WHAT MAKES ME SCHOOL-READY?
Taking the first steps, infancy and early childhood, attending nursery school, all of these lay the foundation for primary school and for formal education, later on. This foundation is vital in the sense that it needs to be laid as early as possible in order to ensure rich and broad acquisition of knowledge throughout each stage of school education. Thus, the odds greatly enhance for a child to reach university levels in term of education, provided that this child has started their education early in their life by attending nursery school.
Experts say that attitudes and skills add to the academic development that nursery school curriculums ensure. Teachers as well as carers and parents should work together in order to ensure integrated development which builds a healthy balanced foundation for primary school years.
Below, there are listed the aspects we believe to be the most important during the process of preparation for school readiness, both from the parent’s point of view and from the teachers’ point of view. We are also including a few solutions that are guaranteed to save the day!
- Attention, concentration, active listening
The heavier the pressure brought about by school, the bigger the toll on attention it takes. This is why attention as a skill takes a lot of practice and patience to build. Reading sessions occurring as often as possible are a good means to build attention, starting as early as nursery school. Parents should not rush through while reading to their children. Thus, children will become active listeners who understand and take part in the reading process. Going to the cinema or to a theatre play is a good way to work on the concentration span, as well as involving the child in a practical activity or providing them with a hobby such as building with Lego, gardening, making a scrapbook and wrapping items, art and craft activities.
- Exposing the child to a variety of roles, contexts and situations
As early as nursery school years, parents should take on different roles in front of their child while teaching them how to share, how to take turns, how to offer help. These will prove their importance when the child reaches primary school, and will take part in group projects, presentations, helping them to build and express their their ideas. Taking on different roles, adjusting to new situations can be practiced at home first, as you plan playdates with children of different ages, as you facilitate the child’s interactions as part of a group, as you encorage them to negotiate ideas, take turns, share and find solutions. Role play can be initiated spontaneously – in the car, while driving or in life situations, at home. They contribute to raising awareness to the variety of existent social roles outside the home.
- Recognising the figure of authority
Without attempting to raise a controversial point of view, we would like to emphasize the importance of the child/teacher relationship, as well as the relationships between the child and the other adults in the school setting. These interactions are numerous during the day, therefore the child needs to know who they are, who he/she can go to for comfort and help, who can provide them with ideas and solutions, who can support them emotionally. The familiar adults in the school setting help out, explain, instill rules and build behaviours, all based on their experience as professionals, and they also ofer protection and model different positive roles. Hence, it is crucial that the child understands the concept of „authority figure”, that they accept the teacher as a guide, that they become acquainted to the rules in school and are aware of the difference in rules between home and school. In order to practice this understanding, which is built over time, parents can help the child become involved in various interactions with friends of the family, other adults, thus helping the child translate and understand acceptable relationships.
- Self-control, discipline and empathy
Self-control may be difficult to master at a mature age, as well. All the more then, it needs to be practiced and reinforced during childhood. Therefore, we advise parents to initiate games at home, in order to help children understand that every individual needs their personal space, that touching others, making faces at them may not always be funny. It is also important to emphasize that spontaneous reactions may disturb people around them and that they may also find it upsetting when someone reacts in a sudden manner. Another attitude which needs to be instilled is that whenever one loses at a game the consequence is that they accept defeat without physically hurting the others. Discipline, perseverence and accepting loss and failure should be taught as learning opportunities which become fruitful in the long run. On the other hand, lack of discipine, self-control and empathy may lead to blocks and hinder progress.
- Interactions and changes in social context
Transition from kindergarten to school offers change as well as challenge. Change does not only occur on the surface, it affects the deeper layers of the emotional, personal and social being. Thus, after becoming acquainted to the social context in kindergarten, the entire universe of the child shifts at the beginning of primary school. There is first the change in routine, then the scenery, including new people, a new building and a new classroom, not to mention new situations that need to be managed and tamed while the child learns to adjust to them. In order to ensure a smooth transition as far as social adjustment is concerned, the child should attend extra-curricular activities, workshops, maybe take up sports – these activies helping them become familiar with different teaching styles.
- Acting independently
A child should develop independence by the age of 4, during nursery school and before starting kindergarten. They should be given small tasks, most of which refer to themselves, i.e. taking clothes off and putting them on, picking up their belongings, visiting the bathroom on their own, signalling adults when their personal space is unsafe. They need to be encouraged in all small things they do on their own, and should be allowed to take care of school responsibilities without support. Once they start managing on their own, children will be able to pick up their belongings, look after them, clean their desks and pack up their schoolbags, do their homework and generally oversee the whole process that is connected to their school attendance. This stage of their lives involves more independence and a more complex thinking process than the previous stage.
Therefore, the first steps a child takes into primary school education, at the age of 6, brings about important changes which need to be prepared and rehearsed in advance, by both teachers and parents. Interacting with new teachers, in a context that provides them with new rules is a significant stage towards which the child should transition smoothly and patiently. This new challenging universe will prove to be a magical one!