In Australia, we are powering towards the end of the year. The parents of children who are eligible for school start next year are starting to get anxious.
Some concerns of parents are:
- Which school? Am I getting it right?
- Is my child prepared for school?
- Can they do all the things they need to be able to do?
- Will they be with friends and/or make new friends?
- What should I do?
This is such a big transition in a child’s life. One of the biggest in fact. And yes – all those concerns are so valid. Because really – we have one chance to get it right. What happens from here, can be the catalyst and shaper of the next 13 years of a child’s schooling career.
There is a lot of information floating around the inter-webs these days, pointing to the many flaws of our education system. And different words of advice. Many of them citing research from around the world about what is the best solution for education.
What I want to do – is to acknowledge all that research – which points towards children being advantaged in many ways, by delaying the beginning of formalised learning until a child is seven years old. Yes, you heard right – SEVEN.
I’m currently watching our group of Kindergarten children, some of whom are turning five……. some of whom are not long past four! In six months, the majority of this group of children will be in a primary school setting. Facing a life of desks, and passive learning. They will be between four and a half, and five and a half years old. Their little bodies with still so much developing to do. Their brains with room to grow. So many of them not even physically developed enough to successfully execute what school expects. Their bodies still needing to move. Neural pathways still being developed. Emotional regulation still being established. But they will be expected to have it all together – all their ducks in a row, so to speak.
So what am I getting at here? What do I advocate? Well, aside of all those very good developmental reasons – there is one more that we rarely hear about. What about joy? The joy of an extra year of childhood. An extra year to get it all together. Imagine that! The gift of a whole year. 365 days more to play and discover the world around you with no academic agenda. All that time for little bodies and brains to further develop. At four or five years old – a year is a lifetime.
I’ve watched closely, children whose parents have opted to give them this gift. And I’ve been delighted to observe little humans just that little bit more ready for what school has in store for them. Actually – a LOT more ready. Their executive function is firing on all cylinders. They are far more ready and resilient. The are bigger and stronger in every way. AND, they’ve had a whole extra year of childhood to make wonderful memories.
What if our whole world opted to delay that school entry? What if every child received the gift of another year of childhood? I can’t begin to describe the difference this would make. Instead of being bombarded with figures of record numbers of children being expelled from school, and concerning NAPLAN test results, we might see figures of children excelling in ways we haven’t seen before.
Of course, I will continue to advocate for changes to our schooling system. Because I believe this too has much to be held accountable for. I’ve heard that it takes 40 years for changes to a system like this to take place. Far too long for our children right here, right now. And many to come.
So, while we are taking the next 40 years to make the changes that will serve our race – let’s think about the small steps we can take. And one of those, is to stop pushdown of formal academic learning on our little people. To give them another year. To let them be children………. for just a little bit longer.