How Can I Support My School Child?

Gorgeous guest post from my friend, and fellow Blogger, Susan Stephenson (aka The Book Chook)

starting schoolWe 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. 

Starting 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.

Be A Fun Mum Links Related to School

Covering School Books

Approaching a School Teacher With a Problem

Take Mum to School: Make a School First Aid Kit

Encouraging Strength of Character

I Have Three Crushes

Social Stories

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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  1. says

    We are embarking on the first child going to Prep this year and I’ve found it a bit daunting, but I’m also looking forward to him going to school, which I had thoughts that I was a horrible mother for actually wanting him out of thehouse, but have been assured by many with older kids that’s not the case. I know he needs something more than I can give him now, he needs to learn more. Plus, I always joke that I’d be hopeless at homeschooling him because he won’t do things for me that he did for his preschool teachers last year! I worried he couldn’t count or write his name and would work hard with him, only to find out whilst he thought I wasn’t around, that he can do both! I’ve just started teaching him how to eat lunch from a lunch box, since at his Preschool food was provided. I’m sure I’ll miss him during the day, but I know he will love school. Thanks for the extra tips on preparation :)

    • says

      @Kathryn Rodda, Kathryn, don’t we beat ourselves up over motherhood! I think school can be a great place for kids, and it is for many. It sounds like you’re already picking up on signs your son needs the more formal situation and discipline of school, and I think that’s great. It’s going to make the transition easier on both of you.

      Lunchbox rehearsal and those other things sound minor but they can be the straw that tips a child into being upset and expressing it. Not knowing how to close a drink bottle properly can result in soggy bag, soggy child, and more sogginess from tears.

      I wish your little fellow the very best at his new school!

  2. says

    I think something very important if your child is at school is to be present when dropping your child off or picking them, so if there are any issues, the teacher knows you’ll be there & can address any tiny issue when it arises so mountains aren’t made from molehills, or lost in translation when put in writing or in a report. Makes life so much easier if you have a relationship with your teacher & you’re open minded & reasonable. Love Posie

    • says

      @Posie Patchwork, Posie, that’s an excellent point! Small problems really can escalate fast, especially with kids under stress from new school, heat of summer etc so being available for a quick chat is a great idea.

      If you do pick up/drop off your child, and you get the opportunity to be friendly with the teacher, go for it. Teachers are so often frantically busy, but you’ll get a sense of whether the teacher has time to chat. It might mean you get to hear about something wonderful your child has done – and you’d never have known otherwise.

      If you work, or don’t have the chance to drive your child to school, it’s a great idea to make a time to visit the teacher/classroom, maybe give your email and ask to be notified about any problem however small.

      And I think you nailed it with that last sentence – having a relationship with the teacher and being open-minded and reasonable really will make life so much easier!

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom on Be A Fun Mum, Book Chook. Be A Fun Mum Book Chook. Try and say that fast 5 times!

    Role play: My older kids have been playing “School” with the younger kids. I didn’t instigate this. Cute. I didn’t see it as a get-ready-for-school tool. Thought too, I might write a social story for/with Jimmy about starting school… we’ll do it as an activity together.

    Talk positively but realistically: SUCH an important point! Thank you!

    Nobody knows your child like you do: Love this. It’s the Mum in you talking.

  4. says

    Great post. If there is a great love your child must learn from you, is when you support them especially to issue of education! Education is definitely a community effort. This means; it takes equal committment from the school, from the student and from the parent. We all have our roles. If one slips, the other two are there to pick them back up again. Let them feel loved through proper guidance. If they don’t see that, often times the brightness of children will not work up to their potential because they feel they don’t matter to anyone. The parents should not only have the responsibility but the OPPORTUNITY to love a being in a way that will make that child feel as though they are important. When they feel important and worthy, they succeed in order to keep feeling their worth. Thanks for sharing with us. Love your contents, so inspiring!

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