You’ve applied, and maybe your child has been accepted into Grade 1, but you don’t feel as confident as you should.
It’s that time of the year when parents of preschoolers (Grade R) are asking if their children are ready for Grade 1.
It is a major decision for a parent, but remember that your child’s teacher should have the best idea of whether your child can meet social and academic expectations. Listen to the advice given by them as they have been trained in early childhood development.
These feelings that you have, maybe even anxiety, are to be expected because they reflect the intense emotional bond you have with your child. Elizabeth Stone said: “Being a parent is to decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Some questions you may have:
Will my child become bored if I keep them in Grade R another year?
Is my child emotionally mature enough to handle all the requirements of Grade 1?
Will my child be able to keep up with the pace in Grade 1?
The first five years of life are critical to a child’s lifelong development. Young childrens’ earliest experiences actually influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behaviour and emotional heath.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we prepare and develop our children’s potential and ability to learn during this phase (Simone Pieterse, 2012).
So what is school readiness actually?
In a nutshell school readiness involves two types of readiness: a readiness to learn (which is continuous) and a readiness for school (which is associated with a fixed age). School readiness is thus a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed at school.
No single factor determines whether a child is ready for school. School readiness depends on both emotional maturity and scholastic ability. It is split into different areas and, although these areas are separate, they do interact with and reinforce each other. Children need to develop across all of the areas.
The 5 key areas of school readiness are:
1. Physical and Motor Development:
Gross motor e.g. running, skipping, standing on one leg.
Fine motor e.g. comfortable using a pair of scissors, successfully doing zips and buttons, is able to use cutlery.
Perceptual development: both visual and auditory.
Taking care of themselves e.g. manages to go to the toilet by themselves.
2. Emotional and Social Development:
A child who is emotionally well-adjusted has a significantly greater chance of early school success.
Gets along with peers – can interact within a group or shows an interest in other children, willing to help a friend.
Can express feelings and needs.
Can sit still e.g. long enough to listen to a story.
Can concentrate on a task for a reasonable amount of time.
Able to deal with frustration in an acceptable way.
3. Cognitive Development:
Can make independent decisions and follow through.
Have ideas of their own.
Can follow simple directions or instructions.
Shows an interest in learning.
4. 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).
Identify similarities and differences between objects.
5. Emotional maturity:
What can you do to prepare your child for this new phase in their lives?
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, letters.
In the words of Dr Melodie de Jager at the Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2014:
“School readiness is not a means to discriminate against some children. On the contrary, it is a way of giving all children an equal opportunity in life …”
However, children 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.