Education Education Education

27 Apr

At what age should you start school?  When should the freedom of digging in the sand, stories on Mummy’s lap and hours spent playing with trains end?  In Germany it’s at seven that you move from Kindergarten to formal learning.  In Scandinavia it’s a similar age, with the added bonus of school only in the mornings.  My youngest child will be 4 on 27th July.  He’ll start full time ‘big’ school with his brother and sister just over a month later.

I was chatting on Twitter with Paula about this the other day.  She is in the same position as me of having her youngest child, a summer baby, also starting school in September.  I jokingly said that our round the world trip was planned entirely so that Dickon would miss most of his first year of school, to put off the moment when I finally let go of my children’s infancy, their long days at home.

But I wasn’t really joking.  OK, so the reason for taking our trip does not entirely pivot around one child’s schooling.  However, the timing of it, and a strong desire to hold onto my children a little longer, to have them with me for more of their childhood, they were key reasons for embarking on this undertaking.

Our children go to a very good school, which they enjoy and we are happy with.  But I wish they had more time at home.  That we had more flexibility.  If it’s a sunny day, we can’t just hop on a train to the seaside to spend the day poking about in rock pools, if they feel like reading all day, it’s not an option.  I realise that it’s disruptive for schools if children do not attend regularly.  And I know that I am not cut out for full-time home schooling.  I don’t think my patience or the kitchen floor could take the mess and chaos that would ensue.  But I do wish that we all had more time together, that I didn’t feel that other people are getting the best of my children.

And I particularly wish that my baby, my little baby, who I held in my arms as a newborn such a short time ago, could stay with me a little longer.  So I’ve concocted a plan.  It involves three continents, nine countries and five backpacks.  How I’ll cope when we come back, I have no idea.

If any politicians could give me the answer to that, I’ll happily vote for them.


This blog post is sponsored by Giraffe Preschools.


31 Responses to “Education Education Education”

  1. angelsandurchinsblog 27/04/2010 at 10:23 am #

    I’ve a summer baby too, and another on the way, and school will start way too early for both of them. Reception is an extension of kindergarten, or at least it seems to be at our school, but it really seems to ramp up after that. But it’s a long day, even for a child nearly 12 months older than mine will be when they start. Think I might disappear too, when the time comes!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 10:40 am #

      In our school reception is also very relaxed, but they still start formal schooling. They learn to read and do maths. And while I’m not necessarily against that, the fact that the school has targets to meet, means that if a child isn’t ready, they still have to do it.

  2. Peabee72 27/04/2010 at 10:34 am #

    Argh! I know exactly how you feel, but am in a permanent quandary about it. I see how much mine get out of Pre School and being a WAHM I undoubtedly benefit from them being there as well. But with Pre School I feel that I have a choice, that taking them out for the odd day is perfectly acceptable. Starting school removes that choice and I don’t like it either. I’m all for a later starting age, or maybe a 4 day school week? Is it too late to start our own political party? x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 10:42 am #

      Same here. I like having time to myself and the opportunity to do some work. And I realise that long holidays can be an issue for parents who work away from home. But if it was formalised, such as a four day week, then surely something could be worked out.

  3. christinemosler 27/04/2010 at 10:35 am #

    OH and I have pulled our hair out over this one as each of ours has approached school age. Bonus Boy goes in September too and I’m not finished with him yet! It is too late for us to roam now with the eldest starting his GCSEs but we are aiming to free ourselves from work for as much of the holidays as possible each year so when we get a boat again we can really enjoy it. School sucks them in but we have tried to make sure that the time they are with us is not just time when they are not at school . I so admire you for taking off and doing it while you can!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 10:44 am #

      I think longer holidays would make me feel better. It’s so lovely to have those days when anything could happen, when you don’t have to be tied to a schedule. I’m very jealous of the boat!

  4. TheMadHouse 27/04/2010 at 10:46 am #

    Summer baby here too, we will all be sobbing with each other come September. Mini loves Preschool an d I am hoping he gets the same teacher as Maxi has now, as she is so play focused.

    I am determed to make sure that that school know that he doesnt have to be there until he is 5 and that there will be days when he just wont manage it.

    After the really hard transition of Preschool, I am keen to make “Big” school less of a move for him.

    He really wants to go and be like his big bro, it is me that is reticent

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 10:50 am #

      Same here, it’s me that has the problem with it. Dickon is a very sociable little person, who talks really well, and happily gets on with whatever is thrown at him. I feel that just because he’s ready, it doesn’t make it right.

