by Hanna Vock
When weighing the pros and cons of early enrolment, stakeholders should consider the following questions:
Does the child want to go to school?
If so, why? What are his or her ideas about school?
Are they realistic?
If the child does not want to go to school yet, why not? Is the child afraid of starting school? Can this fear be reduced?
What interests and abilities does the child have – in relation to the requirements at school?
Will the child’s main playmates stay in the kindergarten or will they start school?
In which areas could the child possibly have difficulties in achieving the required performance?
Is there a reasonable prospect that the child will overcome these difficulties if allowed to start school?
What is the parents‘ position on the issue of school enrolment? What reasons do they express for or against it?
What is the position of the host school/teacher?
Explanations to questions 1-3:
It makes sense to give all children – already in kindergarten – realistic ideas about what school is. It is also important to encourage the children to go to school and to work on fears that are present in some children in advance. For gifted children, this process may be much more involved than for some other children. Their fears are often not an effect of underdevelopment or immaturity, but of complex foresight – indeed, of difficulty.
Explanations to 4:
If the child is remarkably and persistently interested in things that are not „their turn“ until school, there are two ways of dealing with the situation: either the kindergarten adjusts its work and responds appropriately to these interests, or the child is enrolled in school. Under no circumstances should one slow down its learning processes „so that it is not too far ahead in school later on“.
Explanations to 5:
If the main playmates leave the group for school, there is a lot to be said for early enrolment; because there is a great danger that the child will otherwise experience even more underchallenge and permanent frustration because the stimulation and exchange with „the big ones“ will be missing for a whole year.
Explanations to 6:
Early enrolment is often not recommended because the child is very advanced cognitively but behind in social behaviour and does not yet show sufficient work attitude or frustration tolerance.
According to experience from numerous counselling sessions, this is sometimes a case of serious misjudgement due to a lack of knowledge about the development of gifted children. If there are indeed serious deficits in social behaviour and personal skills, these should be worked on. Any existing cognitive underachievement should be prioritised and at least terminated at the same time.
Explanations to 7:
Experience advises not to overvalue gaps in knowledge in gifted children. Young children also show an amazing ability to close gaps if they are motivated to stay in the right playing and learning environment for them. Above all, the strong intrinsic motivation to learn works here again when the level of challenge is right.
It is known, for example, that gifted children who have skipped a class quickly catch up with the learning level of the class in an apparently accelerated (but for them quite appropriate) learning process.
It is also not uncommon to observe that the child quickly learns his way into the top group (feeling comfortable because the learning pace is right) – and then sometimes suffers from underachievement again. This fact indicates that acceleration measures (such as early enrolment or skipping classes) can alleviate the underachievement problem, but do not necessarily get to the root of it.
For some children who can already read and/or do maths, it is worth considering whether they can skip Grade 1.
Explanations to 8:
Parents are often unsure whether early enrolment is really the right step. These parents need professional support. The concrete observations and assessments of the qualified kindergarten teacher can strengthen them to take this still unusual path. For the child, it is important that the parents develop a firm point of view for themselves and thus give their child security.
Explanations to 9:
The receiving school should welcome the child in a friendly manner, i.e. without reservations and in a supportive manner.
This is best clarified by the kindergarten knowing „its“ school(s) and being able to advise the parents accordingly.
Discussions between school and parents before school enrolment can be useful.
Date of publication in German: July 2013
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint.