Making A Decision In The Early Years
There will always be differences from child to child, especially when they are between 3 and 5 yrs old. Some will be more advanced in their ability to read or draw, others will have a firm grasp on the appropriate social interaction of their peer group while some will out-run and out-climb every other child in the vicinity. Comparisons can be dangerous and as a parent, it can send you wild with worry, actually, it can completely do your head in.
Some comparisons need to be made, however, and the Kindy and Pre-Prep teachers have their work cut out for them making sure each and every one of these mini-whirlwinds of energy can meet the standards required for their entry into Prep or the foundation year of schooling.
Here in Queensland, it is up to the parents to decide if they wish to delay their child’s entry to pre-prep by one year, or repeat that year, therefore delaying entry into Prep. Though you don’t have to, it is probably best to speak to the principal at your intended primary school, to ensure they understand your decision and that they agree for your child to then attend prep as late entry rather than going straight to grade 1. This is a call the principal can make, depending on the student’s aptitude and abilities. Talk to them, it can save lots of stress at the start of schooling, goodness knows you and your child don’t need any more of that!
This is where my personal interest in this topic comes into play.
I’ll be honest with you (at risk of sounding a complete jerk) that when I heard of parents repeating their child’s pre-prep year instead of advancing to prep, I wondered what that child could possibly have failed at? Fingerpainting? Story Time? I was an oblivious (non-parent actually) bystander throwing judgement that early schooling was playtime and didn’t matter anyway in the big scheme of things, so why bother repeating the year? I had no inkling that personal, social, emotional and physical development was a major factor at this time of their growing up!
As a parent of a child now attending their second (repeat) year of pre-prep, I look back on my previous jerk-self and know that it was merely my lack of experience. When you don’t have a child at all or one who requires some extra time to deal with all the crazy big emotions that come with growing up, it can obviously be hard to empathise with the needs of those children. Luckily, we have those wonderful pre-prep teachers who are very well educated in the needs of little people and are experts at spotting the ones that just need a little bit more time to develop their set of base skills before they set off into the big and very exciting world that is primary school.
That is exactly what is happening for our lucky firstborn. Our big boy has his birthday each year at the end of June, same date each time too, makes it nice and easy for me to remember it, bless him, but it also puts him at the end of the year age-wise. At the beginning of his first year of pre-prep, he was three and a half and I wasn’t worried that he was the second youngest in the class. By the last semester of that year, I was plenty concerned.
I wasn’t so much worried that he’d be starting prep at four and a half, or that there were kids in his class that were a whole year minus a few days or weeks, older than him (someone has to be the youngest and oldest), I was worried because he didn’t seem ready emotionally. He also didn’t have the social skills needed to help him stand up for himself at playtime. If a toy was taken from him, he would just shut down, look at his feet and drop his bottom lip until his teacher gave him the words he needed to use to address the situation. He was an easy bully target. Our beautiful boy has always been sensitive, kind-hearted, non-violent (except when he was just over two, I’m pretty sure he tried to cuddle-strangle a friend) and easily overwhelmed by loud noises (motorbikes excepted) and crowded situations. He has a few quirks, as we all do, that can make otherwise normal situations way too much for him to handle. He moves through these quirky stages as he develops and grows which gives us great hope for his confidence levels when he does enter primary schooling.
A small list of things such as upper body strength (needed to sit at desks and be at school 5 days a week), fine motor skills for writing, the pronunciation of some sounds when speaking, the emo stuff, all added up to us making the decision to repeat his pre-prep year. A decision that was happily and wholeheartedly supported by his teachers and not just because he’s super cute and funny either. They know he needs this time to develop, to learn to handle his big feelings, use his words appropriately and most of all, to get to know how confident and capable he can be. I’m seeing these changes start to happen already.
So, he’ll be five and a half when he begins prep next year, the same age as some of the kids, a bit older than some others, again the same as there is every year. Yes, we’re hoping he’ll learn to be a leader and yes, we’d love it if he has little trouble with his school work, but no, we’re not trying to give him an advantage over other children or make other parents think they’ve not done that for their child. We’re just trying to give him an even starting place to jump off from with the other kids, to try to avoid having him fall behind academically and not cope with school pressures because of social or emotional immaturity.
That’s the best thing for our little guy’s educational future that we can do right now.