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Strategies for schoolchildren : Preparing for school

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Readiness for school is a widely discussed topic among parents. I don’t believe there’s one answer to the question ‘At what age should my child start school?’ I suggest if you’re looking for an answer to this question you should consider the following:

• Each child is different and decisions should be made on the personality and circumstances of each child (what might be good for their best friend, or sister, may not be good for them).

Take advice from your child’s preschool teacher. They will be able to give you invaluable insight into your child’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

• Remember that education is not a race.

If you’ve decided your child is ready for school, prepare them for the experience in a simple, fuss-free way.

Kids like to know what’s coming up, so it’s important to let them know when they’ll be starting school. Talk casually about school as they begin their transition sessions.

• Ensure they can manage their school clothes. The pull strings on new hats or buckles on shoes may be rigid. Have them practise using these so they can manage them easily at school by themselves.

• Make sure they can pack and unpack their school bag and hang it on a hook.

• Check they can open and close their lunchbox and drink bottle.

• Use a calendar to show them the graduated introduction to school as this will help set their expectations. Most schools either have half days or have a day off during the week as they ease children into the school routine.

• In the last week before school, try keeping major activities to a minimum and aim for an early bedtime each night.

• If you’re going to walk to school, go for a practice walk a few days beforehand. Show your child where you’ll wait for them at the end of the day.

• Read stories about children starting school and discuss any questions your child raises.

Creating a school schedule

When my eldest son went off to school, it took me more than a year to realise that I needed to change my habits so that he’d become more responsible for getting himself organised for school. Using a tip from his classroom teacher, I created a school schedule for him. Tables 1 and 2 (overleaf) are examples of school schedules that I continue to create with all of our primary school–aged kids.

The aim of the children’s schedule is to:

• show them what their weekly activities are

• allow them to take responsibility for having the right gear on the right days

• familiarise early readers with the days of the week and other commonly used words.

Table 1: grade one school schedule

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Table 2: grade one after-school schedule

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School schedules help kids prepare for school independently each morning. They have substantially reduced the morning nag factor at our house. I no longer have to ask, ‘Have you got your library book?’ or ‘Did you choose something for show and share?’ I now leave these responsibilities fully with each child.

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