Many parents I know are busy juggling schedules and wondering how the full day kindergarten program will both challenge and encourage their child's future comfort level in an academic setting. We worry about what's happening at school, how our children are doing and how we can support that development.
By kindergarten, if your child is enrolled in the public school system, teaching staff will be making clear the Ontario Ministry expectations for literacy and numeracy development. In addition to academic theory and emphasis on things like a child's ability to pass a test, more and more, educators are recognizing the value of experiential learning, the hands-on approach to understanding an activity through making or doing which will often demonstrate the child's ability to apply knowledge.
Talk to your child, your children's teachers and school adminstrators and don't be afraid to ask questions.
It is a combination of home and school that helps kids succeed – home should always be a central spot where learning of the day is shared and chatting about the day is a positive way to allow a child to "own" the experience.
Other suggestions to help support your budding student's growth:
Journal key developments and milestones
Books sold as gifts for new parents often come complete with cute stickers to affix to a date when Baby does “something”. What about after the first year? I am a calendar girl- not that kind, although that could be fun too 🙂 I love to mark directly onto a calendar, diary style, events of a day, and also keep a simple, on- going notebook style journal to stay organized. This is very helpful in tracking academic development, milestones, communication with school and teaching staff, etc.
Learning can take place anywhere, but create a routine
As parents we also offer routines; these routines become part of the child's ability to also plan and prepare for activities. There is no one perfect time for homework, nor an ideal space- the counter top, the home library, the living room floor, the dining room table,,,or perhaps if a child is more active, while en route to an event – all places where learning is taking root. For children are curious creatures, who love to explore boundaries, who delight in acquiring knowledge, and who also are acutely aware of adult expectations.
Go beyond simple reading
When as adults we take the time to explain, and describe, as well as listen and observe, we are encouraging literacy. Books and the actual reading are only one part of the big picture; communicating feelings through drawing, colouring and dramatic play, sharing a song, and relating a story all count as helping toward school adjustment and learning development.
Don't stress about comparing your child's development to that of others
By preschool, ages 3-4 children are, with our help, engaging in play "dates" and as parents we may begin to do the unthinkable- compare! Beware! Growing is a personal activity which takes place with the support of the group; nuclear family, friends, teachers, your family doctor, any other members of your extended social circle… and "everyone" may become an authority on milestones and when Johnny or Judy should be doing – — fill in the blank here. Try not to give in to peer pressure, while at the same time if some actions do appear to be very much delayed, do speak with your pediatrician; early intervention with positive support for you as parent may make the difference in establishing access to help for you and your child.
Demonstrate that reading and writing are a part of everyday life
Driving to the grocery store and stopping for gas, have your child read the new gas prices. Taking the TTC, notice all the billboards, and while on the road, make up a story about the activity or have your child retell the story which you read together the evening before; when practicing recall, a child is actively building a process, beginning. middle, and end- necessary for later essay writing.
Alison (Ali) Bayer-Orszak is the founder of Together Academics, where she works with children and adults offering individualized literacy programs and believes that working together is the best way to make learning better. To enquire about academic support, contact her via email, on Twitter @mytutoringspace, or online here.