When are our little boys REALLY ready to start school? I’ve come to learn, it might be better to wait … Just before being plunged back into Sydney lockdown, my five-year-old girl and I managed one last play date with her school friends. I was chatting to one of the mums, she was feeling concerned about her son’s progress at school. He wasn’t holding his pen correctly, and his reading was well behind. She mentioned that if they were back home in Scandinavia, he wouldn’t even be at school yet. Not for another year and a half. Which would make him seven!
This sat with me. Especially, with my own overly-active three-year-old (who cannot sit still for a second) to consider. How would he go sitting in a classroom aged five? Hmm … I can’t imagine it.
Why do boys struggle in their first school years?
I’ve been doing a little research on school readiness for boys. I wanted to know why we are seeing so many of our boys struggling in their first years at school. So, I headed straight for my favourite parenting educators on the topic; Steve Biddulph and Maggie Dent. Here are a couple of things I wanted to share with you that I found really interesting.
1. Did you know that all foetus’s start out female? Yes, female! Then, during that first 12 weeks, if the foetus is going to be male, it is flooded with testosterone. When that happens, the brain development of that little boy has to SLOW DOWN to build all the extra boy bits. Meanwhile, a little girl foetus’s brain development doesn’t have to slow down at all, and just keeps on developing. This means the brain development of a little boy is slightly BEHIND that of a baby girl right from the VERY START. Isn’t that fascinating? When our little boys turn up in the world as a newborn, the neurological delay that took place in utero means their brain is underdeveloped compared to that of a newborn girl baby.
2. Research now shows us from testing umbilical cord blood, that when the highest levels of TESTOSTERONE is found to be present, there is a strong linkage towards DIFFICULTIES IN LEARNING TO READ. This means we can now understand that there are biological mechanisms taking place that explains why some of these delays are happening. With this knowledge, we can no longer have the same blanket expectations around learning skills, such as reading, applied to all children of the same age. It’s also why we might consider sending our boys off to school slightly later than our girls.
Building confidence in boys as learners
I could go on about this stuff all day! I hope you find these couple of points as helpful as I did. I think it’s a great reminder to go easy on our little boys starting school, whenever you decide to send them. They may sometimes take a little longer to master some of the academic skills they’re trying to learn when they first start school, but unless there’s a major red flag, we can just relax and trust they will get there in their own time.
In those earliest years at school, research tells us that the key thing to focus on is building your child’s confidence in how they feel about themselves as a learner, and integrating comfortably into their school community. There’s plenty of time for academic achievements, and kids will get there faster with a sense of confidence and security in their home and learning environment.
That’s all for now, I’m off to chase my three-year-old …
Good luck out there!
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