Starting school: Is my youngest child ready?

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We’ve reached a strange milestone in this household. At four years and two months, Izzy, our youngest daughter, has just reached the age her older sister was when she started school. In other words, we’re preparing to jump on the ‘starting school’ roller coaster all over again.

For Mrs Adams and I, this has been a real eye-opener. It came up in conversation several times over the Christmas break.

Why so? Well, reaching this milestone shows just how different both our children are. If I’m honest, it also makes me feel a little uncomfortable that most kids in England start school at the age of four.

When Helen started school, she was ready for it, despite being one of the youngest in her school year. She was painting, mark making and had an extraordinary capacity to learn. Aided by some fantastic teachers (we have been very lucky with the teachers she has had) it’s a capacity that grown the longer she has spent in the education system.

Izzy is a completely different character to her sister. It’s only in the past couple of months she’s shown any interest in mark making or writing. She loves having stories read to her, but isn’t showing much interest in learning how to read.

Whereas Helen, from the youngest age, would ask about news and current affairs and listen intently as I tried to explain the most complex issues, Izzy shows no interest whatsoever. Conversely, however, you can parachute Izzy into a room full of strangers and she will make friends immediately. Helen, meanwhile, is more reserved.

One of my biggest concerns is that Izzy is once again having naps in the afternoon. This is something we phased out ages ago but we’ve had to re-introduce nap time as she was getting too tired and grumpy in the evenings.

I have heard this can be a big concern for parents who have children born in July or August. Their children, barely four years old, start school when they were used to having a nap and it comes as something as a shock to them.

While Izzy isn’t a summer baby, I have concerns about phasing the nap out again. I know we have months to do it, but that time will fly.

Will we send Izzy to school at the age of four? Yes, of course we will. In the hot-house environment of school, I suspect Izzy’s academic side will shine through.

Even so, I can’t help looking at my youngest and wondering if she is really going to be ready for it by September. I guess this is both a benefit and a curse of having been through this once already.

With Helen, we were naïve and blithely packed her off to school without too many concerns. Having seen the successes and struggles Helen had, I suppose it’s natural to worry a little more for Child Number Two.

There’s another way to look at this. Later this year my youngest child will start school. This will represent a huge change for the entire family, something I wrote about in this blog post. It begs the question: is your youngest child ever ready to start school?

I’ll have a go at answering that myself. The youngest child may be ready to go, but are the parents ready to send them?

11 thoughts on “Starting school: Is my youngest child ready?”

  1. We’ve been visiting our local schools over the past few months and it’s comforting to me how similar reception is to Tilly’s preschool. The days are longer, which is also of concern to us as she can struggle to get through full days without her being a grump. We’re trying out a full day a week at preschool to get her used to the format. 9 months is also a long time in the life of a 4 year old – a lot can change and they’ll probably surprise us come September.

    1. Oh yes, nine months is a very long time for a four year old. Nine months ago Izzy wasn’t having a nap! It’s wrong to think I have any major concerns, but we’ve been through this with our eldest child. We know what to expect second time around and whereas Helen is all about the learning, Izzy is much more about having fun.

  2. David Shaul - DadvWorld

    Scary isn’t it John. In some countries, usually the ones leading in terms of education stats, children don’t start school until they’re 6 or 7. Those countries feel the extra years at home and starting school at a more understanding age is beneficial. The stats would suggest as much also.

    I do think 4 is too young, especially if your child is one of the younger ones so literally is JUST 4!

    What I find really interesting is that you knew Helen was going to be alright, or at least take to the education system with relative ease. However Izzy being different to Helen in terms of learning style, is obviously causing a little more concern this time around…. That confirms for me that there is a clear issue with the education system. We parents should feel equally confident that our children, regardless of learning style, will slot straight into the system which should be styled to meet all the varied types of children they receive.

    Or maybe I’m over thinking it?!

