Time to let the children go to school

I have been away this weekend and during a leisurely Sunday morning I had time to read the Sydney Morning Herald (28-29 March 2009) where I found an article on p. 3, “Youngest Kindies Catch Up”, and could hardly wait to get home so I could share the news with you, my reader.

You may remember the blog I wrote ‘To School Or Not To School’. It was about American research indicating that it is quite good to send your child to school early, and that any advantage an older school starter had due to age and maturity fell away in a few years. Now there is more evidence, this time Australian research carried out with high school students, demonstrating that longterm, starting school early is the right choice for most children.

The evidence shows that children who started school relatively early, e.g. 41/2 to 51/2 year olds, were more motivated and performed better in literacy and numeracy than those children who had commenced school later. In fact, those children who commenced school earliest performed better than all others.

I have been arguing this for years, while my early childhood colleagues have believed in holding children back, which they regularly recommend to parents with conviction. Now the research evidence is in, and I rest my case.

In my mind there are 4 important decisions parents should make in the early years:

Rule 1: If you are a mother and you are able to stay at home with your child for the first 3-4 years, do that. Why? Because that is what is best for your child.

Rule 2: Send your child to a community preschool (not day care) when he or she turns 3. With all the talk about early childhood teacher shortages, you will find that there is no shortage of early childhood teachers at preschools. Why? Because teachers love the short hours and the exciting atmosphere created by the fact that preschools are for the children. There are hardly any unhappy children at preschool, it’s a treat, and they love it. Day care, on the other hand, is there to support working parents. The kids know it and the staff knows it. For teachers, day care is hard work, and for kids it is compulsory, with the result that someone is crying somewhere in the centre on most days.

Rule 3: Don’t listen to well-meaning advice from the preschool staff about holding your child back another year before school (they especially recommend this if your child is a boy).

Rule 4: Instead, depending on the exact birthday, send your child to school as early as possible, e.g. 4 years and 9 months if the birthday is in May. This is especially the choice to make if you think your child is gifted