Too Early, Too Late: When Is the Right Time for a Child to Start Schooling?

We want our daughters to study in my Alma Matter. Since we have “issues” (it’s a long story), one of the requirements is that we have to be interviewed by Sister Jo, the school directress. During our interview, which went well by the way, the directress shared how the school have to adapt to K-12 curriculum and why they prefer prior schooling before they accept students. 

The school directress stressed the importance of emotional maturity before a child should enter school. Based on their experience, the five year olds often complain about how sleepy or tired they were, which is why they made the Kinder classes three hours only. Imagine if two or three year olds were in the same room? 

This led me to this question: what is the right school age for a child? According to Experts 

The debate is endless when it comes to the best school age for kids. Nonetheless, an Australian study revealed that the best age to send a child to school is seven years old. Kids who started schooling at this age had better chances of coping with hyperactivity and inattention. Consequently, starting late eliminated the possibility that a child has higher-than-normal rating for inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure. 

Of course, most experts will say that this study is not absolute. Education experts believe that the right age to start schooling also depends on the child, his/her ability to adapt well in school, and the circumstances surrounding the child. The learning environment of a child is also crucial since it must be able to provide both nurturing and challenging environment to encourage a child to learn. 

What about those kids who start to school early? 

Experts consider four-year olds as babies, which means a child’s communication skills, social skills, and emotions is not yet fully developed. Kids may still be unable to handle competition in a healthy way and will constantly crave for attention. Even Sister Jo stressed on this since kids below five prefer to play – and learn without them knowing. This is why it best not to rush the kids to go to school and there is a right age for that. 

The Case of My Daughters 

My eldest daughter started schooling at the age of 3.6 years old while my youngest will start this year at the age of four by June. I know, it’s early compared to the study mentioned. 

When my eldest turned three, my husband and I were contemplating on whether she should go to school. I introduced alphabet worksheets and she gladly answered all of them. We also attended few preview classes of several preschools in our area to gauge if she is ready for school – it turns out that she is. There were separation anxiety problems at the beginning, but she was able to overcome it. Thankfully, after a month, she enjoyed going to school and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in her. As to the case of my second daughter, we decided to start late. We are having issues with her speech and instilling discipline in her by the time she turned three that we decided to focus on building her skills first. She improved a lot, talked a lot, and even read on her own. Early this year, I decided to bring her to Ate’s school several times to see how she will interact with the other kids. It’s a good thing that she knows how to make friends and even sit with the kids her age, talking and playing with them. With this development, my husband and I felt that she is ready to go to school. This leads me to my next point. 

It’s the Parents’ Call + Child’s Readiness

I am not an expert and I don’t have any degree specializing on kids. I am merely writing based on my experience as a parent and according to my interaction with fellow parents.

As a parent, I think it is important to pay attention to our child to gauge their school readiness. Kids are different and how they will react depending on various situations may differ. Also, we know our child better than anyone else, which is why we should look for signs that will tell us they are ready for school. 

  • Is the child curious and eager to learn? 
  • Does the child know how to listen to elders? 
  • Can the child be still and pay attention? 
  • Is the child willing to be taught? 
  • Can your child work on his/her projects alone?
  • Is the child active during play? 
  • Can the child express his/herself already? 
  • Does the child play or get along well with other kids? 
  • Can your child handle 2-3 hours away from you? 

For me, a good way to check a child’s readiness for school is to expose them in a school setting. Attend preview classes or if you have older kids, consider bringing the younger one with you and pay attention to their reactions. If you feel that your child is not yet exhibiting school-readiness skills, that’s okay. It is a learning process (I’ve seen that in my youngest), but slowly introduce the concept of school and learning. Set aside an hour everyday teaching your child to help him/her get used to a school environment. Kids mature too, and let them take the natural course.  Keep in mind that the age of six or seven is only recommended and doesn’t automatically mean you should follow it. Pay attention to your child, watch out for school readiness signs, introduce the concept of school, and see how your little one will react. The school environment matters too, so make sure you choose a school that is engaging and fun for your child.

Don’t be pressured if your child doesn’t go to school – yet – at three or four. Children will spend the rest of their lives learning, so let them play and enjoy and appreciate little things while they still can. 

29 Comments

  1. Mywondermom

    January 30, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’m glad I read your post. This is something me and my husband has been discussing for a while now. I feel quite guilty that my daughter start school this coming June pa lang. Some say tama lang because she will turn 4 on May, others say dapat 3 pa lang. Well, i really think readiness din tlga ng bata is a factor.