  5. cartside 27/04/2010 at 1:35 pm #

    I only found out a year ago that children in England may start just after their 4th birthday. It’s something I don’t get. It’s a bit better in Scotland, with 4 1/2 being the youngest and the option of waiting for another year. And all this pressure to learn letters and numbers from age 2 – I mean, i learned to read when I was 7 for goodness sake and has it done me any harm? (hope not anyway). My daughter is lucky in that she missed the early entry by 3 weeks, so she’ll be the oldest in her year with 5 1/2. the oldest. I shake my head.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:19 pm #

      Oddly, my middle child is a September baby, so he and his little brother are only one school year apart. They are so dramatically different in their development, that it really highlights the iniquities of the system.

  6. MummyMatters 27/04/2010 at 3:04 pm #

    I would love to take my family on a “round the world trip” and see all that there is out there. I’ve always said its such a big world why stay in one place but this is never an option for me. My stepson is 9yrs old, my daugther nearly 2 and next baby is on the way. The problem is we could never go without my stepson and there is no way his Mum would let him go so i has to stay as a dream! Have a fantastic time x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:20 pm #

      thank you!

  7. Iota 27/04/2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Here in the US, Kindergarten starts at 5/6. But there is flexibility, so for example, you could choose to hold your child back a year, instead of starting at 5 nearly 6, he could start at 6 nearly 7. In some areas, Kindergarten is still half-day (though that is dying out).

    I don’t know why the system has to be so rigid in the UK. The cut-off is very inflexible.

  8. ladyblahblahs 27/04/2010 at 5:21 pm #

    My daughter is a few months younger than your son, so she will be going to school a few weeks before she’s five rather than a few weeks after she’s four. Lots of her friends are going this year, and I nearly had a heart attack when I realised that if she’d been born 7 weeks early, she would be too. She’s no where near ready. Or I’m no where near ready anyway!

    When she gets her school place, I’m thinking of asking if I can flexi-school for the reception year. I don’t know much about it yet (too scared to look into it in case I find out it’s a pipe dream) but I’m hoping that she can either do half days (mornings) at school and afternoons doing stuff with me, or 3 days a week at school and 2 with me. It’s not that I don’t think she’ll cope with the academic side, it’s more that I think that being out there in the world is important at this age, and from what I hear, full time school is pretty knackering at their age. As you say, it’s great to just be able to go along with what they want to do to some extent.

    We’re planning on leaving London this summer, so I’ve been doing London attractions with her one day a week and it’s been great fun, and it’s been really good for our relationship to learn together.

    My sister has a son who is six months older than my daughter, and because they live in Australia, he won’t start school until nearly a year later. They can actually chose there when they start at rising 5 or rising 6. The pre-school have recommended rising 6 for him because they don’t think he is emotionally ready for school. I think that seems like a sensible way to do it.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:22 pm #

      I don’t know if it’s different where you are planning to live than here in London, but they are really quite inflexible. They have to take a register twice a day, which is then passed to the council. If they have a lot of absences, the school gets in trouble.

      • ladyblahblahs 27/04/2010 at 9:32 pm #

        This is what I’m worried about. We’re in LB Richmond at the moment, and imo they should consider themselves lucky if someone offers to take on some of the education themselves since it’s nigh on impossible to get a place locally! We’re planning on moving to Brighton (cliche!) where schools are also over-subscribed, so I suspect it will all be a pipedream after all. Shame 😦

        I just hope she copes better than I fear, she adapted very well to nursery so it’s probably just me wanting to baby her a wee bit longer…

        • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 28/04/2010 at 8:09 am #

          Did you see Grit’s comment below? It may be of interest…

  9. suburbanmummyuk 27/04/2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I toyed with the idea of home-schooling but can’t bear the thought of my kids not having that social interaction. I was unschooled and have major social anxiety growing up. My kids are already extremely social and have a great network of buddies. My eldest starts school also in September. She’s ready to learn no doubt. Ready to be away from mummy 6+hours a day 5 days a week. Most definitely not. Had we stayed living in Australia she wouldn’t be starting until 2011/12 they start them at 5 there.
    I also toyed with the idea of keeping her off a year but really I think it will do her the world of good and TBH I can’t keep up with her thirst for maths and the human body much more lol

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:23 pm #

      I’ve sort of toyed with homeschooling, but I know I couldn’t do it long term. I’m really looking forward to having a go at it for nine months, seeing how it works for us. No doubt I’ll be gagging to get them back to school at the end!

  10. kailexness 27/04/2010 at 6:49 pm #

    When I started school, being a November child I was straight in to full time hours which was fine, my step sister being a April child started in the class next to me for mornings only for the first term. I think there was a lot of merit in that system or even a two intake system with the younger children starting later in the year.

