July 6, 2015

This question has been bugging me for a few months now, ever since I moved back to Tasmania and discovered that their school entry policy is different to that in Western Australia.

Here in the great southern state, children must turn four by January of that year in order to start kindergarten.

When I was living a high-powered, corporate life in WA’s capital, Perth, I had my daughter on the list to start at an excellent Montessori private school. The Montessori schools begin at age three (I know, it’s very young, but there’s a whole philosophy around it and they aren’t being made to sit down and do phonics or anything). You can start your child at any term during the year, as long as they are three, toilet trained and ready.

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The public school entry policy is different too: in WA your child can start school the year they turn four, as long as they turn four by 30th June.

My daughter will turn four in March next year. If she were in WA still, she would be attending pre-kindy programs now, ready to start at kinder next year. But here in Tasmania she must wait a whole extra year to start.

What if she gets bored?

My daughter is a smart cookie. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her gifted, but she is a fluent and prolific talker (my word does she talk!), she can read and write her own name and knows the letters, she has begun to take an interest in what words say on the books we read together. Her counting is great, and generally I believe she has the academic skills to start school.

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I know that academic skills are the lesser part of what children need in those early years of school, though. Social skills and skills of independence are much more important at that age. Children need to know how to take care of their own belongings, how to take turns and concentrate for periods of time, how to work as a group and how to make friends.

I’m not sure if my daughter is quite there yet, but I do feel she will be there by the end of this year.

But she’ll have to wait another whole year to start school.

What will I do with her in the meantime?



There’s an hour and a half of pre-kindy once a week. There’s other pre-kindy programs attached to private schools nearby that I’m thinking about – but that would involve shelling out for uniforms and things for just an hour or two a week. We do swimming and occasional play dates and she goes to a wonderful daycare part time. But when she’s at home I wonder what she’ll do with herself.

I am most likely worrying over nothing. She has never had a problem entertaining herself before. She’ll potter around, drawing, colouring in, reading her books and playing with her toys.

Older vs younger

Besides, just because I’m worried she’ll be bored at this age, it doesn’t mean I should rush to get her into school. Once she’s in, there’s no coming out.

And it may be a good thing to be among the oldest in the class, instead of the youngest.

My parents were living overseas during my primary school years and the way the terms worked out, I was a year ahead of myself when I returned to Australia for high school. I was eleven in grade 7 until the end of August.

While I had no problems academically, socially I was a mess. Of course, the culture shock played a large role but I wonder now whether I was just too young for the social situations I found myself in.

After all, there were thirteen year olds in the same class as me. Two years makes a big difference in the teenage years.

Perhaps I would have been better able to cope with peer pressure and bullying if I were that bit more mature. Perhaps I would have developed a better work ethic as well.

It’s so hard to know.

The experts say…

I consulted with my mother who is an award-winning early childhood teacher. She told me that in her experience, older children cope much better than younger children in the early years. She reminded me that Australian children start school very young compared to other countries. In fact, the majority of countries have a starting age of six, and many of them have seven as a starting age.

In Australia, the compulsory starting age differs from state to state, but in general most children are attending formal schooling in the form of kindergarten before the age of five.

The older a child is when they start, the better they are able to cope with the school routine, and the more prepared they are to master formal learning goals.

So it seems like I have my answer. I will wait another year rather than jump through the hoops to push my child into school early. I accept that my daughter might (just might) need a little more social and academic stimulation for the next year and a half, in exchange for the likelihood that she will transition more easily into big school later on.

What would you do? SHARE in the comments below.

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  • Doesn’t the school dictate what age children start? I know a friend if mine was convinced her daughter was super smart (she’s st Uni now, so turns out mum was right) and ready to start school a year before everyone else her age. But the school said no!

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  • Both of my kids were too smart for their own good. Started at 4 with birthdays in February, so just turning 5. My daughter did well all the way thru. My son started to struggle Yr 9 & it was to late to do anything. That extra year became obvious later, not earlier.

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  • This debate will always exist

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  • Yes indeed this cab be such a difficult decision to make.

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  • read article and found it interesting,to see, ALSO WANTED TO MENTION (HERE IN iLLAWARRA) ACTIVITIES ARE ON AT LIBRARY FOR DIFFERENT AGE GROUPS TOO. nOT JUST STORY TELLING BUT CREATIVITY AND CRAFT TOO. GOOD WAY TO MEET OTHER KIDS AND YOUNG MUMS TOO. THEY WERE DING ONE OTHER SATURDAY WHEN I DID GO, WANTED TO JOIN IN AS LOOKED FUN, WORTH A GO


    • I think libraries do an awesome job. My local one has rhyme time for littlies, story time for preschoolers and school holiday activities for school kids. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks so much for the tip!

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  • You hear so many stories about this. My mum and another boy in her class were offered the chance to skip a year in primary school. They both did but after a few months my mum was pulled back into the year she skipped. Her mother, a school teacher thought it was best. The boy struggled academically, my mum performed well.


    • There we go, another example of staying back or keeping in the right year group rather than skipping, being more beneficial. Thanks for your story!

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  • I started my son early, his birthday is in June, he started school at 4 1/2 . I consulted everybody, the kindergarten teacher,the school. We sent him off with the knowledge that if after a week or two we could take him out and return to kind . Everything was fine, except my gut,it didn’t like it .Our son would have a nap at least twice a week after school while the other kids were still running around, and as the years progressed the gap got bigger, to the point my son noticed and then began the real problems.
    Now l know this is not going to happen in every case but even if the child seems ready academically and socially there is so many things happening in and out of today’s kindys that will keep any child occupied. Another year in a caring easy going environment will do no harm whereas rushing may .


    • Very sound advice and it seems that even with all your care and the school’s input, it turned out to be difficult for your son. I was recently reading in Steve Biddulph’s excellent book, Raising Boys, that boys tend to be about a year behind girls developmentally, in terms of their brain’s wiring, so keeping them back a year makes it easier for them to keep up. Something I will definitely consider with my son. Thank you for sharing.

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  • very nice

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  • I was one of the youngest in my year & I really think I personally would have felt better & done better if I were a year older when I started.


    • That is sounding like the consensus out there. I am glad I decided to wait.

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  • This is such a difficult decision to make. I had one child who started on time and the other did also but she was younger but being a second child she excelled.


    • Yes, second children do tend to benefit from having an older sibling to learn from. I wonder what my son will be like when he reaches school age.

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  • they really like to confuse matters.

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  • Such an individual decision to make. Some kids are just so ready and others are not. I think you generally get a feel if it’s appropriate for your child to start early and if not, talk to child carers or people that spend a lot of time with your child. Some kids although ready ‘academically’ may struggle socially……you know your kid better than anyone else.
    Good luck


    • Thank you, that’s great advice. Sometimes you really need another person’s perspective to help you clarify your thoughts. But in the end, as you say, you know your own child best.

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  • I was in a similar situation in Victoria and a childhood expert suggested boys should start when they’re 5. My best guide was my son’s kinder teacher who said he was not on her radar as not being ready for school. That reinforced what we felt, and so he started primary school the next year. We’ve not looked back.


    • It’s great to have good teachers to turn to for advice and support. Makes all the difference.

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  • We started our son when he was 4 but he turned 5 in march. The main reason was he was bored with preschool and it was a fight to get him to go. He loves school and has done really well. the only thing that made us reget it was him being to young to join in some school sports until the next year.


    • That’s interesting and something I hadn’t considered. School sports age restrictions. Another thing to put into the mix!

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  • Emily, looks like you have found the best way for your daughter.

    Reply

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