By Wilma Bedford
To decide whether your child is school-ready or not must surely be one of the most difficult decisions a parent has to make, as your decision will determine the success of your child’s school career, how well your child adapts in school and socially, and could even influence his self-image.
How do I know my child is school-ready?
1) Does my child have the self-confidence to speak in a class or group? If my child feels unwell or wants to visit the bathroom, or something bothers him, can he say so?
2) Separation anxiety: Is my child ready to be separated from me and handle the unknown? A few tears for a day or two will be normal.
3) Does my child have a sense of responsibility? Can he take care of his possessions, such as his lunch box, jersey, pencils and erasers?
4) Can my child concentrate and sit quietly and complete a task?
5) Can my child solve a problem? Will he for example know to enquire at lost goods when he loses his jersey? Or when he doesn’t have a ruler, ask to borrow one?
6) Can my child complete a task independently or will he continuously require assistance and approval from the teacher?
7) Does my child possess the perseverance to tackle a more difficult task and complete it or does he immediately say it is too difficult?
What can I do to prepare my child for the “big school”?
- Read to and together with your child, in this way he learns to recognise words and distinguish sounds, as well as to follow from left to right.
- Teach your child songs, rhymes and poems; in this way he learns to memorise.
- Tell stories in the wrong sequence; your child learns to listen and is afforded the opportunity to correct you politely.
- Take your child to shopping centres, museums and places of interest in your neighbourhood, even though you might think they are not important. Your child learns there is another world outside his safe home and he also starts to develop a sense of direction.
- At a regular playgroup he will learn to socialise, handle emotions, share and get to know what is acceptable conduct. Gradually allow your child to stay at the playgroup for longer to combat separation anxiety on his first school day.
- Your child must be able to recognise and distinguish between colours, shapes and numbers. Different building blocks and jigsaw puzzles will be applicable here. Also allow your child to sort cutlery or laundry according to type, colour or owner and to fold up and put away his own clothes. Show him pictures of for example animals and motor cars or fruit and vegetables that he has to sort according to type; he must also be able to motivate his choices.
- Play organised games so that your child can learn about fairness and rules and also to wait his turn.
- Walk to the shop with your child so that he learns road safety.
- Take your child to his new school regularly, even if you merely sit outside in your car so that the surroundings will be familiar and he can develop a natural curiosity about the school. Be there at the end of the school day so that from a safe distance he can see how the children are picked up and where you will be waiting for him.
- Let him cut out large pictures with safe scissors and allow him to fasten his shoe-laces and buttons so that his eye-hand coordination can develop.
- Allow your child to make choices and to understand the consequences, for example, if he eats his strawberries now, he cannot eat strawberries this evening as well – and stand by it. It is also essential for him to learn that disobedience in school will also have consequences.
- Give clear instructions. When he has to put away his toys, say clearly that he has to put the cars in the left corner, then the blocks in the other corner etc.