School Ready? This is Part 3 in a series blogs regarding schools. This is written by Lucy Patrick, a primary school headteacher and co – owner of North Kirklees Mumbler, about how you can support your child as September and the start of their Reception year approaches.
Children are so able. The have skills and abilities that amaze us on a daily basis. Their resourcefulness and creativity far exceeds that of adults and their ability to problem solve is simply incredible.
So why, despite all this, can the majority of children not put on their own shoes and coats by the time they begin school?
My opinion? Because we don’t let them. We don’t expect them too and, dare I say it, we don’t realise that they can.
I was in the library recently leading a craft session with some mask making. My instinct as a teacher is always to look for the learning taking place in any activity, so, as usual I stood back and observed for a short while. Many of the children were happily scribbling and cutting out their masks to various degrees of accuracy. Alternately, one child had a beautifully -made mask, cut out perfectly and ready on a stick for her to wear as she left the library; her mum had done the lot. That little girl had been given no chance to practise holding scissors, choose colours or use some fine motor movements by carefully colouring inside the lines; a wasted opportunity. I hope that I can convince you here that one of the best ways you can prepare your child for school is actually by doing less for them.
For children starting school, one of the key factors in readiness is their level of independence. If you bring up your child to make choices and think critically this will have hugely positive impact on their learning from a young age. They will be able to access the school learning environment well, choose appropriate resources and overcome barriers without the need for adult intervention.
This week; slow down. Find time to:
begin a before – bedtime routine of packing a bag (with, not for your child) for the next day. Doing this now forms a habit which will reap reward when school starts, making mornings less pressured. Encourage your child to make decisions about what should be added by talking about where you will be going, what kind of weather is expected etc. It won’t be long before they will be doing this with minimum intervention.
guide them to choose their clothes for the next day and lay them out on the floor, ready for them to attempt to put on in the morning. Let them dress as much as they can instead of dressing them yourself. It is entirely possible for a four year old to completely dress themselves if they have done from a young age.
insist that they help tidy away after playing with their toys. There is much valuable learning to be had in terms of sorting, plus you are teaching them to look after and respect their environment. A significant amount of time is spent on establishing routines in a Reception Class at the beginning of the academic year and tidying up is a key part of this.
ask them to set the table and help clear away at mealtimes. Let them pour their own drink.
Give them thinking time after you have asked them a question. This will help develop them as critical thinkers. Answering your own question before giving them chance to will not. It’s surprising how many people seem to talk on behalf of their children.
Making just a few extra minutes every day to support your child in one of these ways will almost certainly have positive impact in a short space of time and increase their level of independence, and independent children make strong learners. Fact.
• Making contact with parents of children who will be in their class – Mumbler chat groups are a good way to reach out here and some schools set up Class List or similar mobile phone software as a method of communication. Arranging meet ups through the summer can help you feel less anxious as a lone parent in the playground.
• Talk to school staff about any emerging concerns as soon as possible. You aren’t a fussy parent and won’t be seen this way.