At what age should I send my child to school?

When is the right time to send your child to school, asks EIMEAR HUTCHINSON? As a mum of four, here she shares some advice for people trying to make that decision this summer
At what age should I send my child to school?

At what age should you send your child to school? It’s a question many parents have to consider. Picture: Stock

NOT all parents will come up against the dilemma of wondering what age to send their child to school at.

I think parents of children born between January and maybe April are probably the ones that find it trickiest. That said, for many, the answer is quite clear in that you know whether your child is ready or not.

Our oldest girl started school when she was four and a half, her birthday is in March, and at the time it was the first year that the second year of free pre-school was coming in. So, there were some parents sending their children to school at that age and some holding off for a year. She was our first, so we went with what her pre-school teacher advised and what we thought was the right thing by her too.

In hindsight, intellect is far from the only thing you need to consider when sending a child to school if they are that little bit younger. 

It seems like less of a thing now, most people hold onto their kids for that extra year — we did with our second lady, who turned five in the April she started school, and for her that was absolutely the right choice.

If you are considering sending your child to school that little bit younger than others (and I’m not here to say whether that is right or wrong!) here are a few other things worth considering that may not cross your mind.

Extracurricular activities are obviously mostly age-based and for us living in a small village that does not really matter hugely when say, for example, U9 and U10 train together. My lady is U9 but all her friends from her class are U10 and for the most part it is not an issue, but it does serve as a bit of a blow when there is, for example, an U10 match only, and she is left out.

Look, is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, it opens your child up to more friends their own age regardless of what class they are in and that is never a bad thing, if anything it widens their social circle but, as many will know, children don’t always see it that way.

Energy was probably one of the biggest things we noticed with our lady, predominantly in the first two years. It has certainly evened out now but for the first two years it was a struggle. The days are long for a small child in school, and intense, they take on so much in the first few years of school, from learning how to read and write and also playground politics, so it is understandably exhausting, but less so obviously the older they are.

There aren’t as many milestones when they get out of the baby and toddler stage, but losing teeth is certainly one that comes in the first few years. 

It is not a big issue in the greater scheme of things, but it sets the scene for later on when they hit puberty. 

Now, it’s not something you can pre-empt either and every teenager hits puberty at different times so it may not ever be an issue, but we all know what teenagers are like and being the last to do anything can be a challenge. And for many it won’t faze them or it won’t be an issue, but it has the potential to be one.

Moving further along the lines into teenage years, as much as I would like to wrap my girls in bubble wrap and never let them into a pub or club, it is pretty much inevitable. My lady has good friends that are over a year older than her, so there is going to be a year when she is 17 that all her friends are going out and she can’t.

I know a year isn’t long in the greater scheme of things, but most of us adults will remember those days pretty fondly so missing out on them won’t be easy. That is to say some teenagers will not have any interest in going out to pubs, but who knows when they are four or five? So it is something else to consider.

If I had my time back, would I change our decision to send our lady at four and a half? Absolutely not. She is going into fourth class now and while there are some milestones to get through yet, so far she is thriving. She is the eldest, like I said, so she naturally tends to gravitate towards older children, and it suits her to be in with children who are slightly older than her.

However, there are probably many that would argue that at the end of the day it’s no harm to hold them back in pre-school for that extra year. There is no reason not to hold them back regardless of how eager they are to learn how to read and write, it will stand to them in the long run, but hopefully this article was food for thought for those who are in the position to be wondering.

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