Health

Wednesday 17 September 2014

David Coleman: Is September too soon to send our four year old to school?

School time II

I am in a predicament and would really appreciate your advice and opinion. My son will turn four at the end of May. I had planned to send him to school this September; he will only be four and three months. Is this too young?

He has two younger sisters and is the eldest in our family. He is a very bright young boy and has no problem with his work in Montessori, which he attends five days a week.

My son has a number of friends and we always seem to have play dates.

It may not really matter but my son is quite tall for his age and people often think he is older than three.

The age profile of his class in September, if we do send him, is – 30 boys in total, 13 boys will turn five between April and August.

I would love to hear your viewpoint on the best age to start school.

There is no right or wrong age at which to send a child to school. That said, I often advise people to wait until their child turns five as this gives them the best chance of being socially, academically and emotionally ready for the demands of school.

However, age is not always the best indicator of their readiness. There are some children who, even when turning five, can be giddy and socially immature and may struggle in school.

Equally, there are many four-year-olds who are bright, capable and will do fine starting school. From what you describe, your son does sound quite mature.

As you have worked out, he will be part of a small majority of his class who will still be four starting this September. However, the extra year that some of his classmates would have can make a big difference. You could ask the teacher of the class he'll be going into what she thinks.

He seems to be socially active, outgoing and enjoys being with his friends. Both of these facts suggest that he will cope fine socially and academically.

Your only other consideration is his emotional readiness. This takes account of things like how well he copes with disappointment, correction and frustration. If you think that he does well enough in this area, then September will be a good time for him to start.

Sometimes other factors, such as cousins or friends starting, the cost of childcare, or the need to get back to work can motivate us to send our children as soon as they turn four.

However, these are rarely good enough reasons to start your child early if you feel, in your heart, that another year at home or in pre-school would benefit them more. However, no matter what my opinion is, you are always best guided by what you know about your own child. It is their readiness, not their age, that will guide you.

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