I recently had to make a tough decision: send my youngest to school at four and a half, or leave it another year and send him at five and a half. There were pros and cons to both options, but in the end, I decided to keep him another year at nursery.
I've always felt four and a half was very young to spend a full day at
school, especially now when the primary ones are "thrown in at the deep
end", from day two (the initial half days are now a thing of the past).
My eldest, unfortunately was starting primary school when this new
system was introduced, and going from 2.5 hours of nursery to a full day
of school was actually quite traumatic for him, (not to mention myself,
left holding back the tears in the playground as he was peeled off me
and went into school crying his heart out). My youngest is certainly a
different child altogether from his elder brother, but my bad experience
was definitely preying on my mind as I weighed up my options.
My son is certainly ready for school in terms of learning; he knows his
colours, shapes, can count to 20, and is starting to become interested
in recognising letters and shapes. A. is also incredibly independent,
frustratingly so at times (we are often the last to leave nursery as he
insists on putting on his own boots, jacket, gloves etc). However, those
skills do not necessarily equate to being mature enough to sit in a
classroom all day focusing on lessons. A. can be guilty of major
strops if he does not get his own way, or is frustrated when he can't do
something...not good attributes for starting school.
My decision to defer my son's school entry really came during the school
Christmas holidays. I have my two boys, and a year and a half ago my
husband and I became the guardians of our two nieces. A. went from
being the youngest of two, to the youngest of four overnight. The
holidays made me realise how much of an adjustment that has been for
him. A. was becoming increasingly loud and frustrated as the days went
on, and near the end of the two weeks, said to me "mummy, I like it
when it's just you and me". I became aware of how much he needed some
individual time with me, and when the other three are at school, that
really is quality time for the two of us, before the homework, dinner,
after school clubs, bath, bed routine every afternoon. I decided it
wouldn't be fair to send him to school; then he would be competing
against older children not only at home, but also at school.
Parents who have children turning four round about now, will undoubtedly
have been struggling with this difficult decision. I would be
interested to know how many are sending their children, and how many
have chosen to defer entry.