A guest post by Fi Morrison
Lately I’ve been asked a lot for my professional opinion on how to prepare your child for school. I must admit I was a bit surprised by this interest, because I didn’t realise how important this was to parents. As a new mum to a 1 year old, starting school is the furthest thing from my mind; and as a teacher, I have only focused on working with students once they’re at school, not the lead up beforehand. So this push for preparing younger children for school is a bit unknown to me, however there are several key points I think parents should consider in the lead up to their children starting school.
Firstly, please relax!
I know I will probably be a big hypocrite in several years time when my boy is old enough to start school, however parents should relax a bit more about their children starting school. While it is beneficial to have some foundations in place before commencing formal education, if your child is not able to read chapter books or write essays before they start Kindergarten, that is okay. Teachers are trained to work with a wide range of abilities, and there are opportunities for extra support if it is needed. If you are becoming anxious or stressed about your child starting school, chances are they will be too. Instead, talk about all the things your child will get to do at school, such as all the exciting things they will learn, and the wonderful friends they will meet!
Social development is just as important – if not more so – than Academic development.
If you want to give your child the best start for schooling, help them to prepare for the social elements of being at school. Examples of this are listening to the teacher (not chatting!), interacting with other children, being respectful to all and using their manners. These are all crucial social elements in a classroom setting. Many teachers have to spend weeks teaching these skills to Kindergarten children as they have not come to school equipped with these skills. Social development is just like all other development – it grows over time and many skills need to be explicitly taught. Giving your child ample opportunity to interact with other children (such as at preschool) and respond to social cues can help them adjust to the new routines and responsibilities in a formal classroom and school setting.
All children are unique, so try to avoid comparing them to others.
When considering whether your child is ready for school or not, many parents look around at other children of a similar age to see what skills they have developed. As a result, we as parents can sometimes unfairly judge that our child is not competent or “smart” enough, when that simply is not the case (I’m totally guilty of this, and my son is only 1!!). Firstly, all children are unique and have different strengths, personalities, and areas for improvement. For example, my son’s physical development wasn’t as great as other babies of a similar age, however his language development was higher. Just because he isn’t at the same physical development stage as the others, doesn’t mean he is behind. Similarly, when getting your child ready for school, if they aren’t reading full sentences yet or are unable to count to 20 and back, this does not mean they aren’t ready for school.
Help your child in simple ways.
If you are keen to help your child get ready for the academic side of school, here are a couple of simple things they could learn.
- Help your child recognise numbers 0-10, using visual aids like flash cards or story books.
- Use songs to help your child to count to 10 (such as “Dr. Knickerbocker” from the Wiggles, which counts to 9).
- Learn to write their own name
- Know some of the alphabet, again using visual aids.
- Understanding concepts of print. Reading to your child consistently is a powerful learning tool, as it teaches your child many things about language, including how to read from a book as well as identifying letters and sounds.
While preparing your child for school is a momentous milestone for you both, it does not need to be a daunting or overwhelming one. The main aim for preparing your child for school is making it as positive an experience for your child as possible!
Fi Morrison is a first-time mum to a cheeky 1-year-old boy whom she affectionately calls Starfish. She recently returned to work part-time as a Primary School teacher, teaching a Year 2 class. Around mummying and working, she also has a blog (Mumma Morrison) designed to help new mums on their motherhood journey. Fi and her family live in Sydney South.
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