Starting ‘Big School’
A child starting kindergarten can be a very exciting and nervous time for the whole family. How can you assist your child being as prepared as possible? How do you know they are ready? What will starting school look like? Kindergarten is the start of a long schooling career for your child, so of course you want to ensure you are starting them in the best way possible.
According to the NSW Government “Children can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn 5, on or before 31 July that year. By law, all children must be in compulsory schooling by their 6th birthday.” For some, this rule will determine when your child commences kindergarten. For others, it is important to consider the wholistic development of your child and consider future implications such as high school.
Depending on the school and your individual needs, you may be zoned for a certain public school and that is the public school your child must attend. However, there are many different types of schooling your child can partake in such as:
- Public school
- Home schooling
- Private school
- Non-denominational private school
- Community school
- Special education schools
Spend some time doing research to decide the types of school that would best suit your child and family, then visit some local schools that suits your needs. Reach out to the schools to see how they support transition and perhaps discuss your unique needs if appropriate.
Ensuring your child attends a high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) program can be fundamental in your child’s transition to kindergarten. Consider if the program supports the child not just academically but also regarding developing social skills, supporting emotional & physical development and instilling a sense of autonomy and resilience. Does your child’s ECEC program offer some kind of transition program where, perhaps, they attend a local primary school for an excursion? Or perhaps primary school students and/or teachers visit the ECEC service to build connections and share some insight about primary school.
As parents, perhaps our memory and experience of school may have some negative connotations. Though we may be anxious about sending our children off to school, it is important that we are not instilling our own negative views and setting our children up to have a negative outlook. Rather, empower them to form their own opinions and have their own experiences. Ensure you use positive language when speaking about school and even be mindful of saying “I’m going to miss you so much” too frequently, as we are trying to focus on the many positives of school such as making new friends, learning new things and exploring new places. Perhaps having photos of teachers and the school itself on the fridge as school approaches can forge familiarity. Having small discussions regularly about school can assist in it feeling like less of an overwhelming transition.
Most schools will offer programs to support children as they transition to kindergarten such as orientation visits, buddy systems, shorter days or partial weeks when starting. Ensure you speak to your school and take advantage of these programs to support your child’s transition. As a parent, these supports can also be very informative for you and perhaps ease some anxieties.
Once you have decided on the school and your enrolment application is successful, purchasing required resources earlier rather than later can be beneficial for your child. Start using the lunch box a few weeks out so your child becomes familiar with not only how to open it and open different packaging, they can also learn what foods are to be eaten when, so it doesn’t get to lunch time at school, and they have an empty lunch box. Having their school bag well before the first day can also be beneficial as your child will know what their bag looks like, what they need to pack in it and where everything belongs. Maybe you can set up some kind of station or procedure at home for your child to assist in this. For my 8 year old son that has ADHD and ODD, getting ready for school in the morning can be very stressful, so we ensure the uniform is laid out the night before and he has a clipboard with a list on it next to his bag outlining the different tasks he needs to complete to be ready for school. This works for us. Having the uniform early can also allow your child to become more confident with things such as buttons, zippers and shoes.
Starting kindergarten can be such a wonderful time if we are all prepared as best as possible for the change. Open communication between family, child, school and the ECEC setting is the most fundamental component of a smooth transition.
You’ve got this!