Why I acknowledge now that I probably sent my child to school too early
When I started primary school – waaaaay back in September 1988 – it was normal enough for kids to be aged four or occasionally a just-turned older-and-wiser five.
As a November baby, I was a straightforward. However, some of my classmates were of the more complicated summer variety and therefore could either be old or young for their year, dependent on the preferences of their parents.
Thirty years on, there is a conscious effort to try and get kids to go to school that bit later. And for good reason too; Irish children tend to start education at an earlier age than their fellow Europeans despite a whole host of studies and research indicating that waiting does wonders for a child’s wellbeing.
In short, it pays dividends to delay.
In Finland, for example, you’re packed-off to school aged seven (there is also an optional pre-school year at six) – and that country has what is repeatedly lauded as the best in the world.
Changes to Ireland’s ECCE scheme were made in the last governmental Budget to give parents increased free childcare hours for their four- and five-year-olds. Many more schools now implement strict access cut-off points – pushing spring babies into the following year when they’re that bit older.
My daughter, Giulia, was born on April 18, 2013. She went to school last September aged four-and-a bit.
And I acknowledge now that that was probably too young. Indeed, most parents I know with March, April, or May ’13 kids have waited out.
Now, I increasingly see all the advantages of holding-off, and not too many for ploughing ahead.
I understand that in reality, a lot of parents are eager to get their little ones off to school as quickly as possible because childcare is so expensive in Ireland: the possibility of scrapping a €1,000-a-month crèche fee is understandably pretty tempting.
But as a mum with a child who’s the second youngest in her class, I probably should have waited. It’s a sentiment I shared recently on Twitter – with one fellow parent suggesting in response that I hold her back a year. That’s a possibility, however, it also seems extreme.
So instead I focus on the fact that Giulia is smart, confident among her peers, and capable.
I’m sure she’ll fare just fine in the grander scheme of the 14 years of her primary and post-primary education.
But if I could do it all again, then I would have waited… sky-high crèche fees and all.