Many moms raised their concerns when the Department of Education (DepEd) released its revised policy on age guidelines. Its policy dictated that kindergarten enrollees must be 5 years old and grade one students must be 6 years old by June or by the start of the school year. Some moms, like Jennica Uytingco, felt it was unfair to push a child to enter preschool at an early age.
Ciara Sotto shares a similar opinion with Jennica. She has not enrolled her 3-year-old son Crixus in any kind of school. In an exclusive interview with Pep.ph, the single mom said that she can teach her son the basics at home.
"Mas gusto ko mag-spend time with him and teach him stuff. Right now, he already identifies letters. He can't read it, but he knows it na," Ciara shared. Right now, she lets Crixus do what he wants while he's young and while he still can. "Kasi kapag nagka-school na, may rules na iyan, e. May routine na siyang susundin," she added.
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Celebrity parents Neri and Chito Miranda, however, chose to send their son, Miggy, who's only a year and seven months old, to play school. Comments on their Instagram were mixed; some pointed out that it may be too early.
"Salingkit lang naman. Parang playschool," Chito explained in the Instagram comments, adding that the class play games with letter and numbers as well. "We think it's healthy for his development to interact with older kids. Don't worry po. We consulted our pedia and pumasa naman siya sa screening ng school," Chito said.
So should you send your toddler to school or wait for the DepEd-required age before enrolling him in preschool? You need to answer that by asking yourself two more questions:
Why do you want to enroll your toddler in playschool?
Parents are naturally competitive when it comes to their children, often wanting them to read earlier or form sentences ahead of the child next door, but plunging them too early in preschool may not be the solution.
“For a child who takes some time to feel comfortable in a new situation, it can help to be on the older end of the age range — the extra time helps them to be that much more mature and confident,” advises Dr. Robert Needlman, a specialist in pediatric behavior and development.
Children are meant to learn while enjoying themselves in preschool. The last thing parents want is to cultivate negative first impressions of school in their children. Don’t put too much pressure on them to achieve at such a young age. Try to instill in them a love for learning by making sure they’re ready for the preschool experience, shopping around for the right preschool environment that suits his needs, and offering your child fun learning options at home.
If the child needs a few more months to be emotionally ready, then redshirting, or waiting for another school year to enroll a child, can definitely help. If you're worried how he'll be left behind because of the delay, studies have proven that kids' skills tend to level with their peers in the long run.
What type of school do you want to enroll your toddler in?
The K to 12 curricula only requires one year of preschool before the student can enroll in grade one, and yet there are several "schools" that cater to toddlers and even babies. Often, these play schools focus on music, physical development, and social skills, rather than the academics.
If you think your child will benefit from structured learning — and you have the money to spend on it — then go ahead. Just make sure your child is in a conducive learning environment, that he or she is not pressured to learn. Young kids learn best through play and via one-on-one interaction.
If your toddler is getting social interaction and play time at home, then play school may be optional. You can also set-up playdates with other moms and their children to have music and gym time and still reap the benefits of playschools for less cost.
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DepEd assures parents that the new 5-year-old age requirement for kindergarten is based on young children's readiness for school. Dr. Joselyn Eusebio, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, agrees that kindergarteners should be at least five or six years old. Any type of school your child attends before that or should you choose to delay starting kindergarten until your child is ready is your choice.