My little girl is 4.
She is bright, confident, resilient, caring and outgoing, her imagination and story telling are amongst the best I have come across for her age, she trots off happily in new environments to play with others, has been dry at night since she was two and chooses her own clothes and brushes her teeth each morning "all by herself".
Yet we have decided to delay her entry to school until a year later than all of her peers, when she will be five and 2 months entering reception year and this is why....
There are so many reasons why parents choose to defer or delay their child's entry to school but for me the main one can be summed up in two words; happiness and family.
That is not to say that children who start school in the system at the usual time won't be happy, but for me I know that I am making the right decision for my child.
As a reception teacher I know the slog that the first year has become, I understand what children are expected to be able to do by the end of their 60 months or when they reach their early learning goals at the end of reception and for me it is too much too soon.
I know that for my child, regardless of how bright she is and how willing to learn, the long days and tiring adult directed sessions will be a drain on her happiness.
Amelia, like all four year olds is busy exploring her environment and learning through play and I am very lucky to be at home with her and that I am able to give her that time that not all families are fortunate enough to have. Our learning at home does not look like classroom learning; we go to the zoo, walk the dog, paddle in the village river, we go kite flying, pond dipping, make perfume out of petals and sometimes just sometimes we stay in our pyjamas all day, make cookies and eat them in front of a movie, we even have days when we are bored, sleepy or lazy.
I know some amazing teachers and I work with many, I also know of some fantastic head teachers and schools but having worked in the system as an early years consultant and teacher for many years I also get that no matter how dedicated you are to play based learning and enriching opportunities for children in school it is impossible to provide this under the Ofsted criteria with the bar set so high. It is also not possible to provide a truly child led learning experience when you have 30 or more children in a class who must reach "age related" expectations in reading by the end of reception.
As a specialist phonics and reading teacher I can teach a child to read easily but if I am honest with myself, when teaching a class of children all at once to decode and encode words and to blend and segment sounds, am I encouraging a love of learning? Am I producing children who are future authors? Storytellers? I am not.
For too many teachers it has become about which children they can get there by the end of the year and which they cannot, what happens to those children? The ones that make it to age related, the ones that "succeed" or reach "expected" do they love learning? Are they imaginative?
Since making the decision to delay I have faced a lot of questions about Why? Why would I make this decision? Won't she be bored at school a year later? Wont she be bored at home with me? Will she feel odd? Different? Unsociable? Will she make friends?
The sad thing is that I can't help thinking that we have completed devalued parents, we have an amazing wealth of well meaning parents in this country who want to do the right thing for their children but aren't supported in the decision they make based on them knowing what is best for their child.
I actually listened to a program on local radio where it was suggested that children are better off at Nursery than at home with their families! Now I am not devaluing nursery settings or judging anyone that uses child care provision for their little one (we use the fantastic local forest school) but the expected path has become preschool then school nursery then reception class and too many parents are being told that if they deviate from this they are doing a disservice.
Well this is for anyone doubting that their child is benefitting from being at home with them. Family is important! Love, home, toys, playing, walks to the park, tickles, giggles, grandparents, books, trips to the library, museums, going on the train, staying in bed all day, eating pancakes and blowing bubbles are all important.
So whatever you choose for your child, whether you; privately educate, use a child minder, send them to nursery, stay at home with them, home educate, defer them for a year or send them to an alternative school - feel empowered to know that you know what is best for your family.
doing. Mum and dad guilt are here to stay but next time you hear someone taking a different path than you and you are tempted to ask why, just take a moment and consider that they know their child, every family is different and maybe just maybe they know what they are doing!