Prematurity and School

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Categories Ask the Readers, Development, Prematurity, Preschoolers, School-AgeTags , , , ,

When my babies and I returned to Chengdu from Hong Kong after their birth at 31 weeks of gestation, they were almost 6 months old. Many of our friends came over to visit; to meet the tiny babies.

One of those friends was a school principal. Since we’ve been considering schools, and when to start them – I’ve heard from friends that children start anywhere from 2 to 6 years old depending on where they come from and what their parents can manage and prefer to do – I remembered something she said to me.

For every week of prematurity, hold back the child from starting school by a month.

When we visited a school a few months ago, that principal also suggested that we hold them back rather than push them into school early.

This all worked well with my thoughts on not sending my children in too early, on not pushing them.

Then more recently, yet another principal talked to us about some of her experiences in the past, with premature children having difficulties in music classes, for example.

I’ve felt that my children are in the average of their age group. I can’t say that on any scientific basis, but I’m not too bothered with what they can or can’t do, of course that is keeping in mind that they are highly energetic children with no major, obvious issues. They talk. A lot. They play and laugh.

Last month I sent my 2 year 3 month olds to school. They were the youngest in their class, by a few months. At this stage of extremely quick growth and change, I’d say they were the youngest by far. So after a week of battling with myself, after having done the exact opposite of what I believed in, and what I was advised – I pulled them out of school.

In terms of separation from me, interaction and focus in class, they did very well, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the best thing for them at that time. My son was crying in his sleep, and unusually quiet and forlorn. My daughter became even more clingy than usual. I saw obvious changes. Of course there will be an adaptation phase whenever they start school, but we didn’t have to have it at that time. I have the luxury of being a SAHM, and all the plans that I made of what I would with my free-time, can wait a few more months!

But mainly I am hoping that the extra six months at home with us, will give them more confidence and security, other than more words, the ability to better express their emotions, they’ll be potty trained. After speaking to a number of close mum friends, I realized that almost all had waited until their children were 2.5 or 3 before sending them to school, and even then, they only went 3 half days every week.

Now, we are doing many activities that include music, dance, and just simple play – and we are all happy with our decision. I’m sure that the 6 months I hold them back will give them time for growth, and confidence.

My question to parents, both of premature children and not, to teachers, educators, paediatricians, and anyone who has an opinion on this: When did your children start school? Is there much change in a child between the ages of 2 and 3?

Have you read or heard of studies about prematurity and education, prematurity and its relation to holding back children from starting school?


Natasha lives in Chengdu, China with her husband Maher. She is mum of twins Leila and Rahul, and was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

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Natasha Devalia

I am mum of twins Leila and Rahul. I recently moved to Koh Samui, Thailand (Jan 2013) with her children after spending 7 years in China. My husband travels back and forth for his work. I have started practicing my yoga more regularly again, and even teach a few classes a week, after a three year break. I blog at Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering

4 thoughts on “Prematurity and School”

  1. I started mine at 2 years for 3 days at the preschool I now work at, mostly out of necessity. I would have like to stay home with them one more year. They have transitioned very well, they were clingy at the beginning, but because I worked there, I was able to stay with them for awhile, plus see them throughout the day.

    Because they are August birthdays, they will start kindergarten a year later, at just turned 6, instead of just turned 5.

  2. This may be controversial, and may not even apply in China – but in my opinion – two years old is way to young for “school”! At 3 years old it can be called “preschool” but at two years of age its waaaay to soon to call it “school”. Why this rush towards earlier and earlier learning? Let toddlers be toddlers! They learn as much from playing in the mud in the backyard, as they would in “science class” – at that age!
    I embrace the fact that my boys learn through play, and they learn by playing, and all the wonderful enrichment activities we do (nature centers, library trips, music time, etc). Thats all well and good but whether they do it with me or at an outside location supervised by teachers, they’re still toddlers until age 3 at which point they are extremely young preschoolers. At age 4 the real school prep can begin which is a full year before official kindergarten starts anyway (in the US).

  3. diane- I agree. My kids’ school is definitely not a traditional school. They spend the whole day playing, painting, creating, working with others, reading stories, playing music, riding bikes.

    It is very important that whenever you put your child in school that it is developmentally appropriate. No worksheets, lots of play and lots of exposure to new ideas.

  4. I’m from South Africa and we are bucking the trend – my kids probably “should have” gone to pre-school at 2.5 but I’m keeping them out an extra year.

    I am the only parent with kids this age who doesn’t have them in pre-school.

    Aside from my control issues (!), I really do believe my kids are better off at home with our nanny than at a pre-school.

    I have written about this at least twice on my blog if you want to search under pre-school.

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