What is the Right Answer for Summer Born Babies?

Over the last few months there has been a lot of talk in the news about summer born babies and delaying their start to school. As LP started school in September, a matter of days after her fourth Birthday, I thought I should take a moment to reflect on how she has coped with school and ultimately whether I would have done anything different if I had the opportunity.

When I was pregnant with LP and due on 25th August I didn’t think anything of it. If anything I thought how nice it would be to have a Birthday in the school holidays, never having to go to school on your Birthday. It was only teacher friends that pointed out that September babies have another whole year at home before having to start school but even then I didn’t pay much attention to what this actually meant.

We applied for LP’s school place as soon as the applications opened and really we knew that she would get accepted into our preferred school – the one she was already attending nursery at and the one closest to us. We found out in the April that she would indeed be going to that school and started to prepare – buying uniform, labelling clothes and thinking about the days without her at home, how I would fill those six hours each day.

The four months before she started school felt like a grieving process. I was so sad that our days of having our first born child at home were coming to an end. I reflected on all the things we could have done and tried to cram in as much as possible to make the most of the time we had left. It was like a big black cloud looming over us.

Then there was LP. She was so excited to be going to big school. She tried her uniform on with pride and she told everyone about this new adventure in her life. She was moving across to the main school with lots of her nursery friends and having been to parents evenings at the school we knew it would be a smooth transition for her.

But there were still worries. LP often came out of nursery at lunchtime needing the toilet or having just wet herself. She needed prompting to go to the toilet or would often have accidents. She couldn’t get herself dressed and had never shown any interest in holding a pen, let alone writing with it. She didn’t know what letters were, what they looked like or the names of them and only knew a few numbers – our front door number and the numbers on lift buttons.

Even with these worries we focused on LP’s amazing personality, her impeccable manners and her huge imagination. Her preschool years had been all about learning through play and making sure LP could do the basics of everyday life – using cutlery, wiping her bum and saying please and thank you. We had always thought that there was plenty of time for her to learn the academic side of things and I am still really glad her youngest years were all about having fun.

But at the point LP was due to start school I have to admit I was concerned. I had worried for the whole of the previous year about how she would deal with school, how little she would be, whether she would keep up with the others and whether she would just be too tired to deal with it all. I had all the worries any parent of a summer baby has, and like all those other parents my worries were hugely magnified by the media telling me that my summer baby wouldn’t do as well in exams, would always be behind and would spend her whole school life just trying to keep up.

We are now a whole term into LP’s school life and applications have just closed for the next intake of school children. There’s all the same talk on social media and in the news about what’s best for summer born babies and there are many reports of having a fight on your hands if you want to keep your child back a year so they start school when they’re five.

I look back at the last year and wonder what we would have done if we were given the choice of keeping LP back. Would we have kept her at home for another year? Would we have had another whole year of blissful preschool days? Or would we have sent her to school regardless?

Whatever we would have done is irrelevant as we didn’t have that choice. But a term into LP’s school days and we are amazed that the little girl in her school uniform each day is the same tiny one that started school just a few months ago.

LP can not only hold a pen now but can write the names of her whole family with no help. She knows the alphabet and the sounds of each letter. She can recognise her name and spells it with ease. She also knows numbers and can count to one hundred with minimal prompting.

LP has made so many friends and her social skills have come so far. Her manners have improved even further and she has a vocabulary that we are so proud of. Her imagination just keeps growing and she talks non-stop about life, the universe and everything. She is very much a sponge, soaking up every single thing that she learns at school and telling us about it later, asking questions and wanting to learn even more.

The only slight blip we had with LP starting school was that as far as toilet accidents went, she just wasn’t ready. She would need to be told to go to the toilet and often she would come out of school having wet herself just a moment before. But something seems to have clicked over Christmas and we no longer have this issue – and that purely needed time which both us and the teachers were happy to give her.

So really we’re pleased that LP started school. Although it felt like I was losing my first child to an academic world far too soon I know that we cannot stop the inevitable and that at some point all children have to get an education. For us, in hindsight, LP starting school was the best thing to happen to her. She loves going to school and has grown so much in so many ways. She still thinks of school as one big adventure and I hope her love of school continues to grow.

