When do we start?

I found this post in my drafts….. thought I had hit published, but the thoughts are still relevant I think.

There has been a lot of discussion in New Zealand recently around the age our children start school. As a parent of a nearly 4 year old, I have been following with interest and anxiety. I really enjoyed THIS POST from Melanie D, which (I thought) gave a balance of arguments. I support a cohort entry – I think my son would find it easier to be with a group of other new students, but also appreciate that a larger group of excited or unsetttled littlies might be hard going for a teacher. I have enormous respect for primary educators – a room full of 6 years old is much more daunting than a room for of 14 year olds in my opinion.

I ‘made a choice’ to send Ollie to daycare at 12 weeks old. I was not happy as a stay at home Mum. Ollie would not have been as happy with me as a stay at home Mum. Let’s not start on what may have happened to the hubby – who also did not want to stay at home. As such, Ollie has been in early childhood education since he was 12 weeks old. I have even more respect for early childhood teachers than almost anyone on the planet.

Which leads me to the argument of when do we send Ollie off to school? His birthday is October 30th – does he start school at the start of term 4, on his birthday, or at the start of the next year? When would he be ready? In some ways, he is ready for school now. He is a super little dude who loves story books (he can recite about 20 back to us…), can recognise his name written down and can write it messily, has a good vocab, can work scissors. But on the other hand, he still resorts to hitting when he is frustrated, doesn’t yet hold a pen the right way, is learning to tie his shoes and sometimes still needs a nap after lunch. He is also not overly confident in new situations – he can become very clingy – and yet in others he will run off all on his own.

On top of this is the logistics of school. Which school does he go to? Which school has the best after school care? Can my husband and I manage before school, or do I need to find some-one to look after him before school to? Do I sign up for a program, or find a friendly neighbour person who has school aged kids who would benefit from some extra cash each week? How do I stop envying all of my friends who have more grandparent support than we have, or support a couple of my friends who are doing the single parent thing damn well (holy smokes and hats off people)

And then there is a cost factor. Even though I am a teacher and I KNOW SCHOOL ISN’T BABYSITTING but oh my goodness it is going to be awesome to not have to pay for (as much) childcare.

And then I saw this article on stuff

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Which is a sensationalist headline if ever I saw one…. especially when I wonder if the ‘courses’ are really teaching the same things as Ollie is learning (except the competitiveness……) although the cost is crazy (with the daycare subsidy, we currently pay around $7500-8000 a year for Ollie’s daycare).

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So if I really think about it, Ollie has been in school for nearly 4 years already. He is learning all of those skills already – sadly even some competitiveness over fighting with toys etc. As he is an only child, those social skills are really important for him to learn from other children his own age.

In New Zealand, we place a huge importance, and rightly so, on our key competencies. While the article above was overly dramatic, I think in New Zealand we are already doing this for our todlers via early education programs – maybe not as explicitly as the articles implies for the examples from China – but participation, conflict resolution, resilience, determination and learning how to be a friend have all been conversations I have had with Ollie’s daycare teachers. But then, ECE is not free for children under 3, and only available for 20 hours a week for 3-5. Surely when this is such an important age, there should be more access available to all children and then, just like school, parents can choose the best option for them.

And perhaps it doesn’t matter so much about when Ollie ‘starts school’. The more important thing for him and all children in New Zealand (and the world) is to LOVE learning.

How can we ensure that learning environments promote that????




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