At what age should my child start school?


On a public forum, someone recently asked the question: "At what age should my child start school?" Many parents wonder about this: Is their child ready? Is early school needed? If so, for what reasons? Is school needed for proper brain development and if yes, at what age should they enroll?

shara mommy perksHere's the response I gave:

It depends on the child and your situation. Some parents really enjoy keeping kids home and teaching them there before sending them off to be in school for the remainder of their youth. Other parents need to work and so entering a child in preschool (or Childcare) becomes a 'need' for them.

I have three children of my own. I've worked with kids for 23+ years (ages birth - 13) and was a nanny for 16+ years. Some children do great at home until they enter elementary school while others really need the social setting of preschool or even Childcare. More over, many kids need the reading instruction and play time if they are not receiving that at home.

My eldest son wanted to attend school as early as possible. He LOVED making friends and learning. I had taught him a lot at home but he wanted a teacher and friends. He's in grade 6 now but is given the work of the grade 8 students. He still loves to learn and was reading by age two (at home with me). For him, early school was simply about the social environment and making some buddies.

My daughter is the same - she wants to attend school NOW (age three). We tried to enroll her in preschool but the school turned her down (they can only accept Special Needs children at this time). So we'll continue working with her at home and sending her to a friend for Childcare 2-3 mornings each week (just so she gets the social interaction that she is craving).

Our 2-year-old is also very social and will most likely want to attend school early. If it's possible, he'll go. If not, we'll keep him home and teach him here, just as we've done with the other two.

Every family situation is different. Some parents want to send a child to school early because there isn't enough food at home, and at school, the child can eat for free.

Do what's best for your family and your child. If you are always putting their needs first, you can't go wrong! ;-)


ABOUT the Author:

Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks. She has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.


#5 Suzanne 2011-08-16 21:14
Each child is different as you said some crave socialization more than others and are ready for school and new friends at an earlier age. Others crave learning and seem to be able to adapt easily to the social demands of a school as long as they get to learn. And most classrooms offer a plethora of learning materials, from books to games and everything in between. I agree with Leah as a parent our instincts usually will give us a pretty good idea of how well they will fare in a school environment. I think sometimes it is much harder for a mother to accept her child's first sign of independence and she will resist and find excuses to stall the arrival of the inevitable separation. Despite this I still think the child's parents mother or father (or both) is the best judge of how well they will cope in this new life challenge
#4 Leah 2011-08-16 20:23
Ginger - When our son was in his 3rd yr of Preschool, there was a boy who could've started kindergarten (age wise), but they chose to send him to the pre-K program and I thought they were so smart to do that. Their son loved this classroom, his friends, teacher etc. he was ready for Kindergarten in the fall and I thought they made the perfect decision for their son. I applaud you for your decision. Bravo!!
#3 Ginger 2011-08-16 16:49
We've recently had to make this decision for our 5 yr old and not one that we made lightly. He's an only child & we had him later in life so he hasn't had much socializing with peers. On top of that, the scholastic demands these days took us by surprise. GEEZ, who knew?! We've opted to send him to a Pre-K5 class this year to help him adjust & get ready for school. He's thrilled to be starting his class next week. I'm thrilled we have options to choose from. Yes, we've received some interesting commentary (supportive & critical). The bottom line is, THIS IS MY CHILD. We'll handle the decisions for him. No one knows him like I do. Yes, my son will be 6 yrs old when he starts kindergarten. That's ok. I dare anyone to challenge our decision. MY CHILD's future & overall well-being is my top priority! I don't give a hoot what anyone else says or thinks. My son thrives because we do our best to make decisions based on his needs. End of story!
#2 Leah 2011-08-16 13:59
I believe that parents are the best judges for when their children are ready for school. Some parents are uncomfortable making those decisions thinking that there is a definitive answer - which is not the case. Each child is different.

I have 2 very outgoing boys who crave the socialization and learning environment of preschool. The oldest son (age 7) attended preschool for 3 years and loved each and every moment of it - there were never any tears, just super excited to go and play with his friends and be in a real school.

The second son is starting preschool this week. In fact, we went to visit his classroom today. He is really looking forward to having his own friends and meeting his teacher, so I can only guess that his experience will be positive as well.

For my boys the answer was easy - I trusted my gut feeling about school and am so glad that I did.
#1 Sandy 2011-08-16 13:07
This was helpful, thanks. I realize you were simply replying to a forum question and not writing an "article" per say, but I found your advice wise.

Some sites tell parents an exact age, as though parents shouldn't be trusted to weigh the pros and cons. I appreciate that you are telling parents to think through their options and to make the best choice for THEIR family and child. Since all kids are so different, not all of them have the same school needs! Very true.

Thanks for not "talking down" to your readers or assuming that we need to be told how to think ;-)

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