school

‘I’m an early childhood teacher. Here’s the 4 ways we actually know if your kid is “school ready”.’

There is no better time to talk about school readiness than now. As January comes to an end, there are many, many excited and nervous children (and parents) about to embark on the journey that is school.

But, how do you know if your child is really “school ready”?

“School readiness” is a loaded term and one that is used far too often. I am not sure where the term originated from or out of what context. However, much like other buzz words, “school readiness” has entered mainstream language and has taken on a life of its own.

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It's been plastered on products and programs to boost marketability with no real explanation as to how and why they support school readiness. And this comes at the expense of well-intentioned parents, and ultimately their children.

This results in a cohort of children arriving at school with particular skills, knowledge and understanding, which are not necessarily conducive to smooth transition.

So, what is helpful for children to know and be able to do before they start school? I use the word ‘helpful’ very intentionally here, because teachers will always meet their students where they are at in their learning and development and strategies can be put in place to support children to develop each of the following areas.  

(Shout out to all the amazing teachers who are so incredibly skilled in their profession – to be able to guide the learning of 20-30 students who are all at different places in their learning is a big job! )

1. Self regulation.

One of the biggest differences between early learning settings like childcare and kindergarten and formal school can be the structure of the day. 

I say ‘can be’ because all schools and teachers are different so this will vary. Some classrooms embrace play as a legitimate teaching style, whereas others tend to be more traditional in their delivery of the curriculum. 

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Listen to Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess, where we talk back to school essentials. Post continues below.

Your child may be coming from a hugely play based environment at childcare, kindergarten or at home where they have been able to make lots of choices about what learning and play they engage in and when, to an environment where they have little control over the way in which their day is spent. 

Being able to self regulate disappointment, surprise and anger becomes very important. 

It is also highly likely that they will be asked to spend extended periods of time sitting on the floor for ‘group time’, so understanding this expectation and being able to sit and focus even when they don’t necessarily feel like it is important. 

2. Responsibility.

This is a big one too. 

One of the most helpful things parents can do in preparing their children for school is to nurture their sense of responsibility - for themselves and their belongings. 

Can your child pack and unpack their school bag? Can they access their recess and lunch independently? For example, can they open packaged foods themselves? Can they remove and put on jumpers and jackets independently? Can they tidy up areas that they have been playing in without fuss? 

Starting school is synonymous with increased independence so any opportunities you can give your children to participate in household tasks that affect them directly is helpful. 

I’m not suggesting you adopt a gruelling schedule but a responsibility here and there will help prepare them.

3. Social skills

One of the biggest components of school life is the group environment. 

As children enter the classroom, it is important that they understand what it means to exist within a group of people. 

Children who are able to take turns, share resources, enter into and sustain play in a small group and hold some basic conflict resolution skills help to establish and maintain a cohesive and happy social environment in the classroom and playground. 

4. Communication and listening skills.

By the time children start school it is helpful if their spoken language is understood by everyone, not just their family.

If there are particular sounds your child is having difficulty pronouncing, speech therapy can help to overcome this. 

Sounds like ‘th’ and ‘f’ can take a little longer for some children to master. 

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It is also important in a classroom environment that children know how to ask for help when they need it to prevent getting stuck mid task. 

If your child can confidently and clearly articulate themselves using full sentences, they will be better prepared for this. 

From the first moment children enter the classroom, the verbal instructions will start coming thick and fast. Some will be simple but others will be multi-step and more complex. 

If children have some experience following instructions they will be well prepared for this.  

So - these are the big ones. 

Of course it is lovely when children come along with an understanding of some numeracy and literacy concepts, so nurturing an interest in and love of these areas is fantastic. 

However, understanding the “content of the curriculum” before starting school should not be prioritised above the four areas mentioned in this article, and should certainly not be prioritised above the most important job of young children – play. 

Play should never be underestimated in its importance and much of what is mentioned in this article can be practised and even mastered in a rich play based environment… Including literacy and numeracy! 

Feature Image: Getty.

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