Starting school can create excitement and uncertainty – for both children and parents. Natalie Moutafis asked our experts for tips for a more enjoyable and relaxed transition, before the first day arrives.
The start of school is an exciting milestone for both children and parents. During Term 4 many parents begin to learn more about the transition to school process for the year ahead. It may be that their child is moving on from four-year-old kindergarten to prep, or leaving their primary caregiver for the first time.
To help ensure it’s a positive start, Natalie Moutafis spoke to ISV’s Principal Consultants Aynur Simsirel and Helen Schiele to get their unique insight, tips and experience into how parents can support their child starting school – and foster a lifelong love of learning.
Ready for school?
First, it’s important to understand that it’s not just about school readiness, but rather the development of the whole child.
The term ‘school readiness’ can be somewhat misleading, with many parents believing that if their child cannot yet write their name, read some sight words, or perform simple mathematic problems that they are not ready for school. But this is not entirely the case. The Australian Curriculum outlines what a student should have learnt by the end of their first year of school, not what they need to know at the start of the school year.
‘Approach the school early with any questions, don’t leave it until the first day’ advises Helen. Finding out who to speak to well before your child starts their first year of school will help you best support your child once January arrives. Questions to consider that will help you and your child include:
- How does the curriculum work?
- Which curriculum does the school deliver?
- How can I support my child at home?
- If my child does not speak English at home, will they manage the learning outcomes of the curriculum?
- What types of reading materials should my child be reading at home?
- How often should my child be reading at home and should I be listening to them read?
- How often will you listen to my child read in class?
- How often will you test my child?
- How will you support the learning needs of my child?
- When will my child start to learn about technology?
- Is homework part of the curriculum?
- Are there any cultural cues the teacher should be made aware of with respect to your family?
Questions such as these, and any others you may have, will help minimise feelings of anxiousness. Aynur said in her experience, it was often the parents that were more anxious about their child beginning school than the child themselves.
The more relaxed the parents are, the easier they make it for their child to settle in.
10 Tips for Parents
1. – Be kind to yourself
This might be the first time that you will be spending a large period of time away from your child,and them away from you and the home.
2 – Tread gently
‘With the great excitement comes a little trepidation’ says Helen. ‘Your child is going to utilise their strengths and positive social skills to make new friends and share what makes them unique. Encourage this gently’.
3 – Go slow
‘Take time after school to reflect on the day – just be with your child and walk in the afternoon sunlight’ suggests Helen. Tell them you missed them and you were thinking about how much fun they were having with new friends and all the new things they are learning about.
4 – Don’t overschedule
Your child will be tired, and possibly moody. This is a big change, even if they have been in a kindergarten or early learning program. Aynur suggests that ‘Term 1 particularly may not be the time to excel in extra-curricular activities’.
5 – Do your homework
Pay close attention to communications from the school. Understanding the expectations of parents (start and finish times, lunchbox requirements, uniforms, and who to go to first if you have an issue) will help make the transition smooth.
6 – Celebrate the milestone
Lots of positive, upbeat talk about starting school will pave the way for a positive, cheerful start.
7 – Do a practice run
In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, attend any transition days (if possible with local restrictions), let your child be familiar with the school (walk or drive past regularly or find out if they offer a virtual tour), make sure your child can easily handle their lunchbox (and any packets/containers within it) and ensure they are comfortable with independent toileting.
8 – Get to know your child’s teacher
Find out what the teacher’s expectations are of both your child and you. Ask what you can do to help your child with this new stage of their learning both at home and while at school.
9 – Get involved in the school community
Check with your school if they accept volunteers for reading programs, school canteen, classroom support (especially excursions), parent clubs and school councils.
10 – Ask for help
If you or your child are facing difficulties or need additional assistance, approach the teacher, school counsellor or principal. Help your child understand what to do if they are hurt, unhappy or worried while at school. Everyone wants your child to succeed just as much as you do.
Additional resources include the following:
- Department of Education – State Schools
- Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd – Primary
- What will my child be learning in the Victorian Curriculum?
- What will my child be learning in the Australian Curriculum?
Note: Each state and territory has a different name for the first formal year of schooling such as ‘Foundation’, ‘Reception’, ‘Kindergarten’ ‘Pre-Primary’ or ‘Prep’.
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