What's the hype about school readiness?

When our children are born, we have certain dreams and expectations for them. At birth, we quickly count their toes and fingers to ensure that they have ten of each… we also welcome those first cries as it tells us that our child is “normal”.

We do not skip those all important doctor’s - and clinic visits to make sure their growth and development continues as expected. We quietly compare our child to our friends’ children and other kids of the same age at playschool.

So when it is time for one of the biggest milestones in our child’s life- to enter grade 1, why do so few patents make sure that their child is really ready for school? Most parents only rely on the preschool or nursery school to confirm that their child is ready for big school.  Also, when nursery schools tell parents that they have concerns about the child’s readiness for the challenges of primary school, why do some parents veto this recommendation and still send their child to school?

It is important that your child’s developmental milestones in all areas are met for him to enter primary school. This means that his physical, perceptual, cognitive/intellectual, social, emotional and language developmental milestones are of such a nature that your child will be able to cope with the challenges presented to him in grade 1.

Children develop at their own pace due to genetic attributes and environmental influences. It means that each child will attain their milestones at different times and at different rates. If your child is not school ready, even though age wise he should be ready, and you send him to school, you might be setting him up for failure.

My son was born in November, and the year before he was due to go to grade one, I realised that he was emotionally still very immature. He was still very much geared to play and found it very frustrating to sit still and focus on desk work in preschool. He was hyperactive, but this was not my only problem. He was also teary and cried if things did not go his way. Intellectually he was able to do what was expected of him, but emotionally I thought it would be a challenge for him to cope with grade 1.

I took him for a school readiness assessment and the Educational Psychologist confirmed my concerns. We then decided to keep him back a year. I had to apply to the Department of Education to allow me to keep him in preschool for another year. We submitted her report and the Department accepted the recommendation. In my son’s case, it was a good decision. I feel we gave him all the benefits that he needed to have a happy and success school career.

So when is your child ready to enter grade 1 successfully? Many people think it is an age thing. If the child is six he/she is ready to enter school. This is not true, as you could see from my son’s story. Others think that when the child has acquired a certain range of skills, the child is ready to enter school. It is not good enough to only look at certain aspect in your child’s development, You need to look at the child holistically. It is therefore vital to consider the child’s development in all aspects, including emotional wellbeing, to ensure that your child is set for success when entering school.

Your child’s school career will be a long one, and therefore it is often best not to hurry things. Help your child to be set for success by giving him all the advantages possible. Information is is still powerful in helping you to make good, informed decisions.

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