Starting school is one of the biggest transitions our little ones can make. They are no longer by our side during the day, and this is not only hard for us, but them too.
Watching my little sidekick saunter to the classroom with an oversized backpack and massive hat covering her curly hair, well, let’s just say I needed massive sunnies to get through. The pride, the excitement, the tinge of sadness that, although this is so exciting for them, it’s also the first real adventure that you won’t be by their side.
But is she ready for this big adventure?
This is a question we all ask. Add a global pandemic to the mix and you’ve got even more uncertainty.
For mums and dads sending their kids to prep in 2021, there is a whole new set of concerns with the transition to prep.
Most kids have missed out on a fair few weeks, possibly even months of school readiness. Childcare and preschooling programs across the country have all been impacted by COVID and our “new normal” means less socialising and more staying home.
- Will these interruptions create new challenges when my child starts school next year?
- Will my child be able to handle a full day of school after spending so much time at home?
- Should I keep them back?
All valid questions. Although there is a no-one size-fits-all answer here, there are a few things to consider when deciding if it’s time for big school, or if it’s better to hold off another year.
1. School readiness doesn’t happen overnight
It’s a five-year journey. Many parents are understandably concerned that their child may have missed out on a few weeks of preschool. But a few weeks isn’t a lot of time in the long run.
Bronwyn Thomson, Curriculum Lead, Guardian Childcare & Education explains,
For those children who have missed out on a portion of their childcare or preschool due to COVID-19, it’s important to remember their preparation for primary school is not just about the final year leading up to that transition.
These children have been preparing for the transition to school throughout their entire early learning journey. This transition has been a long time in the making.”
This is comforting to remember when looking at the big picture.
2. School readiness is more than ABCs and 123s
It’s about your child’s social and emotional development – playing with others, learning to share, taking turns, helping out – things we are teaching our kids every single day, without even realising it.
Attending a preschool program is also great for social and emotional readiness.
High-quality childcare – with a focus on education – is the perfect environment for children to develop socially and emotionally in the lead up to formal schooling,” says Bronywn.
3. Being away from mummy is hard, but can they do it?
Our little ones have spent the majority of their lives by our sides, especially this year. This can make it tricky to say goodbye at the front gate. To be away from mummy for six long hours. To be in a room full of new people, new rules, new sights.
How can you tell if she’s ready? Ask yourself: Can my child be separated from me without getting worried, panicked or upset?
Attending a preschool program is a great way to prepare your child for this separation. However, even if your little one does shed a tear or two at drop off, don’t stress too much. Often they are perfectly fine when you do go – it’s just the saying goodbye that’s hard. Goodbyes are hard!
4. Are they independent(ish)?
Independence is another important quality for school children. This includes being able to do basic things on their own and having the confidence to give even the trickier tasks a go.
School demands more autonomy and independence, which means children need to be able to act under their own steam, like going to the toilet unaccompanied and knowing when they’re hot or cold,” Bronwyn explains.
When assessing your little one’s independence, consider how they handle tasks at home.
- Can they dress themselves and put on their shoes?
- Do they know how to go to the toilet unassisted and wash their hands?
- When trying new things, do they give it a try or expect you to do it for them?
If you haven’t already, get in the habit of letting your little ones try simple tasks by themselves, even if it takes a BILLION times longer than if you do it.
5. The fine art of expressing emotions and forming relationships
Two very tricky things to master, especially for our little ones with big hearts and big feelings.
Being able to communicate their emotions and showing a willingness to try new things will be important in helping them adjust to the new routines and social dynamics of school,” leading child psychologist Dr Anna Cohen from Kids & Co says.
To grow at school, a child needs to:
- Effectively follow direction
- Comprehend what their teacher says
- Connect with other students using their language and relationship skills
- Navigate conflicts and disagreements
6. So many questions = school readiness!
Asking questions about how things work, and why things are the way they are, are also good indications that a child may be ready for school. This is great news for parents with kids who have ALL the questions about how the world works, especially just before bedtime.
While a child’s curiosity and problem-solving skills will continue to grow throughout their lives, having a child that is interested in learning more, in learning how things work, and in trying to work things out on their own are all big ticks in the big school readiness box!
7. COVID means they missed out, but look at what they gained
There is no doubt COVID-19 has changed our lives in a number of ways. From social distancing to mandatory mask-wearing, our world is still reeling from the short-term measures and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yes, children have missed out on many things this year, including some elements of school readiness. But, look at what they’ve gained – a chance to slow down, to be at home with their family, to discover the importance of being flexible, adaptable, and positive, even in times of uncertainty.
Most importantly, this year has taught us and our children the importance of being resilient. And this in itself is an amazing lesson to take on board when starting school.
Starting school now or later?
For parents of children who are on the cusp, there really is no right or wrong decision about whether you start them in 2021 or wait another year.
The key thing to remember as parents is that starting school is not so much about academic outcomes as it is about social and emotional readiness. Whatever decision you make will be the right one for your child,” says Bronwyn.
A smooth transition with Guardian Childcare & Education
However, for parents who are unsure whether to send their child to primary school next year, a childcare preschool program can help bridge that uncertainty. If you haven’t already enrolled your child, we suggest having a look at Guardian Preschool and Kindergarten Programs.
Below are some of the reasons we like them:
✓ Real-world experiences and structured daily learning programs. The Guardian Curriculum focuses on developing skills and aptitudes in children that they will use when starting school and beyond.
✓ An individual approach. Guardian works with their natural interests, as opposed to simply ticking a box.
✓ Encourages independence. As part of their Preschool Program, Guardian encourages children to be independent. For instance, they wrap lunches so that the children know how to unpack their own lunches once in primary school.
✓ Individual and group play. Children learn how to do things for themselves but also participate in group learning. This aids in their ability to verbalise and show resilience as they encounter differing opinions and ideas.
✓ Building curiosity in a fun environment. Singing songs, engaging children in projects and allowing their imaginations to run wild are all part of the typical day at Guardian.
✓ Longer care hours. This is ideal for parents and carers who require longer hours of childcare within a kindergarten and preschooling setting
Discover the Guardian difference and book a tour today
Come on over to find more information on Guardian Childcare & Education’s Preschool Programs and book a tour at your local centre.
We hope this information helps with this important decision. Good luck to all the mums trying to navigate starting school in 2021. Fingers crossed it will be a smooth transition, despite the hurdles we’ve hit in 2020.
And, remember, it’s okay to cry ALL the tears as you wave goodbye to your big kid. We promise you they will be racing towards the school gate, eager to tell you all about their day in six very short hours.