About the time I started writing my Kidsplaynz blog, I was also starting on a journey of finding out about alternatives to starting school at five years of age. The idea of children still starting school at five years has plagued me for so long, and especially since I have discovered the wonderful world of play, loose parts, homeschooling and unschooling. It’s led me down paths I would have never even thought about; it has made question everything I have previously learnt about learning and it has opened me up to a whole new world of ideas and peoples philosophies.
However, although I have changed and my mind has been opened, I forget that the rest of the world has not and New Zealanders are still very much programmed to think the day our children turn five they should be off to school. So much so that some children will have their birthday on a Tuesday at Kindergarten and Wednesday they are sitting in the school classroom. Do parents not think that maybe it would be good to give their children a week off to transition? As adults, most of us do that when we change jobs or go on maternity leave etc. It’s a big transition going from usually a very nurturing environment to the school system.
One of the things I have learnt very quickly is that going against society makes others upset. I have never really been a person to conform, but I think I have always gone about it quietly, I have never made loud statements, or dressed differently, had blue hair, tattoos and piercing that “say hey look at me, I think differently to the rest of you”. So in a way to feel judged all the time or have people think you are judging them because you are going against the grain is a new experience and it gets tiring. But also it makes me question myself and my beliefs constantly. Conversations will usually start with someone asking us “What school are you sending Alex to?” and then me saying “I don’t think I will start Alex in school until he is 6 years old” and generally people will give you that look…”Oh, you are one of those people!” they then quickly go on to say how they could never hold their child back and that they are quite ready for school and how they have been able to say their ABC’s since they were 3.5 and they can write their name backwards, you get where I am going with this.
The thing is I don’t question that Alex would fit into school at 5 years of age and follow along like every other 5 years old. What I question is, while he would sit in school for 6 hours a day, what is he missing out on? What is he missing by not being able to play all day at Kindy and what would he be missing out on at home with us his family? Answering that question makes the decision easier, I know well and truly he will be learning more life skills in an extra year out of school than in school.
I am writing this blog this week because I have cemented my decision in myself, it has been a hard one as you see above, going against the grain of society is way up there, but I found that talking to a few people who have been there and done that and had no regrets, has confirmed that parenting with your heart is alway the best option.
I also wanted to write this in case one other person who reads this is struggling with the idea and is lost and needs to have their thoughts confirmed may do so.
I am fairly blessed to have a supportive family, who I have been able to openly talk through the process, they have read the books and the research, they have asked questions and made me think about the pros and cons. I have a supportive Kindy environment who encourage parents to keep their children in Kindergarten until they are 6 years of age, so I know Alex will be happy in that environment after his 5th Birthday.
I think as parents and teachers we need to get past the competition and pressure we place on our children in all aspects of life from education to extra curricular activities, learning is not a race nor a competition with the next person. Learning is a personal journey and one you want your children to enjoy.
Further reading and Pod casts: