Anne works diligently at her desk for a few minutes, and then starts to fidget and talk to her friend. Shy and sensitive Chun Heng works alone quietly in the back row. Kimmie has a frustrated look as she does her worksheets while Ethan is busy flipping his pencils and erasers. Ryan just looks plain bored. What do these kids have in common? They are a class of Kindergarteners ready to start formal education in primary school the next year. Or are they?
Each of these children has different learning needs and styles. Anne needs structure. Chun Heng needs someone to boost his confidence and encourage him to interact with other students. Kimmie has an auditory processing problem. Ethan has difficulty concentrating while Ryan needs more challenge. Each child has varying emotional, physical and mental needs. As a concerned and loving parent, how can you know your child’s needs? How can you know what is expected of your child in primary one? How can you prepare your child?
Research indicates that families are a critical partner in a child’s transition from the childcare system to the formal education system. Children are more likely to succeed in learning when their families actively support them. A great place to begin is to prepare your child emotionally, intellectually, physically and socially.
Visit the school grounds with your child on Orientation Day. Explore the whole school with your child to get him familiar with the environment. The school grounds can be a maze to little children, so help him know where the toilets, canteen and staff room can be found. Make positive comments about the school and activities. This will give him a positive impression and build up excitement instead of dread. A shy child may be more anxious, so allow your child to express his fears and talk through his worries and don’t belittle his anxiety. Always tell your child what she can expect.
Reading is the best way to prepare a child academically for formal education. Make it enjoyable by reading with your child daily. Look for opportunities to read even on outings – like with road signs, menu, food labels etc. Read books on subjects he is interested in. Audio books from the National Library are also very helpful as it trains auditory skills and allows the child to use his imagination as the story unfolds. Reading expands children’s vocabulary and helps them in comprehension, mathematics and creative writing. Modeling is the best way to get your child interested in reading. When children see parents reading, they are more likely to pick up this good habit as well.
Children thrive on routine and structure; they like to know what’s coming next in their day. They tend to find security in predictable patterns and routines. Lessen their stress by planning a schedule and putting in place a routine. Here are some quick tips you can use.
- Decide on the daily time your child would need to sleep. Plan a routine that would lead up to bedtime. For example, set a timer to ring when it is time to start winding down. Read a bedtime story before going to bed. This will help your child manage time and get him settled to bed daily
- Be familiar with what your child is expected to learn during an academic year. If you know that certain math skills must be mastered or a certain level of reading ability must be reached, then you’ll be able to help your child progress on course.
- Whether you are at home for your child or a working parent, develop a timetable for your child when she is back from school. Factor in rest time, TV time, snack time and playtime in addition to homework time in your home timetable. This will help guide your child to form a discipline in managing her time at home after school.
- Before and during the first week of school, talk to your child on different school scenarios to prepare him mentally and discuss with him what he should do in various scenarios. This mental and verbal walk through also helps to ease any anxiety.
- Don’t over schedule your child with enrichment or tuition at the start of the school year. Over scheduling can add unnecessary stress to your child during this transition stage of starting formal education. Enjoying school and learning should be the first priority of a child entering primary school.
- Homework isn’t a punishment given by the teacher. It is an opportunity to practice what is being taught in school. Start with 10 to 15 minute blocks of time for homework with rest time in between. Ensure your child has a conducive place to do his homework and reading (eg, comfortable table and chair height, good lighting).
Get them used to a routine of preparing for school. Your child would need to learn some skills in order to thrive independently in school. These would include putting on his shoes, buying his own food and carrying it without spilling, handling money and change and learning how to tell the time. You can start teaching your child these skills using games or role play. Your presence to demonstrate, coach and let your child try these skills will encourage him to better prepare himself. Don’t be too quick to step in but let him try and heap tons of encouragement on him.
Tell them the behavior expected when they interact with their teacher (eg, listening to the teacher in class, raising their hand when asking a question) and classmates (eg, introduce themselves and ask for classmate’s name). Take an interest in their new friends and get to know them. It helps you to guide your child in deciding which friends are good influences and how your child can be a good friend to them.
Your child will receive and read signals from you. If you are nervous, your child will pick up on your anxiety. If you are positive and encouraging about school, chances are so will he.
Used by permission of Focus on the Family Singapore (www.family.org.sg), a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programs, trusted resources and family counselling.
© 2012 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.