'I have no regrets about sending my son to school at age four'

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 Photo: Sally Anscombe

There are many arguments you can get in as a parent.

C-section vs vaginal birth, breast vs bottle, cry it out vs co-sleeping. The list is endless. And as the kids get older the list doesn't stop.

One of the most contentious parenting issues debated at this time of year, every single year, is whether or not you should send your child 'early' to school or hold them back and send them 'late'.

Everywhere I read "it's better to hold them back, especially boys."

I have a lot of teacher friends and I know this is the general consensus but I struggle with the fact that most teachers fight against standardised testing and the educational department's 'one-size-fits-all' approach but then hypocritically say similar things by lumping all children in the "you should always hold them back" category.

Yes, for some kids four is too young for full time school. That is true. But it is no less true that some six year olds are bored out of their brains with the work offered in kindergarten (NSW schooling system).  

I sent my son 'early', but I really hate having to call it that. It wasn't early at all, not for him. He was ready. And he was four. 

I wanted to tell our story because I hear so many parents struggling with the decision and more often than not it's this one-size-fits-all 'everyone should be held back' approach that is hindering their decision making process.  

In the end we went with what our guts were telling us. We sent him. He started 'big school' at four years of age. He turned five after six weeks of Kindergarten and we haven't looked back.

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After term one we had a parent-teacher interview and I only had one question for her.

"Did we do the right thing?"

Her response told me what I already knew in my heart of hearts was true.

"Absolutely, he was more than ready. He'd have been bored if you held him back for next year."

And with that, I knew to stop questioning myself as a parent. I had known he was ready but I'd let everyone else, and their opinions, weigh on my shoulders.

I don't think all kids should be sent early. I really don't. But I do think when making the decision parents should judge it on their child, their child's needs, their child's academic levels and their child's individual traits. Not simply on a number.

For so many the 'they aren't socially ready' is a big reason for holding kids back. My son is shy. He was when he was four years old and he still is now; going into year three at seven years old. 

My son, for many, was in this category of being not socially ready but as his mother I knew that would not change in 12 months. He was just like me as a child. He was shy and reserved and holding him back when he was ready in every other way would have been a hindrance to him, not a help. There would have been unnecessary pressure on him to 'come out of his shell'. A shell that, three years later, is still very much intact. He just isn't the outgoing centre-of-attention type child my other son is.

Academically he was ready. No he wasn't reading novels or doing maths sums, but neither was my other son before school and he, who, as an October baby, was going to be sent to school at five regardless. My older son was simply ready in the fact that he was willing to listen to instructions, take in what the teacher was teaching and attempt the work he was given. You don't have to be a genius to be academically ready for school, just simply ready to learn.

At the time I worried about whether I'd done the right thing in sending him. Anyone and everyone told me I was doing him an injustice. 

Some even commented that he wouldn't be 18 in year 12, or at schoolies. I politely told them the legality of him drinking in his final year of school or at end of year celebrations was the furthest thing on my radar of issues I considered when deciding whether to send my son to school or not.

After a year of school my son ended up getting the all round academic award for his class. He was the youngest, or close to it, out of 21 kids.  

Kids like my son who crave structure and knowledge and have a love of learning. Those kinds of kids are the ones who will fill the classrooms at four and you won't even notice they are younger until you go to a birthday party and get the wrong card.

For the parents still sitting on the cusp, wondering what to do. I truly believe you will know what's right for your child. Maybe they are ready and maybe they most definitely aren't. As their parent you will know. Not you neighbour or a friend or a grandparent. You see them each and every day and you know what they are capable of. 

I knew my son was ready to go to school at four and I don't regret sending him for one second.  

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