This morning I had a massive crisis of confidence about my parenting and in particular the fact that we’re not doing anything ‘phonic’ related at home in preparation for Isla starting reception in September. I was reading a few things on the train on the way to work and seemed to come across people talking about their pre-schoolers' reading alone – only small words admittedly – but words are words! Also that they were looking at phonics together at home. This had me in a bit of a panic. Are we doing enough at home? Is Isla already going to be behind the other children in terms of learning before she’s even started school?!
Obviously she’s learning all the time, from all the things around her and as a parent I teach her but I don’t want to be her formal educator – I’m not trained to do that. I planned for her to start her formal education at school and in turn I would learn how to assist her learning by taking the lead from her teachers. But now I feel like we’re somehow behind. I don’t want to feel pressure over these things, as that will in turn lead me to pressurise her. I want learning to be fun in these early stages and I was happy with what she knew until I started making comparisons to others and I guess that is the crux of this whole thing. Making comparisons is very dangerous, our children aren’t all the same and I need to remember this. What one child finds easy another finds difficult and vice versa. So should I worry about this and am I doing her a disservice by not getting the Jolly Phonics books out now and getting her on the reading ladder before she starts school? Should I already be thinking about whether she is going to be top or bottom of the class? That last question sounds like crazy talk to me but I have a feeling that things become rather competitive once school starts.
I’m a bit torn. With Isla being a July baby she will be one of the younger ones in her year, so that could be a drawback and she *may* not be as ready to learn as some of her elder peers, so perhaps this is a key reason to give her a head start? Then again if she starts familiarising herself with it all now is there a risk that she will be bored of it when the time comes to do it at school? We read to the kids every day at home, and they have loads of books. I actively encourage spending time reading together as I feel it’s really important. I loved reading as a child and always had my nose in a book rather than watching TV and I’d love for them to be that way too. Isla also knows about half of the alphabet, she doesn’t know it all – is this a worry? Should I be green-housing her for the next 3 months so she knows all of it!? She can also write her own name (albeit with the S round the wrong way) and can count pretty well. This morning I’ve found myself trying to think of all the things she can do and it’s quite frankly made my head hurt and is unfair on her. I put the question out to my facebook friends who on the whole suggested that I do as much with Isla as she is comfortable with, play letter games and maybe start with a few letter sounds, and in no way make it feel like a chore, which all sounds like sensible advice.
Interestingly there is an article in the Guardian today referring to the very subject of whether summer babies are at a disadvantage and evidence is conflictual. If you look at statistics of those who get into Oxbridge or Cambridge, then a baby born in October has a 30% higher chance than a baby born in July. Now I’m obviously not saying that at this early stage in Isla’s life my eyes are on Oxford or Cambridge (that would be ridiculous – although I know some parents eyes are firmly in that direction before conception in some cases!) but it does seem to suggest that an enjoyable fumble between me and my OH in October led to us setting our kids up at a disadvantage straight away. Then again, apparently Barack Obama, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stephen Fry are all highly intelligent summer babies so maybe the statistics shouldn't be believed.
What do you think? Do you have summer babies who are thriving at school and are ahead of their elder friends in their studies? Do I have reason to worry and should I be hot footing it down to Foyles in my lunch break to pick up all the Jolly Phonics books I can lay my hands on? I’d really love to know what you currently do/ did with your pre-schoolers.