My son is about to turn 5. Yay, he’s going to school, but oh no, he’s going to school!

Any other parents have mixed emotions on this? You know school is not compulsory in New Zealand until the child turns 6, yet pretty much everyone sends their child at 5. But I was having a chat with the local kindy teacher and she has recommended that some children she has taught did not start on their birthday, yet waited a few more months.

So I’ve started doing some thinking about whether or not my son should start on his birthday and without a doubt, yes he is. But I am coming from this point of view from two perspectives, as a Mum and as a teacher. As a Mum I am like, yes and no! Yes, start school on your birthday boy, shame it’s only for 6 hours a day, but it’s better than nothing. No, don’t go to school because I want to remain the main focus in your life and be able to watch and enjoy your every move.

As a teacher I am also standing on the fence as a yes and a no. Yes, because 5 is the age I expect them to come to school to start their formal learning and if they start later, they are going to miss out on a lot of specific learning. No because I have seen 5 year olds that are not ready to start school and would have benefited physically and academically by more pre-school experiences. As a teacher though, I have seen that my son personally is ready for more challenging academic learning, but I know he will struggle with the confining classroom environment.

So this leads me to think are new entrant classrooms set up and established to suit the needs of those fresh from pre-school children? Does the classroom teacher have an in-depth knowledge about the learning skills and environment of the local kindy or pre-school where the children are coming from? Is the classroom program focused on a smooth transition between free play and structured learning sessions?

I think it depends on the individual teacher, but I know from experience when teaching that there is not any requirement for new entrant teachers to have understanding and knowledge of the pre-school environment. I think there should be and this be included in the daily classroom environment, but I don’t believe that the new entrant room be a replica of the kindy.

It’s a hard balance, but having had experiences as both a Mum and a teacher, I now know that when I do make it back to the classroom, I will adapt my program drastically to accommodate what I know now about the learning experiences of a pre-schooler. So should school start at 5? Parents need to make that call and I will back both parents who start their child on the birthday, a few months later or even at 6. Parent’s are the most important people in their child’s life and the decision is up to them.



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