I often get this question from my mommy friends —
QUESTION: At what age should I send my child to school?
And this has been my default answer: Look at your child. Observe. See if he or she is ready.
During our parents’ time, kids would enter school at 7. Grade 1 agad. During our time, our moms and dads would send us to kindergarten at age 4. But now, the trend has changed. I see preschoolers as young as 2! I have a friend whose 9-month old daughter is about to start her playgroup class this month. I thought, “Wow! That’s amazing!”
This, I believe, creates pressure on some parents to put their kids to school as early as possible. Who would want their children to be left behind, right? If you’re the competitive type of a mom, the pressure is going to be much heavier. Moms and dads, and even lolos and lolas, would want to give their kids a head start in life and there is totally nothing wrong with that especially if you can afford it.
So going back to the question: At what age should my child enter preschool then?
Here’s my two cents:
Well, there is really no exact answer to this (though the ideal cutoff is 5 years old per DepEd’s K-12 program). As I’ve said, use your child as your cue whether or not it’s time to go school hunting — not your neighbor’s whiz kid who’s memorized the world map at age 3, or what your friend says. Your kid will tell you when he is ready.
I’d like to share with you some of my personal notes on early child development. Others, they are based on my experience with Zach, plus observations as a teacher assistant trainee at a nearby Montessori preschool.
1. Is he beginning to take interest in reading and writing? Look for signs such as reciting the A-B-Cs and holding a pencil or a crayon with minimal prompting. Does he often pretend to read books?
2. Can he sit still and stay focused for at least several minutes? Your child will find this useful during class storytelling and circle time. My SPED professor always tells us that sitting still is such an important milestone. Unfortunately, it is often taken for granted. Sometimes, we hurry our child to learn academics but we forget to address the behavior first.
3. Can he say his name? First name, at least? If not yet, I wonder how a child can introduce himself to his classmates. 🙂
4. Is he beginning to identify colors, shapes and animals without forcing him to?
5. Can he follow one-step instructions? For example, if you say, “Anak, please throw this in the trashcan.” Will he do it?
6. How is he with his peers? Does he get along? Can he fall in line and take turns without throwing a tantrum?
7. Does he say, “I want to go to school like kuya!”
A child may only be 2.5 or 3 years old but can do all or most of these things, I’d say, is school-ready. But a child who is 4 but prefers to stay at home, watch TV and play with his toy cars and robots might need more time. Let him be!
Don’t force him to memorize the alphabet just because your friend’s child who’s of the same age (or worse, younger) can recite the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s. Remember this: Each child develops differently. Not even identical twins progress at the same pace. Have your heard of the “Hurried child syndrome?” I’ll touch on that topic in one of my future posts.
I’d like to borrow this statement from my son’s teachers at Josemaria Montessori School: A child’s development CANNOT be hurried. A child CAN only learn when he is READY to learn.
Amen to that!
As a parent, use your intuition and trust your instincts. Look closely at your child. Take time to listen to his words and watch his moves. Nobody knows your child better that you do. So don’t worry and stop comparing. It is not healthy for you and your child.
He will read and write when he is ready. 🙂