Navigating the first year at school

My eldest child started school in 2011 and so a whole new world opened up for our family. If you are about to embark on the same journey in 2012 here are some things I have learned along the way.

Navigating the first year at school

You will learn a new language
Your child will teach you, so don't worry, but there are so many things to learn like "the 4 Ls", the happy face, the dreaded sad face, the green chair, the red book, the reflection room. Hopefully, your child will display the 4 Ls (listening, lips shut, legs crossed and looking at the teacher) and put on the happy face the majority of the time and simply tell you about the children that end up in the red book!


Be there when you can

We are all busy these days and most parents are both working but whenever you can, turn up for things at school. This is especially important in your child's first year. They love to see you there. You get to know the other children, their parents, your child's teacher and the rhythm of their life at school. You can have better conversations with them and listen more effectively if you know whom and what they are talking about.


Make friends

The easiest way to encourage your child to be friends with as many children as possible is to make as many friends as you can yourself. Talk to the other parents and learn their names. It's amazing how much both you and your child will get out of these new friendships. You have a lot in common with these other parents and will be spending time with them over the course of the next 13 years, so don't be shy!


Read, read, read

Hopefully you have already established good reading habits with your child but if not, kindergarten is definitely the time to start. It is incredible to watch your child begin to learn how to read this year and you can play a huge part in this by reading with them as often as possible. Join your local library and visit regularly, choosing books you will both enjoy. They will start to write notes to you and their friends, testing their newly acquired skills at every opportunity. Encourage them in this pursuit.


It should be fun

Remember that like all activities they are involved in at this age, kindergarten should be enjoyable for your child. Try to avoid making comparisons, compliment their friends in their presence and try not to be cross with them when they are silly.


Listen to them

Some days you will ask them about their day and they will shrug their shoulders and say, "nothing much happened". Other days you will not be able to stop them talking about their day. Sometimes they will simply make up elaborate stories. Ask them some leading questions if they are uncommunicative, listen attentively if they are full of news and congratulate them on their imagination on the other occasions!


Be organised in the morning

One of the biggest things you will have to get used to is getting ready in the mornings. You will have to prepare their lunch, make sure their uniform is ironed and relatively stain free, feed them, get them dressed and get their hair into some sort of reasonable state. Do not expect the 4 Ls to be adopted at home - they are strictly for school hours only! This means that your child will be distracted by everything they see lying around the house and will find it impossible to stand still for the dressing and grooming part. Expect to have to repeat yourself, over and over. Try to stay calm.


Plan ahead for news day

Most schools encourage pupils to present "news" each week in front of their classmates. This is a fantastic initiative as it introduces public speaking to children very early in their life and hopefully means that they won't be terrified of doing it as they get older. The hard part in kindergarten is coming up with something interesting for them to talk about each week. If you go on a holiday make sure you spread holiday snaps over the course of a number of weeks. If you only remember it's news day as you are walking out the door, your child can take a toy to show the children. Don't worry about it.


Enjoy the school holidays

This is a chance for you all to rest. Try not to pack too much in as your kindergartener is very tired at the end of a ten week term and really does need time to simply chill out. Of course, it's a great chance for parents to relax a little too!


Start saving

There are lots of parties in kindergarten so start saving. You can also buy age appropriate presents throughout the year to save on costs. Don't be negative about the number of them and the time they take up though. Parties are excellent for both you and your child as it is great fun for them and an excellent opportunity for you to get to know the other parents.


They grow up, a lot

The most amazing thing about kindergarten is the rate at which your child will grow - emotionally, physically and mentally. He or she is a vastly different being at the end of their first year than the unsure, excited child you dropped off on the first day. Their sponge-like brains have learnt how to read and write, they are more mature and thoughtful in a myriad of ways and they are beginning to navigate a whole new world of being in relationship with others. Of course, they are still predominantly self-absorbed creatures but occasionally they will express a thoughtfulness that will knock your socks off. Enjoy it - it's a fantastic year!

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