songs, and even raising her hand to answer questions. They also said she was ‘terrific at cutting with scissors’ which made my heart swell with pride (it’s the little things).

After the final orientation session, the principal spoke with me and said that all of the teachers agreed that Molly seemed ‘more than ready’ to begin school the following year.

Gut feeling

Molly had mentioned feeling bored at pre-school several times in the final term. It made me wonder whether she was ready for more structured learning.

All of the kids in Molly’s mothers' group were going off to school. I knew that she would feel confused as to why her pals were starting school and not her, as she was similar to them in terms of abilities, speech and maturity levels.

early start kindergarten
Sometimes the decision comes down to a 'gut feeling'. Image: Supplied.
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Making the call

Once we had filled in the paperwork and bought the uniforms, we felt much better as we could stop thinking about it and just get on with having a great summer.

Molly matured a lot over the final summer holidays before school, and she went off on her first day without so much as a single tear (me, on the other hand - different story).

As she finishes her first year of school in a few weeks, I am happy to report that she is keeping up with her classmates, loves doing her homework (long may that last), has made some terrific friends and happily reads her home-reader every night.

If you need to make the decision for your child, I feel for you. It’s hard. I was jealous of the ‘lucky’ parents with kids born between August and December too.

If you do make the call to send them to kindergarten, you can then enjoy the summer knowing that a whole new chapter of your family’s life is about to begin.

Are you struggling with this decision? How did you know if it 'was time'? Tell us in a comment below.

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