Gorgeous guest post from my friend, and fellow Blogger, Susan Stephenson (aka The Book Chook)
We love our kids and want what’s best for them. Loving them is easy; it’s working out what’s best for them that’s tricky. I don’t have the answers. What I do have is experience as both a parent, and a school teacher. Here are some thoughts from The Book Chook on how to support your child at school.
Traditional schooling is not the answer for every child. Homeschooling is not the answer for every child. I don’t think there IS a perfect system. What we need to do is weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of each. The best way to do that is gather information. Do some research. Ask if you can sit in on several classroom/homeschool sessions, get a feeling for what goes on. Volunteer at a school, or ask if you can join a social meeting of homeschool parents. Listen, observe, ask. If your local school (private or state) offers a kindergarten (prep) orientation program, take your child along and see how it goes.
Let’s say you’ve decided. Your son is enrolled in your local school, and he’ll be attending with some kids he knows from pre-school. He’s been to the orientation program, has checked out the playground equipment, knows how to use the toilets and bubblers, and has met his new teacher. Is there anything else you can do to support him when he starts big school?
Role play: Try out physical things like putting on and taking off uniforms, especially shoes; coping with lunchbox food, and drinks; putting things into and out of the new school bag. The first weeks of school can be a hugely emotional time. And not just for parents! I’ve seen kids reduced to tears because they couldn’t unscrew the lid on a new drink bottle, couldn’t tie their shoe laces; accidentally wore a night time disposable nappy to school; couldn’t undo a cheese stick; didn’t know how to take off a jumper so wore it until they were red in the face in the middle of summer and had no idea how to deal with a bus pass attached to their school bag.
Practise emotional things like going places without Mum; dealing with someone who snatches; what to do if someone wants you to go to their house; what to do if you miss the bus; what to do if you feel sick. (Book Chook rule: sick kids are better off at home.)
Talk positively but realistically: I’ve heard people say things like, “Oh, you’d better not try that at school or the teacher will go mad at ya!” and “Starting big school? Great, soon you’ll be reading Grandpa the newspaper.” Children this age take things literally. We want our kids to feel good about going to school, but it’s important to be accurate and realistic with them too. Helping them to be realistic about themselves is one of the best skills we can develop – each of us is unique, with weaknesses and strengths; each of us is special, with dreams to follow and problems to overcome.
Continue with all the things you did with your pre-schooler: play with him, read to him, listen to him, sing with him, talk with him. If you ask him what he’s done at school, don’t be taken aback if he says he played all day, or did nothing. Kindergarten has lots of play-based learning that looks mostly like play to a five-year-old. There might be a time he will feel like chatting more – perhaps before bedtime, after a story.
Nobody knows your child like you do: If there are ever problems, we consult experts. I think it’s important to educate ourselves about our children, about their health and education. So we listen to the professionals in our kids’ lives and we try to look at the situation realistically, without our loving blinkers. Once that’s done, the decisions that have to be made are made by the parents. Because nobody knows their child like they do.
The Book Chook blog brings tips to parents about encouraging their kids to read, write, create and learn. You’ll also find book reviews of great children’s literature and educational products, explanations of how to use useful online resources with your kids, and answers to letters from parents. The Book Chook is the blog of Susan Stephenson, an Australian teacher and writer, who is fascinated by technology and what it can do to motivate kids and help them learn.