Are your children too young for structured education?

Social and emotional competency is crucial when determining school readiness.

As parents, our children’s education can be a very top priority in our planning. Perhaps it has been instilled in us that with a better education, our children will attain a more comfortable lifestyle in the future through highly qualified and well-paid job.

Thus, many parents believe that the sooner their children are being introduced to structured education, the better it is in terms of technical knowledge when they start school. Early education is seen as an advantage.

This was my belief, my ignorance and my biggest mistake! Please listen to what I have to share, and please listen to your gut. Trust your education provider when they tell you that your child is not ready for school. Believe me, it is not an insult; it is for your child's long term well being.

I started my young son in formal education as soon as I thought he was ready, despite the fact that the principal of his preschool, as well the his kindergarten, advised me otherwise. I thought to myself how could they understand my son better than I could… (how arrogant of me!)

How wrong I was! They really did understand my son – it was I who did not know what formal and structured education entails.

I sent my son to kindergarten, our first year in infant school in NSW, before he was ready.  His social and emotional skills were not yet developed at that time, and he was really struggling with the more structured environment and dealing with his peers. After seeing him struggle for 6 years, we eventually pulled him back one year from high school. All these actions were due to my ignorance as I mistook natural talent as school readiness.

Though it may not seem a lot of difference in primary schools’ settings, it will make a huge impact on your children's lives when they are in high school. High school is where major growth happens, where peer groups are formed and when teenagers are in the process of establishing their independence. This is when the foundation of who they are is in a way cemented, and their confidence and self-esteem at this time are very important.

Now I realised what I had missed and totally misunderstood. It was a very heart breaking experience watching one’s child struggle and trying  to fit in with their peers. I would not wish it on anyone else.

With 20 odd years of opportunities to observe and to share my children's experiences and journeys, I can comfortably say that your child's social and emotional competency is crucial when starting school. That competency is needed to enable them to truly enjoy and thrive at school, and to grow with confidence and self belief – that is the greatest asset you can ever bestow on your children.

Please listen to your teacher, and trust that they have your child's interest at heart. Send them to school ONLY when they are ready and not when you THINK they should go. This is a HUGE lesson I learned!