  2. Mommy Queenelizabeth

    January 31, 2017 at 3:16 am

    This is very informative for parents esp. the first timers who will send their kids to school. My son started schooling when he was 4 years old..

  3. Jenelyn Palogod-Uboรฑgen

    January 31, 2017 at 10:41 am

    It was also my problem when we came here in Australia. Most of the kids here, as early as 6mos, they already send to child care centre, sort of a preschool. Medyo pressured kami nun ni hubby kasi most people would tell us to send our son to preschool na.We were still hesitant to send my son who was still 2 yrs old at that time because we wanted to guide him first how to be of good character and teach simple manners. At the same time, basic learning with playing kasi 2 yrs pa lang naman. Now he’s 3, we want to develop his social skills, so pinasok na namin sya pero just for 2 days. Enjoy naman sya ๐Ÿ™‚ I think mahalaga is basta maenjoy nila yung childhood nila, and masaya na ren tyo dun ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Nini Perez

      February 4, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      I just have to reply here. I have an Australian colleague whose daughter was less than a year old (during the time we talked about it). She mentioned in one of our meetings that she was going to pick her up from child care after our call. So, it’s really true pala.

  4. EINz

    February 2, 2017 at 6:48 am

    I think it depends on every child’s developmental need. My son started school at the age of 4. While my daughter was 2 1/2 because she’s very shy and always wanted to stay away from the crowd. I want her to be sociable and be confident around people.

    She improves a lot now, and ready to join her kuya at the big school!

  5. gilian

    February 2, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I have two boys. I encountered exactly the same thing. Haha my eldest started around 3.3 because he’s turning 4 around March. By that time I knew he was ready. He cried for one week a little for the adjustment but enjoyed after that. He became the top 1 in class. The second one is the same as your 2nd daughter. So I didn’t push hin to study. He’s turning 4 this year, just in time I think for this June. I think he’s more ready now than last year. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Still, I believe it’s on the parents. It’s just difficult for us because people say something negative when we don’t let kids enroll at the proper age.

  6. Mommy Levy

    February 2, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I wish that school will offer at least 2 to 3 days sit in class for the new kid to feel what’s inside the classroom. This will help the parents and the child if they are ready for school.

  7. nocturnalmomtalks

    February 3, 2017 at 2:03 am

    My eldest started schooling when she was 5 years old. My bunso will turn 3 years old this July and we are planning to enroll him sa daycare. Yung free sa barangay, parang saling kitkit lang, no pressure sa tests etc. Just for him to enjoy singing, counting, dancing, coloring with other kids. I hope pwede na sya. But thanks to your post, mommy.

  8. nocturnalmomtalks

    February 3, 2017 at 3:02 am

    My eldest started schooling at the age of 5. I want the bunso to go to daycare ( yung free sa barangay) this June. He will turn 3 in July. Saling kitkit lang sya para he can enjoy singing, dancing, counting, and playing with other kids ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Momma Mitch

    February 3, 2017 at 3:19 am

    I agree. It depends din naman talaga sa bata kung ready na sya for school or not yet. You just have to observe if he or she’s showing signs of readiness. I am excited to bring my son to preview classes 2 years from now because I think he loves learning. Whenever we write or draw in his magnetic board, nasasagot nya and natutuwa sya kapag sinasabi naming good job. He loves that activity more than playing with his cars. Hopefully, ganun rin yung enthusiasm nya when he’s already going to school. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Jhanis

    February 4, 2017 at 2:35 am

    True, it differs per child. Both my kids went to school at 3 but looking back, I wish I waited a bit longer for my daughter. She’s 5 now and still not interested in letters. LOL

  11. Nini Perez

    February 4, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    I love Finland’s education system. You can check it here http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12#finnish-children-dont-start-school-until-they-are-7-1. My son’s just almost 19 months old and while it’s not formal education, there is a lot of learning happening through play. Just a few hours ago, we practiced stacking (that’s learning for me) at a kid’s party by using birthday hats. A few months ago we got a visit from a friend and her daughters. The elder child scattered all my son’s toys and they went on with learning hard and soft when they cleaned up the toys. It can be as simple as that. Society just puts a lot of pressure on learning by saying that kids should be doing this and that at a certain age. I’m gonna be homeschooling my son when he shows readiness to formally start until probably 3rd grade, then we’ll decide from there if we’ll continue or put him in regular school already. But I definitely want to teach him at his own pace for starters.

