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Being an August Baby (three times over)

by Clare Mansell
Being an August Baby (three times over)

My son is three and in just over a week’s time he shall be starting primary school. He was born in Scotland where the autumn term starts in the middle of August and the cut off date for the intake is in February, which explains a little why nobody even thought to mention the date when they admitted me to hospital for an induction a matter of hours before the end of the month.

August Baby

Theo is incredibly excited about attending “big” school and has spent the last few months complaining that he finds his nursery boring. I’m not for one minute suggesting he is gifted or particularly bright, but he’s tall for his age, confident and enthusiastic and I look at him and think it would be tortuous to hold him back from formal schooling for another 12 months.

As his parents we are in the unusual situation of having done it all before. Jim and I are both August babies and the youngest in our respective school years. My main memory of being born in August is of never having to go to school on my birthday and of always (or almost always) having a party in the garden, I thought I was pretty lucky. Both Jim and I were never really aware of the implications of being younger than our peers until later in life and so never had the chance for the dire predictions about our outcomes to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Now summer born babies are an annual story and the papers are full of statistics, court battles and gloomy forecasts for our children’s future. Summer babies are apparently more likely to be bullied, fair worse at exams and struggle with physical activities. One study even concluded that by the age of seven they are three times more likely to be regarded as below average by their teachers and 20% less likely to go to a top university. Yet Bill Clinton, Madonna, Barack Obama and Roger Federer were all born in August.

At school neither Jim nor I excelled at sports and I can still barely catch a ball to this day, but both of us came from families that weren’t particularly sporty, so it seems unlikely that our birth months and alleged lack of physical development are entirely responsible. Two decades after leaving education, Jim now plays cricket for our local team and I had a memorable season playing ice hockey when we lived in Canada. Neither of us are great, but we have fun and isn’t that what sport is supposed to be about?

Two generations of August babies

As far as school results are concerned, I was probably particularly lucky that I never felt under pressure academically from my parents and when at some point early in my senior schooling a teacher sent a letter home suggesting I was tested for dyslexia, my parents ignored it and left me to learn at my own pace. I’m sure many will be horrified by this, but my parents knew their child and within a few years I’d knuckled down and caught up on my writing and spelling. I was never given a reason to think I couldn’t do as well as everyone else, but equally I was never pressured to achieve more than I could.

The lottery of birth month is the first of many uneven playing fields that our children will have to face in their lifetime. One of the arguments about August babies is that all children are different and some are particularly disadvantaged, but if we try to even out this inequality there will only be more we can’t control. Divorces, separations, house moves, illness, siblings, differences in income and class size, geography and social status all of which will tip their prospects one way or another.

So what I’m really trying to say is this… If you have a summer born child starting school this September, try not to worry too much about their schooling or to endeavour to smooth the path that lies ahead of them. Your son or daughter has an amazing opportunity. A chance to push themselves to excel amongst kids who are older and more skilled than them and your job as a parent is to stand behind them and to offer gentle encouragement. Don’t let their birth month be an excuse or a crutch, let them find their place amongst their peers and enjoy the experience of school. They’ll be fine, trust me.

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9 comments

Confessions of a New Mummy August 28, 2015 - 2:20 pm

Thanks for sharing this. My eldest will start primary school next year and will be one of the youngest in her class. Must admit I’m a little worried but I do agree, even though they are young they have a fab opportunity.

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Em @ snowingindoors August 28, 2015 - 4:51 pm

I bet Theo is going to do really well at school, Annie is a June baby and is one of the younger ones in her class, whereas Ez is an October babe and will be an old, old man by the time he finally starts in 2016 😉

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Donna August 28, 2015 - 9:32 pm

Thanks for writing this. I have never really been phased by LP having an August birthday but did get rattled a few months ago when it was all over the media about August babies. I spoke to LP’s preschool teacher about it who made me feel better about it and since then, like before, I haven’t been bothered by it at all.
LP may not be where other children are academically – with some writing their name and knowing the alphabet but she is only four, today. She has so much time to learn those things and she learns so fast. I need to not compare her, not push her too much and just let her be – she will get to where she’s meant to be in her time x

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Emma T September 11, 2015 - 10:13 pm

It’s good you’re at ease with it. tbh, N’s a January, and he can’t count correctly to 20 every time, and can’t write his name more than half way (with guidance!). But then I sit next to someone at work who’s son is a summer birthday, just started school as well, and can read books himself, and do huge numbers (over hundreds) and sums. As long as N learns what he has to by the correct age, I’m happy (well, I’d like him to be more like me than his father, but it’s not looking like that at the moment)

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Lynn Goring-Crook August 30, 2015 - 12:11 am

Very thought provoking piece and it is true in any setting that children learn from older ones. That’s why we picked a nursery school where all the ages are mixed together and we have noticed our youngest, of three, has developed much quicker from following his older brother and sister and wanted to be able to do what they can do.

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Claire @ Clarina's Contemplations August 30, 2015 - 4:44 pm

I’m an Aigust born and my eldest is an August born and as a teacher I can honestly say it’s all a load of rubbish. By the time the children reached me in year six, you couldn’t tell who was born when, and in my last class, my brightest child was a July born boy. Don’t let them feed you the lie! They will be fine… My Ava was four last week and starts next week and I know she’ll do just fine 🙂 great post!!

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Karen September 6, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Great post Clare. I was an August baby and my 3 girls are all summer babies- late June and July. The two bigger ones were def ready to go and I’m pretty sure Daisy will be the sane. They just fitted right in and got on with it, even excelling in certain areas. He will do amazingly I’m sure. Looking forward to reading how he gets on xx

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Emma T September 11, 2015 - 10:15 pm

I’m really pleased to read this Clare. To me, it feels like the world’s gone nuts whittering on about August birthdays. As you say, so many managed in the past (I’ve got quite a few August and July friends, all of whom went to uni and got A levels).

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The first week of school » Maybush Studio September 14, 2015 - 9:38 am

[…] Theo managed two separate appearances on television! The first was with me as part of a piece about summer born babies on the BBC News and the second when his school pal Monty was filmed on his first day for Good […]

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