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STARTING YOUR CHILD IN SCHOOL

Here’s some advice on making your child’s transition to school a smooth and comfortable one, based upon our long experience with the subject.

Young children live much more in the present moment than we do. Concepts of future time can be confusing to them. Therefore, counting down the days until school starts can cause anxiety.  Instead, begin now to indirectly prepare your child for school, building the skills and schedules that will make the first day a smooth and easy transition rather than a sudden interruption of routine. 

Before a child starts in a Montessori environment it is beneficial to develop her independence, concentration and ability to choose.  When children are independent in doing (eating, using a potty, dressing up) and caring for themselves they not only feel proud and capable, but are filled with self-confidence and self-esteem.  We suggest that you give some thought to things she could be doing for herself if she had better access, or the right tools, or had been given a careful “how-to” demonstration.  For example, perhaps she would be happy to brush her own teeth if she had a safe platform and could reach the bathroom sink. If she had a small pitcher, she could enjoy the independence of pouring her own milk.  She would probably love to help set the table if someone took the time to show her where to place the knife, fork and spoon. 

You can help your child develop his ability to concentrate, as well.  Provide a limited number of interesting, challenging and developmentally appropriate toys and materials as well as plenty of uninterrupted time to play with them.  In general, toys and materials that elicit active participation rather than passive entertainment are much better for the development of focus and concentration, The first time a new toy or material is introduced, a clear demonstration of its use including its clean-up presents the best opportunity for success and engagement. 

If you arrange toys and activities on a shelf rather than in a toy box it allows the child to recognise that everything has its place.  She will not only know where to return it when she’s done but also where to find it the next time she wants to use it.  More importantly, having her toys visible and easily accessible allows her to choose the one activity that most appeals at this developmental moment. The ability to choose requires practice and can be developed throughout the child’s day by presenting choices at every opportunity -- “Would you like to wear your blue shorts today, or your red ones?”  “Would you like to have carrots for dinner tonight or peas?”

Begin teaching the skills, one at a time, that will allow him to dress himself, help prepare and eat his breakfast, and get himself ready to go.  Then simply go on some small outing – run an errand or take a walk – until he is used to the routine of getting up and “on the go.”

Another piece of sound practical advice is to begin to adjust his sleep schedule a few weeks before his start date.  Decide what time he will need to wake up to allow an unhurried start to the day.  Wake him up a little earlier each morning and put him to bed a little earlier each night until he begins to naturally wake up rested and refreshed at the desired time.  A tired and grumpy child, awakened an hour earlier than usual, is not likely to have a successful first day!

It is also advisable to follow the same daily schedule as school for a couple of weeks a before the starting date. 

This is also a good time to begin reducing television viewing in general and eliminating any TV in the morning.  You won’t want school to seem like a punishment the first day when it is turned off.  When watching TV the child is rewarded for mere passivity.  She won’t be in the more natural state of mind she’ll need to explore, experience and be actively building her mind at school if she has just finished being passively entertained by television.  The same goes for video games on Шpads or smart phones – begin reducing the overall use and eliminating it in the morning.

If you wish to discuss school with your child, do it in a low-key and non-specific way.  If your child asks what this mysterious thing called school might be, a simple answer will suffice:  “It’s a place made especially for children where they can go each day to make friends, do their work, play games and learn.”  Let her know that someday she’ll be ready to go to school, but try not to prejudice your child or build up false expectations by being too specific about what she will do in school.  That way, if she doesn’t happen to paint (or whatever) on the first day, she won’t be disappointed in either you or the school.

When his first day finally arrives and he is all dressed and ready to go, you can announce that today is the day he gets to go to school, to see the teacher and meet other children.  Following these simple suggestions can help make your child’s beginning in school successful and stress-free for both of you.