  12. May De Jesus-Palacpac

    February 5, 2017 at 12:18 am

    yeah, it really depends on the child. My eldest is a classic learner so it was easy to homeschool him at 4 (I wish though that I delayed it a bit more). My second child taught himself to read, write and count at three which practically forced me to homeschool him at 4 even when I thought I learned my lesson from my eldest and was planning to delay homeschooling him.

    MY youngest likes the thought of homeschooling along with his brothers but has a totally different learning style and pace. I’m good with it. I noticed that even though he is late in the reading side, he is the most eloquent of my three kids.

  13. Rowena Wendy Lei

    February 5, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Both my kids went to preschool at 2.5 yrs old and then big school at 4.5 yrs old… parang okay naman.

  14. Cheanne

    February 5, 2017 at 3:23 am

    Playschools are so rampant these days that kids are being sent to school at such an early age. Both my kids started playschool before their 2nd birthday. The big schools do have an a specific age when they accept enrolees though so sometimes starting way too early is a disadvantage also.

  15. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen

    February 5, 2017 at 11:08 am

    My daughter went to school at the age of 3.5. I think it turned out okay.

  16. millette05

    February 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

    My daughter was so eager to learn that we put her in preschool at the age of 3. I was glad we did because she was also able to develop her interpersonal skills at an early age.

  17. Lariza Garcia

    February 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    korek, based mo sa readiness ng anak mo
    what might be right for other may not be right for your kids

  18. Claire Santiago

    February 5, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    for me the right age for a kid to start schooling is 4. that age he or she has already enjoyed her childhood, and is ready for the bigger and more serious world

  19. Janice

    February 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    My two girls started going to school at the age of 3. It was just the right age for my eldest but I think my youngest daughter would have done better if we let her wait another year. That’s why we just decided to homeschool our 3rd child. It really depends on the child too.

  20. Migs&Alaine Alejandrino

    February 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I agree with it’s is the parents’ choice but parents should also help their kids prepare for school. Your article is very helpful especially for first time parents.

  21. Cris Ruffolo

    February 5, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Dear Ayi. I took time to study language and literacy education as my graduate degree because I wanted to be my children’s first teacher. I learned in the last three years that as mothers, we know our children’s best. Other people will always have comments on the way we raise our kids, but take stock of your inner core and values and your “inner expertise”. You are a mother. That’s one of the world’s best superpower.

  22. Cris Ruffolo

    February 5, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Ayi, you are doing a great job. I spent two and a half years of my life studying language and literacy education as a degree because I wanted to be my children’s first teacher. You are a mother, that’s the world’s best superpower!

  23. Maria Teresa Gregorio-Figuerres

    February 6, 2017 at 12:16 am

    My son went to school early. He was three when we enrolled him in preschool, but we had a trial class prior to enrollment to let us know if he would be ready for it. He enjoyed it, and while he had separation anxiety issues in the beginning, he soon got the hang of it. It’s in preschool that he learned to talk in English and where he learned to socialize with kids and adults alike.

  24. Macy Santos

    February 6, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I absolutely agree with you. There is no specific age as to when a child starts schooling but in stead a parent should know when child is ready. I applaud your parenting skills in supporting your kids and in nurturing their learning and social capabilities.

  25. TweenselMom

    February 6, 2017 at 9:46 am

    For my youngest, she started earlier than her elder sister but I doubt our decision sometimes. Kasi my daughter is good in school academically, but we were thinking what more if she got to school like the rest of her classmates who are older than her. The thing is, although she is mentally capable, mas bata pa rin ang attitude nya. And she’ll be getting in highschool earlier also.

  26. berlin domingo

    February 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I agree that there is no specific age for kids to enter school or start schooling. It will always depend on their enthusiasm to learn and the eagerness to go beyond their usual lessons at home. It pays to have a sensitive and alert mom to know when her child is ready.

  27. mumwrites (@vixquips)

    February 6, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Determining a child’s school-readiness is very tricky as it varies from one child to another. My son started school late because I noticed he was not too keen on school-related activities like writing and reading when he was little. I enrolled him in a playschool and he only wanted the “playing” part! Even when I teach him at home, he was not up to the tasks. So we had to postpone enrolling him to big school for another year. I never regretted it as I thought it worked for him.

  28. Bernadette Siazon

    February 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

    I enrolled my daughter in school way too early and she had separation anxiety. I was wrong in rushing her, it’s really important to listen and observe our kids.

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