Are you agonising over whether to send your child to school next year?
You’re not alone.
Despite the fact that their children have reached the minimum age to start school, with just three months to go until the start of the 2013 school year, many parents are still unsure if their child is ready to cope with the demands of five day a week schooling.
While some mums and dads believe that being able to remember the alphabet and recite the numbers from 1 to 20 are important school readiness skills, teachers and children’s health professionals agree that there are several other aspects of children’s learning and development that have longer term effects on their school readiness.
Primarily, these experts say that a child’s social and emotional maturity has the most significant impact on a child’s ability to transition to school successfully.
In addition, a child’s language and communication skills, motor coordination, ability to listen and remember are all important factors in a child’s school readiness.
Before your child can successfully master the learning programs encountered at school, it’s important they he has acquired the emotional, social, physical and intellectual skills needed to be a positive participant in the classroom and playground.
Important school readiness considerations
- Does your child have the communication skills to make his needs known, keep himself safe in the playground and make friends with new peers?
Does your child have the fine motor skills needed to hold a pencil properly, manage his lunchbox and take clothing on and off?
Does your child have the social skills needed to deal with disappointment, share the lead and follow instructions?
Does your child have the physical stamina to manage the demands of a long week, term and year?
Does your child have the independence to care for himself, manage his belongings and work without close supervision?
How about pre literacy and pre numeracy skills? Is your child familiar with the sounds of the alphabet? Does he understand what rhyming is? Can he correspondence count and match objects that are similar in size, shape and colour?
Many a friendship is made over a game of handball in the playground, so does your child have the motor coordination, size and strength to be able to join in and match it with his mates?
And perhaps most importantly, does your child have the ability to make connections with other kids, follow the rules of a game and react appropriately to situations he will face?
From whom should I seek advice?
The professionals who probably know your child’s learning, social and emotional capacity best are the early educators who work with him at preschool.
These teachers have seen your child among his peers and should be able to give you clear and independent advice about his strengths and challenges.
While your child may be able to achieve many things in the supportive, quiet and closely supervised environment of your home, it’s important to realise that the demands of learning and working within a group are very different for children.
An observant early educator who knows your child well is likely to be able to give you information about how your child’s levels of development compares with his peers and this could be crucial to your decision making.
In addition, children’s health professionals who focus on supporting kids’ acquisition of functional learning skills are good advisors. Paediatric Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists can offer excellent insights about a child’s school readiness.
Finally, reputable health and education services who offer broadly based learning, language and social skills programs such as Kids First Children’s Services’ Confident Little Kids are worth contacting if you are not sure if your child is ready to start school.
Send your child to school when he is ready to ‘thrive’, not just ‘cope’
Kids are at school for 13 years. It’s a long haul…and it can be made harder if a child is not quite ready when his journey begins.
If you are still unsure about whether your child should start school next year, talk to those who can offer you an independent opinion, consider all the things that only you as a parent can know about him – and trust your gut.