If your child is due to start school in September and you have a summer born baby then you have a decision to make. Do you carry on as all the previous years, send your child to school shortly after their fourth Birthday and hope that they flourish? Support them, encourage them and help them to learn. Or do you defer your child’s entrance to school, keep that at home for another year and cram every single day with making as many memories as possible before they start school, helping them to learn through play for another year and savouring every moment before your child starts school?

There is no right or wrong answer but whatever decision you make, make it for the right reasons. Whatever age your child starts school and whatever month they were born you will feel like you are mourning. You will dwell on the years before and you will feel sadness that those years are over. But keeping them at home  for another year purely to make those years last longer is not the answer.

If you have just filled in your child’s school application enjoy the next months until you have a whole new routine, until your life is filled with term time, weekends and school holidays. Each day is full of school runs, book bags and PE kits. Enjoy those months, savour them and make memories. Then, in September, dress your child in their school uniform that will be too big with room to grow, take a photo of them and feel so, so proud. Then drop them at their classroom to begin that next big adventure.

school

Share:

18 Comments

  1. January 26, 2016 / 7:43 am

    Aw bless her. My eldest has a June birthday and there’s really no decision over whether to send her to school. Much as I’d love to keep her here, she’s ready for school, she can’t wait. I hope she takes to it as well as your little one, it must be such a relief that she loves it.x

  2. January 26, 2016 / 8:14 am

    Aw this is such a positive post bless her she has settled so well that is fantastic. Sophia enjoys school but she is one of the eldest in her year and sometimes I really think if she has had a bad day at school that plays out at home too. Just because she is still learning how to deal with social situations where she may be embarrassed or left out. I feel like you little LP is completely at the stage where nothing bothers her she is full of the beans of life while Sophia maybe been that year older she has struggled a bit. It’s been good for us but had its challenges. It’s all so new for me. Lovely post Donna. I hope Sophia starts enjoying school more and more just like LP Xxx

  3. January 26, 2016 / 8:24 am

    So glad you have no regrets. Theo has also done well and I have a friend with a son two weeks younger than him (and the next academic year) and it really feels like he has been “held back” from starting education.

  4. January 26, 2016 / 8:46 am

    The thing is, there has to be a cut off point. If summer born babies are allowed to defer, then why not the kids born a month before that – after all now they will be the youngest and they will be almost a year younger than their oldest peers. It doesn’t seem fair to say that summer born babies are more important than the kids they will be then a year more advanced then. I think there should be some leniency but to base it on development not just age. If a child is ready, then school is the best place to be – at home they are just going to get bored and their development will stagnate rather than jump ahead in leaps and bounds as both of our girls have done. Georgie is around halfway through the year age wise and is behind some of the kids younger than her and ahead of some of the kids older than her – at this point the age differences are getting less noticeable whereas a year before they were obvious.

  5. January 26, 2016 / 8:50 am

    This is something I am already thinking about, with two summer babies. Toby’s birthday is July and I can’t believe he will be starting school next year! Although he’s very bright I already wonder if he will be ready emotionally for school. And Gabe is an August baby so like LP will only just be 4 when he starts school. Unless of course we decide to keep them back another year. Interestingly if we stay in Scotland neither of them would start school until they were 5 as here it depends on how old they are at the end of February. That is one of the reasons we want to move before Toby is due to start school because otherwise he would miss a whole year in moving from Scotland to England. Four seems so little to be starting school, especially when you look at so many other countries where they don’t start until 6 or 7, but I’m really glad LP has settled in and is enjoying her time at school.

