As my son turned three, I was faced with the dilemma all parents go through – should I start school for him now? And in the course of finding the answer to that I came to many realizations. Here are a few things that might help you decide if you’re on the same see-saw!

The basic question.

If you’ve just started thinking about sending your child to school, the first thing you need to ask yourself is – WHY do you want to send him to school? Is it because you’re a working mom and feel that he’s in better hands at school when you’re not home? Or because he’s your only child yet and you think he’ll enjoy better company at school? Or maybe its just because you feel he’ll have more to learn at school than home? Whatever be your reason, first be clear on it and don’t give in to peer pressure and pack his bag because everyone in your neighborhood has already done so. Once you know your reason for sending him, deciding the right time to make it happen would become easier for you.

The right age.

Although playgroups start accepting children from 2.5 years and up but that does not make it mandatory that you have to enroll your child right from playgroup. As a first time mom, I used to think the same. That if I don’t send my child from the playgroup, he will not be accepted in school in a later class. That is not the case. So if your baby is not ready for school at 2.5-3 yrs, there is no rush. In fact in western countries they don’t allow you to enroll the child for school until they are at least 5 , and now this trend is picking up in most metro cities and reputed schools. So you have all the time to decide what age is right for your child to attend school. Because every child is different and has individual learning and play needs. What has worked wonderfully for your neighbor might backfire on you.

Is he ready?

Mull over these pointers while deciding whether he’s ready for school.

  • Does he feel comfortable in the company of other kids and enjoys playing with them?
  • Is he used to being away from you for periods of time and it does not upset him too much?
  • Is he able to convey his toilet needs to people other than his mom? Because in school he would need to tell his teachers that he needs to go.
  • Does he need more intellectual stimulation than he’s getting at home, and will the school actually provide that?

In my decision making I found these to be the only important questions that I needed to answer. If it makes my child unhappy, I don’t want to do it yet.

What’s the alternative?

You might think, okay, if I decide not to send him yet, what will I do to bring him up to speed with other kids his age who are already attending school? A very valid question. Fortunately for you, there are hundreds of visual aids available in India now that can provide joyful learning to your child and can even keep him away from the dreaded TV addiction! You can purchase videos constructed especially for babies and toddlers that teach them everything from shapes and colors to facts about music and art! And without it ever appearing like work! In this day and age you cannot completely shield your child from getting hooked on to the computer or TV but at least you can channel his interests towards things that actually give him knowledge instead of just cartoons. Any good bookstore today has a huge collection of picture books that can open a whole new world for your baby. As long as you can get him interested in these edutainment aids, learning would be a breeze for him and very soon he would be way ahead of his counterparts who went to school!

It took me a year to reach a decision but it finally dawned on me that even I was 5 years old when I first saw school and I didn’t turn out too bad! So since my son is extremely distressed and uncomfortable in crowded places and noisy environments, I’ve decided to wait for another year and a half so that when its time to go to school, I can tell him and he’ll understand what it is for. Until then, I’m going to enjoy having him at home!

A few websites that will show you the wonderful world of educational videos for kids:

www.babyeinstein.com

www.brainybaby.com

www.hitentertainment.com

For books, you can check out the Young Learner’s Publication series (available at most book stores), Dreamland Publications Board book series and My Big Book series from Quixot Publications.

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