The first problem that arises in connection with schooling is the question of when a child is mature enough to follow classes. Our curricula are set up in such a way that a child with average talent becomes able to attend school when he or she turns 7 years old. However, it should be taken into account that among children of that age there are large individual differences in the ability to successfully master the teaching material. There are children who have already grown up for school at the age of 6, but there are also those who are not ready for school even at the age of 8.
During the already mentioned examination of mental disorders, we found that 11.9% of boys and 11.2% of girls in the city enroll in school at the age of 6. In the countryside, this percentage is lower, at the age of 6 only 6.1% of boys and 7.1% of girls start school. City parents are more likely to send their child to school before he or she reaches the age when he or she becomes a student. This is probably an expression of their greater interest than rural parents in the cultural development and vocational training of their children. In the countryside, parents try to keep the child at home for as long as possible and to include it in the housework. But a positive aspect is that even in the countryside a number of parents send their children to school before the deadline.
Both in the city and in the countryside, both sexes are equally represented among children who start school at the age of 6. Parents do not seem particularly motivated to send their child to school earlier if it is the only one. However, children from larger families, i.e. having two or more siblings, are less likely to go to school at the age of 6 than children from smaller families.
Children of working mothers are more likely to go to school at the age of 6 than children of unemployed mothers. The tendency of working mothers to enroll their children in school as early as possible is understandable. Then they are sure that they are under surveillance for part of the day. In addition, they hope that their busyness with school tasks will link them to their parents’ home and protect them from the influence of various uncontrolled educational factors, such as the street, i.e. the society of neglected children.
Among the children who enrolled in school at the age of 6, we found more students with constant excellent and very good success, and less children with always good success, than among the children who went to school at the age of 7. This means that these children show a greater tendency to be good students than the average student. It is interesting that among these children there are slightly more students with consistently poor or only sufficient success.
Probably the main motive that leads parents to the decision to enroll their child in school at the age of 6 is their belief that they are intellectually developed enough to do so. Parents are right in many cases. But sometimes they also cheat in assessing their child’s intelligence. Then they force a child who is not yet mature, to attend school. It is understandable that it fails not only due to insufficient intelligence but also due to emotional difficulties that arise in connection with the overload of tasks that it is not up to do.
It seems, therefore, that children who go to school at the age of 6, according to their success in school, are generally classified into two extremes: among the best and among the worst students; there are relatively fewer of them among the mediocre.
It would be ideal – but for now it is technically unfeasible – for all children to be tested for intelligence at the age of 6, in order to determine objectively when it is most appropriate for an individual child to enroll in school. A 6-year-old child who shows a mental age of 7 on intelligence tests, i.e. achieves an IQ of 115-120, and can go to school as early as 6 years of age. Moreover, it is very useful for it. If such a child goes to school only at the age of 7, there is a danger that the classes will be too easy for it, so it will soon get bored, and that could weaken it and even completely destroy its motivation to master the curriculum.
Psychological examination could also establish that an individual child has not reached the level of mental development required for successful progress in school even at the age of 7. It happens that the child is 7 years old, but its intelligence is at the level of a 6-year-old, or even less (IQ = 86 or less). In that case, enrollment should be postponed for a year to allow it to go to school with a slightly higher mental maturity. If the IQ is less than 80, the question is whether the child will ever develop such intellectual capacity that he or she will be able to successfully complete regular elementary school. Then it is necessary to think about the education of the child in a special (auxiliary) school that provides education for less gifted children.
There are parents who believe that a child should be specially prepared to attend school. They try to teach their child to read and write, and preferably basic arithmetic operations, even before going to school, in order to make it supposedly easier for it at school.
For example, there was a father who forced his 4-year-old daughter to learn to read and write. He gave up on this only when he realized that his daughter’s stuttering and night terrors were causally related to his excessive demands.
It is not necessary to teach a child before going to school those skills that it will acquire at the beginning of school. If a child reads and writes when it finds itself in school, it will not feel any interest in learning and will be reluctant to go to school, during classes it will probably be restless and distracted and will not learn what it does not know yet. If a child already in preschool shows a spontaneous interest in reading and writing, it should not be forbidden to do them, but it should not be systematically taught these skills. Such a child’s interest to parents can only serve as a warning that their child is mature enough to go to school even before the age of 7.
Although it is not recommended that children learn in advance what they will learn in school, parents can still do much in terms of preparing for successful schooling. It is useful for a preschool child to attend kindergarten where he / she gains experience that he / she cannot gain at home to such an extent and that will help him / her to cope better in school. In kindergarten, the child moves in a larger group of peers, takes part in competitions, in enduring rivalry and in creating friendships; learns systematic collaboration with other children; acquires work habits, develops manual dexterity by drawing, modeling and other handicrafts, practices aesthetic experience and expression, enriches its vocabulary by learning and reciting poems, and practices performing in front of other people. All this gives it greater security when it comes to school, makes it easier for it to master school tasks and speeds up its adjustment to the class.
In order to prepare a child for a successful schooling, parents can do the most to treat it in a healthy, natural way and to raise it properly. If the child has gained deep trust in the parents, it will pass it on to the teachers as well. If it has learned to respect and love its parents, it will be willing to treat teachers in the same way. A child who has acquired positive social habits in the family and is polite, disciplined and adaptable, will easily fit into the class and will accept the rules of school discipline without resistance. The habit of working at home, the initiative, entrepreneurship and endurance in every activity enables the child to accept school work as something completely understandable. The sense of security and confidence instilled in a child by proper parenting is the best insurance against timidity in school and the surest guarantee that the child will not be aggressive in school nor will it need to stand out in an unnatural, painful way.
Behavioral disorders and neurotic reactions of children’s behavior in school are largely the result of educational mistakes in the family. The child is careless because it has no work habits or initiative to work, which is usually the result of cuddling. Due to such an upbringing procedure in the family, the child is not independent at school, avoids it or tries to attract attention by disturbing the lessons. Retreat, timidity, and distraction are most often the result of authoritarian upbringing at home. An upbringing without love causes hypersensitivity, irritability, and physical or mental abuse cultivates in it aggression and insolence. The child’s habit of lying indicates that the child constantly feels threatened at home, so it uses lies as a defense against violent actions of the educator. Greed is often the result of too much parenting, and the mature behavior is an expression of excessive socializing with adults. Theft in children is usually a sign of hidden aggression towards the environment.
However, it should also be taken into account that the child sometimes comes to school with objective difficulties, such as various physical disabilities that reduce the ability to work.
Successful coping and progress in school requires not only adequate intellectual capacity but also sufficient physical fitness. If it is physically underdeveloped or malnourished for its age, the child will get tired faster at school. This deprives it of the opportunity to follow the lessons carefully, so it becomes distracted and restless. Poor endurance in work does not allow it to successfully master school assignments. It then experiences failures despite sufficient intellectual ability, so it becomes dissatisfied, loses the will to go to school, becomes passive and disinterested, or begins to interfere with teaching and behave in an aggressive manner.
A child with a physical defect, e.g., with a visibly crooked spine, with an amputated arm or leg, with a deformed foot, etc., often feels less valuable than his or her classmates. This sometimes motivates it to compensate for its physical deficiency with special diligence, but it can also become withdrawn, timid, or less successful than what it is capable of. Such a negative reaction can also be caused by other external damages, such as particularly low growth or above-average growth, excessive obesity, conspicuous ugliness and the like.