School readiness is a hot topic this time of the year. As children’s preschool years come to an end, parents start to wonder about the big leap that their child will have to take the following year when going to Grade 1.
You may be wondering… What does being ‘school ready’ mean? How do I know if my child is ready for school? Have I done enough as a parent to help my child with this big transition?
School readiness is a term that refers to how prepared a child is to learn and succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally. When we say that a child is ready for school, we imply that he or she is prepared to succeed in a structured learning setting.
A child who is ready for school according to the United Nations Children’s Foundation (UNICEF) is, “A child who has acquired the basic minimum skills and knowledge in a variety of domains that will enable the child to be successful in school.’
A child’s readiness for school is multi faceted and refers to different domains. These domains are:
– Physical development (motor development) and Physical Health
– Emotional and Social Development
– Cognitive Development
– Language Development
How can a child become ready for school?
No child can become ready for school on their own. The first five years of a child’s life are critical and set the stage for success in school and life. Learning and readiness to learn begin long before a child enters school. Their early stimulation, environment, development plays a big role. Therefore the parents do play a big part in getting their child ready for school. Children thrive and develop appropriately when they have positive environments and loving and supporting families. So you have been helping your little one blossom into a school ready child for the past 5/6 years and you will be happy to know that most of the work for becoming school ready, have already been done.
Research suggests that early learning experiences influence brain development. Every experience that a child has, establishes neural connections that then form the foundation for language, problem solving, reasoning, social and emotional skills etc. Every book you have read to your child, every puzzle that you have built together has been preparing your little one for the next big step. You have also given your child the biggest gift, their ‘mother tongue’ also known as their home language. Language proficiency is a key predictor of school success.
It is very important that a child is fluent in his/her academic language, the language that he/she will be educated in. A child will receive all information and instructions in the school setting through language. They will also use language to communicate their knowledge and skills via speaking, reading or writing in that language.
“It is not our job to prepare children for school. It is our job to help children get ready for LEARNING, to embrace their individuality and to ENHANCE their overall DEVELOPMENT.”
At what age should children be ready for school?
School going age in South Africa is 7 years old. A typically developing child, without any disabilities, should enter Grade 1 the year that they turn 7.
Why is it so important to be ready for Grade 1?
For some of us it may feel like there is a lot of pressure on our children. Some may even argue that when they entered Grade 1 years ago, they couldn’t even hold a pencil let alone write their own name. Unfortunately it is true. The demands in Grade 1 are very high nowadays and therefore we don’t want to send our children to school if they are not ready. We can’t throw them into the deep side of the pool and hope that they will know how to swim. There is a big down side to not being school ready and sent to Grade 1. A child who enters school and has not acquired the necessary skills, is likely to struggle academically and then may develop problems emotionally or behaviourally.
What can I do as parent?
Enjoy your children! Give them a lot of love and attention. Play with them, read to them and discuss every day events and activities as well as their emotions. If you are worried that they may not be ready for school, make an appointment with an educational psychologist or a therapist trained to evaluate school readiness. Sometimes there are only a few things that your child needs help with to become ready for school and these specialists can give you advise and activities to do at home.
Remember today we know more than ever before on how children develop and how best to support their learning. Ask the teacher, therapist and other people in your child’s life what you can do to best help facilitate this big transition.
Celebrate this new phase of their lives that they are entering and remember that they need their family’s love and support to make the big leap and be ready for the ‘big school’.