The dilemma

I recently had to make a tough decision: send my youngest to school at four and a half, or leave it another year and send him at five and a half. There were pros and cons to both options, but in the end, I decided to keep him another year at nursery.
I've always felt four and a half was very young to spend a full day at school, especially now when the primary ones are "thrown in at the deep end", from day two (the initial half days are now a thing of the past). My eldest, unfortunately was starting primary school when this new system was introduced, and going from 2.5 hours of nursery to a full day of school was actually quite traumatic for him, (not to mention myself, left holding back the tears in the playground as he was peeled off me and went into school crying his heart out). My youngest is certainly a different child altogether from his elder brother, but my bad experience was definitely preying on my mind as I weighed up my options.
My son is certainly ready for school in terms of learning; he knows his colours, shapes, can count to 20, and is starting to become interested in recognising letters and shapes. Alex is also incredibly independent, frustratingly so at times (we are often the last to leave nursery as he insists on putting on his own boots, jacket, gloves etc). However, those skills do not necessarily equate to being mature enough to sit in a classroom all day focusing on lessons. Alex can be guilty of major strops if he does not get his own way, or is frustrated when he can't do something...not good attributes for starting school.
My decision to defer my son's school entry really came during the school Christmas holidays. I have my two boys, and a year and a half ago my husband and I became the guardians of our two nieces. Alex went from being the youngest of two, to the youngest of four overnight. The holidays made me realise how much of an adjustment that has been for him. Alex was becoming increasingly loud and frustrated as the days went on, and near the end of the two weeks, said to me "mummy, I like it when it's just you and me". I became aware of how much he needed some individual time with me, and when the other three are at school, that really is quality time for the two of us, before the homework, dinner, after school clubs, bath, bed routine every afternoon. I decided it wouldn't be fair to send him to school; then he would be competing against older children not only at home, but also at school.
Parents who have children turning four round about now, will undoubtedly have been struggling with this difficult decision. I would be interested to know how many are sending their children, and how many have chosen to defer entry.

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Craig (

Craig ( on Wed, March 26, 2014, commented:

Since children vary, so vastly, in their maturity at this age, I don't think there is any "one fits all" answer. My daughter was ready for school at four and a half. I, personally, was not. Kindergarden was really stressful for me at age five and half. Honestly, I think I would have been better home schooled until about age nine! But, by about sixth grade, I was ready to be "institutionalized." By junior high, I really enjoyed pubic school and probably would have been held-back by home school. This is where it helps a parent to be a bit of a child psychologist Even then, what you know about your child this year may not be true next year!

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Carolyn Mandache

Posted by Carolyn Mandache

on Sun, January 20, 2013