Focus on Education: Get ready, get set – learn!

focus-on-education-fall2013by Micki Di Cesare,
The Parent Resource Centre

Preparing your child for kindergarten means ensuring the whole family is ready to embark on this new adventure

Are we ready for school?

As your child is approaching school age, chances are you have given thought to how ready he or she is to enter the classroom for the first time.

With the full-day kindergarten curriculum almost fully implemented (September 2014), more and more families are wondering if their child is ready to participate in full-day schooling.

When thinking of preparing children for school, parents need to recognize the importance of school readiness in all aspects, not just the academic component. Families should ask themselves: is our family ready for school?

By taking the time to consider all aspects involved with school readiness, families will reduce stress and reinforce the message that school and learning are fun!

The Ministry of Education recognizes that not all children are ready to engage in a full-day kindergarten school program. Respecting parents as their child’s first and most important teacher, both the ministry and schools acknowledge that parents are best suited to make that decision. Parents have the choice to enroll their child in either a full-day or half-day kindergarten program.

First steps/getting ready

Once the decision of full or half-day is made, families can focus on other elements of school readiness to help prepare the family for this new adventure. Does your family have set routines for mornings as well as the end of day?

Routines may seem unnecessary; however, they provide stability and predictability for children, which in return allows them to feel safe and in control of their environment. The repetition helps children remember the steps and increases their autonomy.

A confident child is more likely to try new things, which will only increase his or her independence and willingness to participate and stay positive.

When your child is feeling good about himself and can complete routines easily and independently, he is less distracted and better prepared to learn.

Working together to decide on your daily routines allows everyone to have a say and take ownership of their responsibilities.

Establishing your morning routine is important as it sets the tone for the day and allows everyone to start the day on a positive note.

Similarly, daily after-school routines help you provide a stable and predictable home environment. By establishing an after-school routine, you can reduce anxieties or frustrations and increase the amount of time you spend with your family.

So everyone knows what to expect, think about setting simple guidelines in advance, such as where your child can set their backpack down, which snacks and when they can have them, what time of the evening you will engage in learning activities together, etc.

Your child will be exposed to so many new things during the first few weeks of school, they may arrive home exhausted from their day. It may be wise to establish a routine that allows them to have some quiet or resting time at the end of their school day.

Begin these new routines at least four weeks prior to the first day of school to help all members of the family feel comfortable and adapt to the changes. Having an established routine will help alleviate some natural first-day anxiety and allow everyone to enjoy this wonderful milestone.

When children first enter school, they rarely have “homework,” however, planning a set time for learning activities before your child starts school will help establish important homework routines or habits that will remain with them throughout their school experience.

Set a time during the day to engage your child in a family learning activity such as playing cards, logging onto the library’s website to read e-books, or choose an activity from your activity box (see page 64 of the magazine).

Remember to ask many questions and allow your child enough time to think about the question and process their answers. Whatever activity you choose, it is important to include it in your daily routine as much as possible.

Your family environment and early learning opportunities provided by way of talking, listening and playing will affect your child’s readiness to learn at school. The objective is not only to establish effective homework habits but to instill a healthy curiosity and a joy of learning. It is a time to have fun together!

Be your child’s advocate

Another important element to consider is how to communicate with your child’s school. Feeling comfortable enough to speak with your child’s teacher is not always a natural skill.

As a parent, you have both the right and the privilege of being your child’s advocate. You know your child best and you can be a tremendous asset to the teacher.

Take some time before school begins to write down questions or concerns you may have about your child’s school experience. Include your child’s likes and dislikes, as well as some of their personality traits; this helps the teacher develop a personalized relationship with your child and your family.

If the teacher is unable to meet with you, remember how busy the first few weeks are for the teachers too; ask if you can send them an email to share your thoughts and schedule a meeting at a later date.

This is a new beginning for both your child and your family. You are creating a partnership with the school to ensure your child reaches their full potential; your input and support are essential to a successful school experience.

The first few weeks of school will bring a variety of emotions and new experiences. Your child will meet new friends, learn new routines and skills, and have to adapt to new behaviour expectations in the classroom. It is very common for children to react to all these changes.

Some children may express a dislike for school, but that is no reason for concern. After a few more weeks, they will become familiar with the school’s routines and expectations and they will become more confident in their own abilities.

As parents, you want to acknowledge their feelings and reassure them. Take the time to discuss with your child and help them identify something positive from the day.

Sharing together and talking about every family member’s day can be part of your daily routine. It allows you to spend some quality time together while supporting your child’s emotional development and well-being.

Additional resources 

This is a wonderful time in your child’s life. Entering school for the first time can be scary and exciting, and not just for your child.

Take time to process your own emotions and the information so you can all enjoy this amazing milestone.

The following links are helpful to make informed decisions about your child’s school experience, and provide resources to support your child’s development.