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School Readiness

Photography: Loren Stow
http://www.lorenstow.co.za/
 What do you think of when you hear the phrase 'School Readiness'? I know that in my mind I think of giving my child a head start, maybe trying to teach him how to read before school... maybe some counting too... the overwhelmed part of me also considers 'putting it off' until he's older and big enough to become, well... ready.

Many parents also leave it up to the preschool that their children attend. The reality however, is that the majority of children go to preschool, and yet a large percentage of them are not school ready by the time they need to enter formal schooling... 

So I know School Readiness can't be that simple, or that easy - there has to be more to it, I am sure of it.

According to Lizette, "School Readiness lays the foundation for future learning. The more school-ready your child is, the better his outcome later on in his schooling career."

It is a bit like planting a seed. The more you water the seed and dig compost into the soil around the seed, feeding it and giving it as many nutrients as possible, the bigger the root system will become and the taller the tree will grow. School Readiness is that root system - the bigger and denser the roots, the taller and wider the tree will be able to grow later on.

So what exactly is School Readiness? Well, it is something that can be measured, just like IQ and EQ - and it is basically a culmination of your child's emotional, physical and intellectual readiness to begin school.

School Readiness is not a line in the sand that you step over - now you're ready... No - it's measured on a continuum where one child can be twice as school-ready as another child of the same age. So your aim is not to simply get your child school-ready, but to get your child as school-ready as possible. You see the difference?

In parent's efforts to get their children school-ready, two myths exist that are just that - myths.

1. You need to Teach your child
Many parents confuse teaching their child with stimulating their child's latent skills. The job of a teacher is to teach, the job of a parent is to stimulate. As a parent, your job is to stimulate your child's brain to be able to process future information (learned at school) effectively.
Teaching a child facts such as the capital cities of the world or the different names of the planets in the solar system is simply a process of memory retention, but stimulating your child to think constructively, process information, solve problems, to be goal-oriented and so forth - that will help them when they need to apply themselves in a learning environment.

Interestingly according to an article written by Mike Bruton for the Mail and Guardian (2 Aug 2010) called "Smart Play", our brain tends to discard most of the information that reaches it and retains only what we need. "In fact, it has been calculated that our brains have a relatively small capacity for storing information (about 1.25 gigabytes), less than the average memory stick, and probably 60 times less than your laptop. But our brains have enormous processing power, far greater than any mainframe computer in existence."

In other words, if your child's brain is a tool-box, your job would be to not only ensure that he has all the tools he needs, but that those tools are sharp and ready for use.

2. Getting to school early is an advantage
Many well-intentioned parents believe that getting their child into school as early as possible will give them a head-start in life, enabling them to achieve more in less time... However, six or twelve months makes a huge difference in your child's ability to be school-ready.

The child who is as school-ready as possible is one who feels competent, and develops a life-long love of learning, which unlocks his ability to really excel to his full potential - in school and in life in general.

Alternatively, a child who is not school-ready and who is put into school anyway may be left feeling insecure, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable in a learning environment. This experience will most likely leave this child feeling frustrated, with his potential untapped.

In next week's Tuesday post, we will be focusing on how you can ensure you are giving your child the tools to become school-ready, so don't miss it!

If this post has given you a fright (like me) and you're all fired up to start getting your child school-ready, then I leave you with another interesting bit of information from Mike Burton's article on "Smart Play":

Professor Edgar Klugman, a leading authority in the field in the United States said: "Play is one of the most important areas of activity in which children engage as they grow up and develop. Play contributes positively to a child's ability to learn, interact and communicate with other children and develop abstract thinking skills . . . The vital life skill of being able to visualise future events is directly derived from the skills learned while playing as a child."

So that should give you a clue as to how to work on getting your child school-ready...

The good news?

School Readiness may not be what you initially thought it was, but in my mind it is even better. You don't need to be teacher to get your child prepared for the important step of starting school - you just have to be a mom or dad who are inspired to play. 

Words: Loren Stow
when we know better... we do better

*Practica Parents: Obviously... this is what the Practica Program is all about! The program is about Big Picture Parenting, and the natural progression of your investment in the program and your child's future is to get them as school-ready as possible, and to be inspired to play.

If you would like to be notified of all new posts via email, please send an email to lizette@practicaprogram.co.za

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