    1. No, I don’t think you’re over thinking it. Reception was a lot more play focused than I appreciated and Helen has gone on to thrive. In fact, reception was possibly a little too easy for her in some respects.

      Izzy is just very different. Much shorter concentration span and much more outgoing. I think she will be fine, but when I look at her and compare her to her sister, I see a very different individual. As k me in a year how things have gone!

  3. Nice post, John. Our little Fidget started reception in September, so just commencing her second term. We had lots of reservations because of her age (she’ll be 5 at the end of March), but she settled quite quickly. We were lucky. Speaking to other parents and they battled getting their children through the school gate. We are blessed with her being at a good school with great staff and a teacher she adores. She still has her moments, but generally fits in well and her reading, writing and maths has come on in leaps and bounds. I think most of the nerves came from me. Fidget took it all in her stride. The resilience of a four year old. To her it was and adventure! I’m sure your daughter will settle in well and will have a great time.

    1. It’ll be interesting to see how Izzy settles in. She’s had four years of doing the school run with me so she knows a lot of the kids at school anyway. The environment is also familiar to her. All things considered, I think she will be absolutely fine but in many respects the two sisters are very different. We’ll just have to see how things go I guess!

  4. Having seen my only child off to school last September, I am still of mixed thoughts. She seems to be learning well, enjoying her classes and comes home with all kinds of new info, which she loves. She’s made friends and has fun. But she’s also young (5 in May) and much smaller than many of her classmates. We’ve had trouble with bigger children playing too boisterously with her and scaring her, with her being exhausted in the first term and this affected her being happy to leave me. The requirements that she can do up her coat without assistance, dressing in general and the ‘life skills’ that they require are where I think 4 is too young. It’s so much for them to remember and master, and I think people including the teachers, forget how young they are and how they develop differently.

  5. Generally I think a lot of parents overthink it. Most of us went to school as 4 year olds (maybe older 4yo given there were 2 intakes a year when I went) and few struggled. I guess we just hear more about the ones who struggle now.

    N (apart from the confidence and outgoing nature – he’s the opposite until he gets to know people) was like Izzy sounds. And being a boy probably magnified. He’d been at day nursery/nursery school since 11 months pretty much full time so the transition/socialising was fine, helped by him having cousins at the school and knowing half the year already. But he didn’t care about writing, reading, learning. He just wanted to play and that’s basically what he did. But he came out of reception having enjoyed school, settled in, doing lots of different lunchtime clubs, playing sports he never knew he liked, and knowing his phonics. It was a slog getting him to read his books, but having then gone into year 1 his reading level jumped over the summer (we did no reading during it). While he’d still rather play, or do physical learning, he was ready for school by miles, it sometimes just takes them time to find their exact place and focus. I find as long as you converse with the teacher, even just once a week at home time, it helps. (plus his teacher reads my blog, so any concerns I have he can mention to me and ward off any worries).

    Hope the next few months gives you some reassurance

    (Oh, the one bonus is, I run a school days linky you can linky up to if you ever write school themed posts lol!)

  6. I am absolutely terrified at the thought of Toby starting school in September, especially as he’s turns four on the 30th August. Yep, he’s the baby of the year. He’s also very immature for his age and doesn’t show much interest in things he “should” be doing. Having said that, his physical capabilities are that of a 6-7 year old, it’s incredible.

    He’s had problems with his hearing and speech which have been another setback and he’s now getting to the point (again) where he needs those afternoon naps; he is otherwise a very horrible child come 4.30pm but there’s going to be no avoiding it. We’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Who knows? School might actually be the best thing for him!

    1. Very best of luck. My eldest was one of the most physically advanced and academically advanced despite one of the youngest. Socially, however, I think it does show from time to time.

      For kids like Toby, the option of a January itake should be available. I don’t think it matters so much in later school years but in Recpetion those extra few months can make a huge difference.

  7. Pingback: Getting ready for school - Dad Blog UK

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