  6. January 26, 2016 / 9:15 am

    Aww well done LP! I’m so glad she’s doing so well, it must have been a worry for you. I myself am an August baby, and honestly don’t think it’s ever held me back, and I flourished in all my exams. Parker is an August baby now too and I don’t think we’ll hold him back. Well just do exactly what you said and make sure we support, encourage and be there for him when he does start! Brilliant post xx

  7. January 26, 2016 / 11:25 am

    Such a great post Donna. I too have a summer born child (13th August) and 9 years ago I had no hesitation about sending him to school aged 4 years and 2 weeks. I knew my child was ready to start his next journey. However I do remember a boy in his nursery class deferred school for a year. So it really is about doing what is best for your child. My same summer born child is flourishing in the top sets at High School, and starting school as a ‘summer born’ child has never disadvantaged him in anyway xx

  8. Sandra martin
    January 26, 2016 / 3:51 pm

    It depends on the child my daughter was born in August and is top of everything and is more grown up than kids older than her. Some children are ready some are not, I am glad she started school just after her 4th birthday she was ready for it.

  9. January 26, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    Charlie is a December baby so he was so ready for school, having had 5 terms at nursery. My girls are June (not long after T!) and will only get 3 terms. My friends little girl was 3 in October and is so advanced so it’s so bizarre to think they will start school at the same time. I think behaviour wise you could definitely see the difference in reception but it seems to have evened out now he’s in yr2 xx

  10. January 26, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    It’s so great that she has settled in so well bar a few toilet hiccups, which to be fair I can imagine is pretty daunting at any age as it is all new having to ask to go to the toilet. I never really thought about it either, but both my babies have been born in the winter so as a result Mads is one of the oldest and LL will be in the older end. My friend who is a health visitor said when she was pregnant that she would purposefully stop trying to get pregnant over the period where she would have a summer baby as she thinks it holds them back, but she is one of those ‘my child has to be the best’ type people. I think you have a fab, intelligent and happy little girl there. x

  11. January 27, 2016 / 7:38 am

    I’m so glad to read this post. I have a toddler who is 3 at the end of April and I am expecting a June baby. Already I am fed up of people telling me how poorly summer babies do! You must be so proud of LP, she sounds to be doing fantastic.

  12. January 27, 2016 / 7:50 am

    Glad it has worked out for LP, Donna. I know with my third due this June I am worrying (already!) about the impact of being a summer born baby and school start times etc.
    I’ve scheduled this to share on my blog FB page later this week as I think it’s such an important post#xx

    • January 27, 2016 / 8:08 am

      Oh thanks lovely, that’s really nice of you! x

  13. January 27, 2016 / 9:04 pm

    As you know my eldest two are both Summer born as well and I had absolutely no qualms whatsoever about sending them to school. They were both 110% ready for it. I do think it comes down to the individual child and circumstances though. We expect too much, too young from our children in this country and I think the increasing drive on standards and testing is just not helping the situation. They should be learning through play not doing tests and being forced to “measure up”.

  14. January 28, 2016 / 4:48 am

    Both my girls are August babies and my eldest starts this September, she is ready for school and I know it’s the right decision to send her now. Having spoken to the teachers on school visits and asking them, they all said that by the end of her first year, I will have forgotten about her being a summer baby. It sounds like you will too, your daughter is doing great. X

  15. Lynne Durkin
    January 28, 2016 / 4:00 pm

    My first two are both April birthdays so were the same age when they started school. Daughter was so ready to go & loved it, my son got on fine too but would have been happy staying at nursery for a bit longer if given the choice. My twin girls are November birthdays so were nearly 5 when they started. Scary thing now is my daughter has to start thinking about school places for my grandson, he’ll be 4 this December & the time is going so fast x

  16. July 7, 2016 / 8:25 pm

    I was born in late August and was the youngest in my class, and I always did pretty well at school. Of course, I don’t remember much from the early school years but my mam said I was fine. We live in Northern Ireland now and it’s different here. The cut off point is the end of June rather than the End of August, so if you’re a summer baby you wouldn’t start school until the next year. Neil is seven, and he’s attending one of his class mates 8th birthday party on Saturday, which I find quite strange!

  17. September 4, 2016 / 7:03 am

    Donna, I read this because I have a summer baby and was a summer baby myself so was interested in some tips. I’ve been delighted to find not only that but such a mindful, compassionate treatment of the such a tricky decision. “Whatever we would have done is irrelevant” – absolutely. You’ve clearly been so kind to yourselves about this decision, and this attitude no doubt rubs off on your daughter. I love the positivity! Thank you for sharing this. Amy x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.