When I first sat down to write a blog about school readiness I was at the forefront of it all. My children, born eighteen months apart, skipped off to school one after the other in quick succession however with rather different reactions.
I soon learned that being prepared for school looks different for everyone. While I still stand by what I wrote in 2015, I’ve had time to reflect on how I could better prepare and inform parents on what REALLY matters in the lead up to school.
Here are 5 things I have observed, researched and experienced regarding sending our babes off to school.
It’s not about ABC’s and 123’s. It’s not even about holding scissors the right way or correctly forming letters. As the child psychologist Haim Ginott said ‘Only if a child feels right, can he think right.’ We need to stop focusing on the academics and the educational aspect of being ready for school, and nourish our children’s emotional readiness to start a new chapter of their lives without us. What do I mean by this? Read numbers 2, 3, 4 & 5.
Let them have their own journey. School for many parents was filled with specific experiences that have influenced their lives. If this was negative for you, then this can impact the way you refer to school, teachers, academics, friendships and more. It’s so important not to influence our children’s experiences and paint pictures of what it might be like. Instead, let them lead conversations about school – responding with excitement “Oh! You have been thinking a lot about school! You’re really wondering what it will be like!”
Practice the practical stuff. Many kids now days have been to some sort of care before formal education begins. This is great practice for ‘big school’. Getting dressed, packing lunch, wearing shoes and socks – all routine tasks that can be practiced. Even carrying their back pack around the house will increase confidence for the big day. I also can’t rate ‘job charts’ highly enough – some sort of visual aid for children to tick or check of a morning. This will make the start to your day smoother and calmer. Even better – get the kids to help you write the list of things that need to be done to increase ownership of tasks.
Acknowledge feelings before, during and after. Parents are actually pretty good at recognising their kid’s negative feelings, however all too often try to squash the discomfort of listening to ‘whinging’ with statements like “Don’t worry about it” or “You’ll be fine” before moving onto another topic. We are not conditioned to stop and really address and assess a problem because it makes us feel uncomfortable. If your child is worried about something specific, encourage discussion like ‘You seem to be really worried about….’ Leave the conversation open, without giving advice, judgement, opinions or ideas. It’s amazing when we leave a space sometimes our children fill it with great ideas and problem solving (we just don’t give them opportunity very often!)
Cherish the experience. Starting school is a wonderful milestone for our children, so let’s not waste this momentous occasion by stressing about the small stuff. So they can’t form letters correctly? There’s time. Focus on the growth that they display as the year goes on. Education is a continuum which shouldn’t be defined by ‘cut-off ages’ and year levels. They learn when they’re ready, it just happens at different times for us all.
‘How to talk so kids listen’ offers many strategies to support kids at all ages, however I must say I found these skills particularly useful around the time my kids started school. Suddenly life becomes very busy, defined by the clock and schedules! As much as we’d like to breeze through the day it unfortunately isn’t always possible… so let’s try and support our little people into their education with as much understanding, kindness and consideration as possible.
Key to Kids offers a one hour parent talk ‘Ready, Set… Prep!’ for kindies and childcare centres. It costs $200 for the Brisbane area, however travel to outer regions can be negotiated. Bookings now open for Term 3 & 4 2017.
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