Tomorrow our fourth child finishes his first year of school. While I certainly haven’t learnt as much as I did when my first child went off to school (I always think the parents learn just as much that year as the preps do!), I do have a number of key learnings from his first year:
Being older worked
Waiting for him to be older and to have matured further emotionally was the best decision we could have made for him. He turned six at the end of April, so if we wanted him to, he could have attended school the year before.
First term saw him have a few emotional moments, but with the help of his wonderful teacher, he worked through them and learnt to regulate his emotions better. If we had sent him the year before, I am pretty sure we would have had to manage the emotional issues through out most of his first year, which would have made such a difference to how happy he was at school.
Please don’t take away from this point though, that I think waiting for children to be older is right for every child, because I do not. Each child is different and every family’s circumstances are different. If you would like to read more about my thoughts on school starting age, try these posts:
- School Starting Age – Latest Research On Australian Children
- School Starting Age – Our Personal Experience
Phonics provides the best base for learning to read
Our six year old benefited enormously from me working with his sibling on phonics over the last couple of years. His ability to decode and read amazed me. He could employ strategies for blending together the sounds letters make to work out words completely new to him with ease. Very different to his three other siblings at this stage, who didn’t have such a solid phonics base to work from.
At one point early on in term one, I had to stop him from using strategies he was being taught at school for reading. He had started guessing at words, looking at the picture for clues as to what new words might be. I reminded him that he didn’t need to do that and he needed to focus on the words on the page and decoding them as he had been doing previously.
And you can take away from this point, that I think teaching children strategies for reading like – look at the picture, read on, have a guess, are all completely inadequate and unhelpful in creating able and proficient readers.
A good friend of mine Alison, is a Speech Pathologist and has recently started a fabulous blog called Spelfabet. Alison also has a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics and a Cambridge CTEFLA English-teaching qualification. She specialises in helping kids with Severe Language Disorders in Melbourne schools and in clinic, with an increasing focus on their literacy as well as their oral language skills.
Already she has produced some amazing phonics resources for parents:
- Learning literacy is like learning to drive
- Educational apps – free literacy iPad games for kids
- Word lists sorted by sounds
I am hoping to convince her to write a couple of posts on the blog next year, on how as parents we can best help our kids with learning to read, so stay tuned!
Morning routines work
As the fourth child, master six was very familiar with what the school morning routine looked like and what he needed to do. He was completely independent in getting himself ready for school and making sure he had all the right things for the right day.
For the first term he referred to his school schedule we had created, but pretty much after that he just knew what he needed – it made my life so much easier. Kids follow the lead of kids much more than they do parental nagging, so the hard work of putting in place routines for your first child/ren does pay off later with subsequent kids!
If you have a child starting school next year and are after more practical tips on getting them ready for school, my post from this time last year will help – Getting Ready For School.
Did you have a child start school this year? If so what were your key learnings?