Starting School At Four: One Mum's Dilemma

The correct age to start a child at school is often a tough choice for a lot of parents

My son was a June baby and as soon as he turned 6 months I was told I should be putting his name down for national school. My choice of school posed no problems, (top of our road, good reputation and his daddy was a past pupil), they also had availability and on September 1st 2016 my little baby was destined for ‘big school’.  He would be four years and three months. 
As the start date grew closer we began talking about the all-important ‘first day’, I was excited for him. He too was excited as the ‘after schoolers’ in his crèche were top of the pecking order and in his little eyes, super heroes. He would point at his ‘big school’ as we passed it, asking ‘how many more sleeps?’
Since the haze of those new-born days I learnt to trust my gut when it came to parenting, relying less on the books and more on my own ever evolving instincts. However my ‘trust the gut’ mantra was about to be pushed to its limits.  As the familiar (and most unwelcome) sense of parental self-doubt resurfaced as well-meaning opinions and throwaway comments were hurled in my direction. Friends (and people generally) expressed their concern and dismay at my decision and what should’ve been a time of great excitement for my small family threw me into turmoil.
‘He’s starting school this September’? (Insert look of horror)  ‘You’re mad’! 
‘You should hold him back for another year?’ ‘You’ll regret it’
‘Is he ready socially’?
It went on and on and on.  My head and my gut were at war. 
Was I making a monumental mistake at this important milestone in my child’s life?
Trying to appease my doubt I turned to the internet (cause that’s always a good idea), and read articles and posts on the many boards and forums, they served no purpose but to grow my fears. So I decided to ask the experts, ask the people who knew my son nearly as well as I did and who had an understanding of his developmental needs both socially and academically.
I spoke with his Montessori teacher and it proved to be the best thing I ever did.  She took the time to show me his class work and to relay moments in his play and social settings where he clearly demonstrated the key characteristics which determine his suitability.  She also recommended we monitor him in the months leading up to September 1st.  I was also lucky to know of a primary school teacher whose children were in my son’s Montessori class.  She had seen my son on numerous social occasions, (birthday parties, etc) and she too played a key role in assuring me that he was ready and more than capable.  My gut was winning the war!
On the morning of September 1st 2016, the sound of children playing greeted us as we entered his new school yard.  My heart was in my mouth. 
‘Sam, Harry, Saedhb’, he squealed as he spotted his friends from Montessori.  His small hand tugged at mine, releasing him from my grip and as a baby bird takes flight I watched as my four year old son embraced his first day at school.  The lump rising in my throat gave way to a flood of welcomed emotions – pride, relief and joy. The gut was right all along.
As we made our way into the class-room, he quickly found a seat and turned his attention to the building blocks on the table. Seeing this as a cue to leave, I bent down to give him a kiss goodbye, ‘mammy will see you later, love’, have fun’. 
‘I will mammy’, he beamed, ‘bye’. He waved to me, his attention firmly on his building blocks.
Nearly two months on and those days of stress and worry seem so pointless. He’s a happy and settled little boy who enjoys his lunch time and break times and being that all important ‘after schooler’.
For parents who may find themselves in this situation next year my advice is to seek advice, real advice from the childcare professionals you have chosen to be in your child’s life. I also recommend that you listen to your gut, trust your gut, your gut knows!
 
Written by Alma Jordan. Alma is the founder of AgriKids. Check out her website here at www.agrikids.ieor like her on facebookand follow her twitter @agrikid
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