My daughter’s school did a school readiness screening or mini assessment on all the Grade R children ahead of the big change over to Grade 1 next year. Interested parents have been attending regular information evenings with the school Psychologist to discuss how their child did and what it all means. Needless to say anxiety levels amongst moms and dads are running high! “What!!! My Sun and Moon and Stars is less than PERFECT!!!” Some moms have been laughing it off, others have thought about tearing up the results and chucking it in the trash, while others have consulted their own child’s teacher or therapist for more advice!
Hopefully I can help some of you feel comfortable with this daunting prospect and get past all the initial feelings of insecurity, denial, anxiety or even anger, and take something positive out of this experience and maybe even get to a place where you can use the information you have been given to better support and build your child’s growth and development!
*What is a school readiness assessment?*
Children are often taken either individually or in groups with a remedial teacher or a Psychologist and they perform a series of short, age appropriate test items. These test items are then scored according to standardized age norms so that areas of strengths and areas of weakness can be identified. The screening emphasizes more than just cognitive development. It looks at the importance of social/emotional development, health, and physical well-being. It’s far more than testing if a child knows a certain number of letters and numbers because all areas of development are connected together and that is what makes a child ready to tackle Grade 1!
*Why do schools need to do these school readiness assessments?*
Research shows that early intervention is best and without a baseline assessment minor challenges which your child may have can be missed by their teachers, which later can translate into major academic challenges. By just knowing where a child needs extra input you and the teacher can support that child’s needs and can possibly avoid children being referred for therapy at a later stage! For those who aren’t ready for school, good school readiness screenings can find deficiencies and good teachers can catch them up to their peers. School readiness screenings also give information to schools as well as to departments of Education where skills are lacking in general or across the board of children. This information helps teachers modify and edit their curriculum to ensure that gaps don’t persist in future grades.
*Aren’t we over analyzing our kids these days and looking for problems?*
“I didn’t need all this fancy stuff when I was growing up -and I was fine when I started Grade 1!!!” I have had SO many parents say something similar to this at the beginning of therapy and then as they see progress happening and see small everyday tasks becoming easier for their little ones, they change their mindset! Yes, we were fine and so would your child be if we went back to not doing school readiness assessments or referring for therapy, however, the “cost” of life can be reduced if we equip our children more from a young age and ensure that foundational skills are intact before we expect higher level skills to develop. The educational curriculum is getting increasingly more difficult and the workload is much greater than when we were at school, and each year this level seems to increase! Our children are under increasing amounts of pressure from younger ages!
*Some areas of challenge were highlighted in my child’s school readiness screening, what now?!*
*BE POSITIVE* about the transition! I cannot stress this enough! Be very careful of what you say to your children about Grade 1. Also be very aware of what you are saying to other moms or dads while your little one is within earshot – even if you think they are not listening, trust me they ARE! Supportive parenting and stimulating home environments have been shown to be among the strongest predictors of school performance during primary school and beyond (Bradley and Corwyn 2005; Burchinal et al. 2002; Morrison and Cooney 2002; Richter 2004; Rogoff 2003; Werner and Smith 2001; Whiting and Edwards 1988).
Parents’ education goals for their children and their beliefs, attitudes, and commitment to education are considered to be crucial for school success (Alexander, Entwisle and Bedinger 1994). So, *believe in your child – be his biggest fan!*
*Sing, tell stories, read books and play games or do puzzles* with your child! Switch off the TV, the cell phone, the radio and dedicate a small amount of time to uninterrupted play time with your child! Please do not pull out the crayons and the paper, there are so many more fun ways to have fun while learning!
*Be responsive to your child’s needs and requests for attention.*
Research shows that children whose mom’s are in tune with their needs have a larger vocabulary and better cognitive skills, enthusiasm and persistence for learning compared to children whose mothers do not demonstrate the same degree of responsiveness(Eshel et al. 2006). Supportive families and healthy relationships are the building blocks of children’s social and emotional development required for success in school. So invest in “dates” with your daughters and spend time bonding with your sons!
*Dads get involved!*
Although it’s usually moms or grannies doing the homework and attending the school functions the father’s involvement in early childhood is increasingly being acknowledged (Britto, Engle and Alderman 2007; Cabrera et al. 2000). When dads get involved studies show that children’s language skills, cognition, academic achievement, and social and emotional competence improves (Cabrera et al. 2007; Downer 2007; Flouri and Buchanan 2004; Lamb 2003).
Lastly, if you thought that this school readiness was only done to prepare your child, you are wrong! It’s done to prepare the school and YOU, the parent! By talking about all these necessary skills needed for Grade one, the school, the child and the parent can all acquire the competencies required for a smooth transition to BIG SCHOOL!
I found this really interesting paper about school readiness in my research for this post, so if you would like some light bedtime reading follow this link: <http://www.unicef.org/education/files/Chil2Child_ConceptualFramework_FINAL(1).pdf>
Good luck for the New School Year and the exciting “firsts” it will hold for you and your child!