It is merely a matter of hours till the six weeks of school summer holidays begin. With that will begin Number Two’s countdown to his first day of school. Numbers are a big thing for him this year. We permanently have some kind of countdown on the go.
“How many sleeps is it till we got to Bavaria again?”
“In how many days will it be my birthday?”
“How many days are left till Halloween?”
While his attitude to school is positive on the whole, there are days when he is nervous or shy and doesn’t like to talk about it. Leaving the trusted surroundings of kindergarten, turning into a schoolboy and facing a world where he is one of the youngest rather than one of the oldest is bound to be daunting.
I’ve been pondering how to help him adjust. When Number One was at this stage, we had no concerns. He was a bright, friendly boy. A boy who was not overly sensitive, not one to misbehave. A boy who thought things out carefully, observed and tried to figure out how things work and why things happen as they do.
He’d fit right in. He’d follow the rules. He would love school.
He didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t.
In an attempt to avoid the issues we had with Number One in the first year of primary school, I have been trying to analyse Number Two for the past few months, to see how he ticks, to preempt any problems that could arise.
But really, to be honest, there is no predicting what will happen or how he will react to being in a classroom, paying attention and sitting still. He might act the clown or he might actually listen or he might just zone out altogether.
What I can do to help him is make him comfortable with how school works. Here’s how I plan to do that over the Summer.
A guide to preparing your child for school
- Walking the route to school so that he is familiar with it. At the moment he knows the route, but I want to make sure he is crossing the road safely, that he is looking properly and knows where to cross and not to cross the roads. He won’t be walking without me for quite a while, but he has to feel secure in the route for when the time comes to walk without me.
- Making sure he knows some of his classmates. When you go somewehre new and see the friendly face of someone you know, it always makes things easier. That is why I want Number Two to spend some time with the children in his class whose families we know. Lately we ‘ve been doing that and I can see already that it haas helped. They have become a little group, knowing that they will be in the same class at school for the next four years. They have each other to partner up with in activities or help out when one of them forgets their homework or even to complain about their teacher to.
- Involving him in buying the school books, bag and pencils has already helped in getting Number Two used to all the new equipment he is going to be using. In Kindergarten all he needed with him was his lunch box. In the classroom he will need a large German schoolbag filled with two pencil cases – one for art and one for regular use – books, activity books, folders and copies. He will be helping me label all of it before school starts. We have no uniform here, but if we had I would be sure to get him involved in that too.
- Dressing and undressing is a skill that I was sure Number One possessed, so I didn’t waste any time on teaching him that before he started school. As it turned out, he could do it but too slowly for the sports teacher’s liking. We got several notes home to say that he was missing sport because he was taking too long to change clothes. For Number Two, the stopwatch will be coming out and he’ll be changing into his sports stuff within 2 minutes by the end of the Summer. I hate to do it, but it looks like we have no choice unless we want notes from school again.
- Helping out at home is a great way to work on the motor skills that children need at school as well as getting them used to following instructions. From setting the table to kneading dough, there is a huge range of household chores that will help a child develop and work on both the physical motor skills they need for learning to write. Asking them to help you with a little job and making sure they listen to adn follow the instructions you give them should set them up well for school. Number Two helps out reasonable well at home so far, but we still need to do some work in this area.
- Colouring in is a simple way to get your child’s muscles used to the way they will need to move while writing. For children like mine, who like to draw but not colour in, it is very important to get them into colouring. It is easy to underestimate the stamina they will need in their arm and shoulder muscles even in the first few weeks of school. We#ll be getting the colours out after our holiday day trips to draw – and colour in! – pictures of what we have seen and done. I just need to remember to buy a dedicated blank notebook to draw in.
So, that’s our Summer planned – housework, colouring, dressing, undressing, walking and talking. Oh, yes, talking. I almost forgot that one.
Lucky number 7. Talking to your child about the changes to come is one of the best things you can do to prepare them for school. I mentioned above that Number Two is sometimes shy and nervous at the idea of starting school. But we talk about it and when we do, he can explain his feelings very well for a five year old. I am quite sure he knows that he can talk to me, The Bavarian or Number One about any worries. But just in case, we’ll keep talking about what’s in store.