The ridiculous rules in this country don’t help parents whose child was born in the first half of the school year decide when to start their child at school, not one jot. Rather, the vague, unhelpful nature of the rules (and the accompanying law that agrees across the States that six is the age that children should have started school by) simply create huge debate and leave parents with the burden of trying to know the unknowable.
And I’m not just exasperated because trying to understand government regulations is hell, I’m fired up because my own experience proves to me that all the rules and regulations come to nought when a child is involved.
To send or not to send, that was the question
The research I undertook in preparation for my youngest starting school was extensive. I considered the stats, searched – a lot – and then drew up an extensive list of pros and cons.
My conclusion was that there appeared to be lots of pros to sending my NSW June baby when she would be five-and-a-half rather than four-and-a-half and very few cons. On the other hand, sending her at four-and-a-half – potentially up to eighteen months younger than the oldest starter in her class – had many cons and few pros throughout her schooling days.
But the story didn’t end there for me or for my daughter and my conclusion was premature. The real conclusion to the story is that as I researched and wrote and reflected, I learned something even more important than the facts and figures and statistics and historical research and forward projections.
I learned to look at and listen to my daughter today. Not a year from now, not ten years from now, just right now, just as she is.
And she is ready.
The hallways looked so big, and my little girl so small…
I stopped speculating and listened to my child
It was only in writing it all down and reading so many other people’s thoughtful, considered opinions that I realised how important this fact was. We were all there debating the ‘what if’ and I realised that in all the speculation, not once had we really considered the ‘what now’.
We can only ever know what’s right in front of us at any given time. All the rest is a maybe and a possibility and a could be. We decided that we didn’t want to wait around for all our speculations to either come true or not come true – we were going to act on the parameters that we had today. When we looked at those, there really was no question. Our daughter already had her school bag packed and ready to go, it was only her parents that were lagging behind.
A leap of faith
So, off she went on Friday and today and every other day for so long that I can’t quite bring myself to think about it. She went in with a smile and she returned with a smile and something else that looked a lot like pride and excitement. I knew the minute Lottie dropped my hand and smiled confidently in the direction of the classroom that she had no doubts, that the doubts were all mine. I also knew that those worries were going to ride alongside me every minute of her schooling. Signing her in early meant that I was signing myself up for the ‘is she too young? Did we do the right thing?’ doubts pinging back and forward for ages and ages.
But I was just going to have to learn to live with it poking at me, that was all. They are my doubts, my burden, not hers and – as these parent things so often are – probably nothing to do with her in the end.
Lottie is ready to go and that is all that matters and it’s in my best interest to catch up with her sooner rather than later. Age is just a number, not a scorer for capability nor contentment. This is probably why there are such huge State differences between recommendations of when to start and even then there is an eighteen month age range in many. It’s because every child is different and a number is not going to tell us any better.
Each and every one of us is an individual
This is also probably why it is almost impossible to truly know ‘what the best age is’, even for your individual child. Like parents whose kids are born in the later half of the year and hence are ‘just going’ the year after they turn five, we need to just send off our younger kids when their time comes around. We can’t know the best age, but we can absolutely expect the best, whatever age we send them.
So, there you have it – a rather philosophical conclusion in a debate obsessed with numbers. We can’t know the future, we can only know the present. Like Lottie, I need to learn to appreciate the moment and stop worrying about the future. Like her, I need to embrace what’s right in front of me and just get on with it. Make something the best, rather than spend all my time wondering about the best.