There are many new experiences, perspectives and conversations that come with the advent of parenthood. Suddenly you find yourself discussing at length, and listening intensely to other parents, on topics that you never before dreamed would be so interesting.Breast-feeding, dealing with nappy rash, moving to solid food and potty-training are some of the subjects that come to mind.
Another topic which I was not quite prepared for, but one which will be discussed intensely, without fail, at every birthday party, play date or any other parent gathering, almost from the day your child is born, is: “What school is your child going to go to?” Together with the many joys and tears, the tasks and challenges in the early years of child-raising, that question will be an ever-present reality and will launch you into months (years?) of research, visits, discussions and information-gathering to eventually find that perfect institution of learning where your little one will be happiest.
But jokes and eye-rolling aside, it is an important process for us as parents to secure a good school for our children. Likewise, it should also be an important process to help our children develop sufficiently to be ready for that momentous event. In the same way that we spend much time and effort to find the school, we should also spend time and effort to ensure that our children are well-prepared to take on the challenge of “Big School”. Grade 1, the first year of formal schooling, is a very important year. It is the first step in their education journey and can set the tone of how they will progress over the years. For all parents, it is our intense desire that school should be a positive experience for our children, where they will be able to not only cope, but thrive and succeed.
According to Adele Keyser*, teacher and contributor to the Worksheet Cloud website, the 5 key areas of school readiness are:
- Physical and Motor Development: including gross motor skills, fine motor skills, perceptual development (both visual and auditory), and taking care of themselves.
- Emotional and Social Development: emotionally well-adjusted and gets along with peers, can express feelings and needs, can share, can sit still for a period of time, can concentrate on a task for a reasonable amount of time and able to deal with frustration in an acceptable way.
- Cognitive Development: can make independent decisions and follow through, has ideas of their own, can follow simple directions or instructions and shows an interest in learning.
- Language Development: (this includes literacy, listening, speaking and vocabulary): should be able to communicate effectively in home language, be able to sequence (retell a story or a set of events) and identify similarities and differences between objects.
- Emotional maturity: independence, reasonable control over emotions, basic problem solving skills, confidence, shows responsibility and handles separation well.
So, how can you help your child to be school-ready?
Adele has the following tips to offer:
- Read to your child.
- Teach your child songs, nursery rhymes and poems.
- Take your child on excursions e.g. to a museum.
- Make regular opportunities for play-dates.
- Play games so that your child starts recognising colours, numbers and letters.
By the time children are entering Grade 1, they should:
- Have minds crammed with concrete and semi-concrete experiences.
- Have been exposed to abstract concepts in concrete ways for years.
- Use the language spoken in the Grade 1 classroom spontaneously to converse, learn and reason.
- Have had ample opportunity to play outside, so that they are now ready for and eager to experience the primary school adventure.
In addition to playing, home life experiences and parental engagement, preschools and a wide variety of programmes are available where children can be developed further.
One such programme is the Kumon method of learning. Kumon offers Maths and English programmes to children of all ages and abilities through a network of study centres around the country (and the world!).
The Kumon method of learning helps the young pre-schooler in many of the key aspects of school readiness – gross motor skills, fine motor skills, perceptual development, concentration, following instructions, numeracy and literacy academic ability, confidence, showing an interest in learning, and so much more.
Our Kumon programmes help learners to get to grips with the basics of maths and reading in an engaging way through colourful, fun worksheets and Instructor support. The worksheets are designed as a series of small steps that develop skill little by little, day by day, from the very first introduction to counting and scribbling to eventually highly advanced levels. The Instructor helps each child to progress through the worksheets at their own pace, developing ease and fluency with each topic before moving on.
At our Kumon Centres, children are encouraged to work in an attentive, thoughtful way to develop concentration, attention span, and good learning practices ready for school and beyond.
The first levels of the Kumon Maths Programme aim for students to be able to recite numbers and count. At this level our worksheets make strong use of images, dot pictures and number tables to enable early learners to recognise, recite, read and understand number sequence, gradually increasing exposure to a larger range of numbers.
The Kumon English Programme helps early learners grasp the fundamentals of reading, word recognition and letter formation. The first levels engage students with the concept of reading through repeating and reciting. Learners point to and repeat simple familiar words that are both written and shown as vibrant illustrations. This helps them to associate spoken words with their written form. Thereafter, learners move from repeating and reciting to fluently reading words and short sentences aloud. They begin to trace words and learn letter sounds and how to blend them, all the time increasing their vocabulary.
Overall our early learner study methods engage your child with positive learning experiences and build solid foundations to contribute towards a happy and fulfilling future education.
To find out more, or enrol your child today, visit the Kumon website at www.kumon.co.za.
And at the next birthday party, when the topic of school arises, you could say that while you haven’t yet decided on which school your child will be going to, you know they will be well-prepared because you’ve enrolled them at Kumon.
Written by: Rozanne Loney, Deputy General Manager, Kumon Education SA