I was my son’s age when I started school, which at four and a half years old, made me one of the youngest kids in my class, writes Tracey Gillett.
Luckily, I was a child of the ‘80’s when kindergarten wasn’t the new first grade and the academic pressures on kids were dwarfed by modern standards.
But, times have changed. We’ve moved on and become more sophisticated. Modern kids, it seems, are more advanced. They can read and write and add and subtract at younger ages than ever before, with one friend telling me recently that second graders are mastering computer coding. Seriously?
It seems as though we are so preoccupied with whether we can teach (or train) a child, we’re not stopping to ask if we should.
With kindergarten on our family’s horizon, it is assumed by friends, family and strangers that our son will be starting his academic career in September. But, if motherhood has taught me anything it is to question everything, to remain open-minded and make informed and proactive choices.
Because, government policy doesn’t necessarily reflect the psychological and developmental needs of children and rather than moving at my son’s cheetah speed, they tend to be slow to react when scientific findings run counter to cultural expectations or popular opinion.
A 2015 study titled, The Gift of Time? Starting School Age and Mental Health found strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by one year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school. The effect was long-lasting, virtually eliminating the probability that an average eleven-year-old child would have an ‘abnormal’, or higher-than-normal rating for inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measures.
This is powerful information, yet public education policies in western nations fail to evolve.
With diagnoses of conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, stress, movement disorders and sensory integration challenges skyrocketing, we need to stop and ask why.
The Gift of Time? Starting School Age and Mental Health (NBER Working Paper)