It’s the time of year when I start to share information with families and kindies about their children getting ready for school. Every year I start my presentation with a picture of my own two preppies, with knobbly knees and much-too-long shorts ready to embark on a whole new adventure.
It blows me away each year when I notice how long those legs have grown and how much shorter those shorts are… time flies by so fast. It’s like one day you’re buying the brand-new uniform and the next minute they’ve grown out of it!
I often reflect on my advice to parents and question it as starting school was quite a while ago for us. But once I get stuck into the juicy stuff, I realise that the skills we bring to our kids starting school are relevant for years, and if anything, this time has given me even more clarity around what parents need to know.
So here it is. My top 5 things that parents need to know before their child starts school, collated with hindsight and experience from one Mumma to the next.
- EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. When you give birth to a second, third (or even more!) child they are not a carbon copy of each other. My first born was logical, organised and eager to please which positioned him rather well in the world of school. Assuming my second would be the same, I was largely frazzled and confused as to why this was not the case. She was creative, flighty and didn’t give a rats about what other people thought. Case and point. Every child is different, and until we accept this then our relationships with our children will be challenged with unrealistic expectations.
- DON’T ADD TO THE HYPE. We can get very excited about our child’s milestones, and so we should considering they are our greatest creations! However, we need to let kids experience life through their own eyes. If we constantly talk about what school will be like, how exciting it will be, all the things we can do… not only could it overwhelm our child, but it could be influencing their own ideas and educational journey.
- DON’T GET SUCKED INTO ACADEMIC ABILITY. Firstly, if a child is born in July (based on Queensland age cut offs) then they can be a WHOLE YEAR older than another child in their class. This is a HUGE difference in social, emotional, physical and mental development. Secondly, there are other important skills than reading and writing. My creative daughter taught me this with her amazing ability to create patterns and do puzzles. Academics are not everything. Don’t compare your child to others.
- SHARE PERSONAL STORIES. Kids LOVE hearing about when you were little. I would often tell my kids stories about when I started school and the things I remember making and doing (also the time I got sent to the principal’s office for hitting another kid with my lunch box). What’s more, kids love hearing stories about THEIR OWN experiences and achievements. For example, “Remember when you started kindy? You didn’t know anyone, but you walked straight up to Sarah and said Hi! My name is Amy… do you want to play?”
- TREASURE IT. These are the days you are going to look back on with love. It is a big thing moving from kindy to school and we can be overcome with choices of which school is best? And how will we manage drop off/pick up? And are they going to be ready? Have faith in the journey and your child’s resilience. Don’t anticipate difficulty before you come across it… and if you do, you’ll have a whole new network of people to help you through it.
Remember, pretty soon those knobbly knees will be as long as yours… and you’ll look back with a full heart and hopefully reflect on how much your enjoyed the transition from kindy to ‘big school’.