    My daughter starts school in Sept 2011, shes a bright spark, she will be fine too but I worry about my son who is 19 months younger just turned 2, having to start school in sept 2012, as boys can be he is quick physically but not vocally, his sister often talks for him (which we try and discourage but…) I wish there was a way I could keep him at home as long or longer than she will have had 😦

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:25 pm #

      They do change a lot over the next two years, so he may surprise you. I know that my three year old will cope fine. I just wish he didn’t have to.

  11. Deer Baby 27/04/2010 at 7:49 pm #

    Great debate Victoria! I have two Christmas babies (yes I know) so he is the eldest in his intake. He was definitely ready for school but some of the little ones were so not. If I’d had a summer baby I’m sure I would have wanted to keep him home a bit longer. I agree – what they learn at home is so vital, the benefits of play are so huge, that to put them in an environment where it’s all about reading and writing so early just seems premature. I think what you’re doing with your world trip will be fantastic for them educationally.

    When I saw the tweets the other day between you and Tara I thought – oh my god that’s going to be me next year – but with secondary schools. It is a minefield. I don’t know what the Tories are playing with with this idea of parents setting up their own schools led by Toby Young and all. I really can’t see it working. I can see why they want to, but I’d rather the parties concentrated on making every school good.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/04/2010 at 9:27 pm #

      Secondary schools ARE a whole other minefield. We just don’t have any around here. There’s a campaign at the moment to set up a new one in our area (probably be one of those parent run jobbies, but we don’t have any others at all), but whether it’ll happen fast enough for us I just don’t know. I don’t envy you.

  12. grit 27/04/2010 at 10:15 pm #

    i meet a lot of parents who home educate in the uk until their children are aged seven, then they drop into the primary school system. i think that’s a good idea. that’s in line with european models, is respectful of the needs of the child and kind to the family.

    there are also ways of flexi-schooling, and they are more common agreements than you may think. i taught a few flexi-schooled kids in my time as a teacher – of course schools do not advertise this – it is an agreement you have to bring about with a co-operative school, and there may be conditions they want you to follow before they agree, but for some children it is a good solution too.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 28/04/2010 at 8:16 am #

      The school our children go to is very child led and relaxed, and interestingly bearing in mind what you’re saying about home educating until 7, we have a lot of French children. They are put in the English system until they’re about 7 then moved into French schools, which are much stricter and more rigid. I’ve never heard of flexi-schooling, but it’s definitely something to think about when we get back from our trip.

  13. Brit In Bosnia 27/04/2010 at 11:08 pm #

    Adam is a May baby. I have had no qualms about having him start school in April rather than September. I feel that Britain starts schooling so early compared to other countries and worry that too much school too soon might actually put more people off (especially boys).

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 28/04/2010 at 8:17 am #

      I certainly think too much formal learning too early must be offputting to children. In fact, a teacher friend of mine has said the very same thing. She taught 11-13 year olds and said that the children who’d been to pushy primary schools, were almost burnt out by the time they arrived at secondary school. The children who’d been less academically pushed were more eager and keener to learnt.

  14. Muddling Along Mummy 28/04/2010 at 9:44 pm #

    The rigidity of the system astounds me – is there no way that a parent can get some flexibility for their child in those early years? Surely having the chance to go to the beach, curl up in bed, splash in the rain is as important a learning experience aged 5 as sitting in a classroom

    That said, a trip around the world is probably a step too far for me to avoid it !

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 29/04/2010 at 11:35 am #

      You can just take them out of school I suppose, but then you are messing up the school records, which isn’t fair on them because it reflects badly when it comes to Ofsted time.

  15. Rachel 02/05/2010 at 10:54 am #

    We have two summer babies – both May – and we did EXACTLY the same thing when the youngest was about to start; took them around the world for a year so that she could stay with us!! Never once regretted it and we certainly have a very very strong relationship with them now – especially the eldest who seems far ‘easier’ than her 10 yr old peers.

    On the back of the trip we have just moved to Spain (Jan), and our children now go to spanish school. The timetable there is more flexible – they can chose to come home for lunch (12.30 – 3pm) and from 1st June only do half days, so you can do other things. They have 3 l-o-n-g months off over the summer and then do half days again in September, in fact they are hadly AT school! The school seems to have far more flexibility too – the last day before the Easter Hols it was sunny so the teacher took the whole class to the beach! (only 1 block but still!) Mine are both loving it so far…
    Hope your trip plans are going great – let me know if you’ve got any q’s…
    Rachel x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 02/05/2010 at 7:59 pm #

      Thank you for reassuring me! I’ve read all of your blog, infact you were one of our original inspirations. You were just about to head off when I first had the idea, so I followed you around the world via your blog. The Spanish system sounds amazing. Our children’s school is fantastic, and very creative, but they still have to sign the children in twice a day and send the registers to the council, so their hands are tied to a certain extent.

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