“A fundamental goal of a school-start transition is to help young children feel suitable in school, that is, to have a feeling of well-being and belonging.”
Stig Brostrom, Educationalist.
This series will be full of practical things to do over the summer. We'll look at reading, writing, maths and self care, amongst others, but first we have one more post on expectations. Last week we spoke about your child’s; this week we’ll talk about yours.
No matter how level-headed we fancy ourselves to be, most parents will harbour certain expectations about school and what it will be like for their children. Likely to be based on our own experiences of school, for many of us they will be both positive and negative. From the smell of the classroom and the taste of school gravy, to full marks in spelling but coming last on Sports Day; our feelings about school are complicated.
Here at One Hundred Toys, we think it’s helpful to remember that, as in all areas of parenting, your experience will not automatically be your child’s. Breaking away from your own assumptions around school will help get your child’s educational journey off to the best possible start.
Our top tips for managing your expectations of school:
Avoid thinking in terms of ‘ahead’ or ‘behind’
When your child first starts school it may be tempting to compare them to the others. If you have a five-year-old, she will have enjoyed an extra year at nursery or at home. An extra year to learn to read, to dress herself and to write her name. Many summer-born children are capable of all these things and more when they arrive at school. But it's important to understand that they achieved this despite their age; other four-year-olds may not be as ready. And that’s OK. And don’t worry, either, if your child is a September baby but isn’t interested in sitting down to ‘learn’. Give her a diet of good books, enriching experiences and high-quality conversation and she'll soon be ready.
Pre-schooler behaviour can be challenging. It's tempting to remind your child that they will be expected to sit still and listen once they start school. But however much these warnings may help in the moment, they can be counterproductive in the long run. They create anxiety about school where none existed before.
Accentuate the positive
Try to avoid repeating negative comments about your own capabilities or strengths, such as ‘I wasn’t any good at maths’ or ‘I had two left feet.’ These comments can programme your child to believe something about themselves that may not even be true. We are all unique. Try to say only positive things about your time at school.
Don’t be alarmed if at your first parents evening, the teacher describes a child you are unfamiliar with. No child dazzles the teacher on day one with their confidence and academic prowess. Many barely speak to a teacher for the first half term. It takes time for them to feel comfortable. So what the teacher sees will almost certainly not be a true reflection of their capabilities. Don’t worry if this happens. Let your child be themselves and help them to feel comfortable and at home in their new school. This, more than anything, is what will make the transition a successful one.
Parents’ starting school checklist:
- Speak positively about school; avoid transmitting your own fears to your child
- Don’t compare! The gap between September-born girls and summer-born boys can be huge, but it diminishes over time
- Relax. The most important thing is for your child to enjoy going to school. There is plenty of time to worry about academic success later