IS MY CHILD SCHOOL READY?
Dr Melodie de Jager
This is the time of year when parents with children between the ages of five and seven anxiously ask: is my child school ready?
But, what does it mean to be ‘school ready’, and what can I do to make sure my child is school ready? Is sending my child to preschool not enough?
School readiness is a term used when a child is ready to take a leap from learning playfully about real things, to learning in a more controlled way about symbols (abc; 123). Readiness means a child has developed in more ways than one – a child needs to be physically ready (body), emotionally ready (heart) and cognitively ready (head) to learn in a group of children speaking the same language.
PHYSICAL school readiness means a child has moved and played enough to develop a strong and willing body that can sit still and straight on a chair. This is only possible if a child has run, caught and kicked balls, cycled with a two-wheeler, skipped with a rope, climbed numerous jungle gyms or trees and rolled down a hill enough times to have control over his muscles and can STOP moving for short periods of time. It is only once the body can be still and straight, that the fingers and eyes learn to work together so a child can learn to read and write with ease.
EMOTIONAL school readiness is evident when your child can eat, wash, dress, use the toilet and go to bed without any help or constant prompting from you. A child who is emotionally ready for grade 1 doesn’t cry or sulk when he doesn’t get his way, he accepts NO when you say no and he does simple tasks like tidying up his toys or feed his dog without a fuss.
SOCIAL school readiness means a child is more focussed on WE than on ME. A child who is socially ready for grade 1 enjoys being with children his own age. It is fun playing games with others because it no longer has to be all-about-ME all the time, he can wait his turn, follow the rules of the game, negotiate and share.
COGNITIVE school readiness means a child speaks well, reasons logically and is enthusiastic about learning something new. Cognitive readiness does not mean a child can read and write, it means your child is ready to learn to read and write, because he or she has endlessly played: “I spy with my little eyes… something starting with a m” while driving, or “what do you see that you can’t eat?”, “why can’t you eat it?” Cognitive readiness implies that a child can think, reason and express himself clearly in language.
Sending a child to grade 1 who hasn’t developed the most basic skills needed to learn to read and write successfully, is a form of child abuse, because it is emotionally painful for a child to start a 12 year journey through school feeling: I am not good or clever enough. School readiness does not start in grade R, it starts when a baby reaches each milestone in sequence and continues to reach age appropriate milestones every year for the first five years, and when he turns six, he or she is ready to leap from the world of concrete learning, to the world of symbols and abstract learning with shiny eyes.
Quick school readiness quiz
My child can sit up and still for 11 minutes doing an activity he does not necessary like doing (build a 36 piece puzzle / complete a pattern (for example ○□◊) around the edge of a page) yes / no
My child knows where is – on top, next to, behind, under, in between, and can show me body parts on the left & right of his/her body (where is your right ear, left knee, etc.) yes / no
My child understands and fluently speaks the language spoken in grade 1 yes / no
My child listens the first time – I do not have to repeat an instruction yes / no
My child’s fingers are agile (he can handle a knife & fork with ease; cut neatly on a straight line; holds a pencil with thumb and index finger while resting on the middle finger) yes / no
For a more in-depth school readiness assessment visit an educational psychologist. You may find handy tips and guidelines in ready to learn, ready for school, by Melodie de Jager: https://www.babygym.co.za/book-shop.php
|Factors that help a child to become school ready||Factors that can prevent school readiness|
|Full-term baby||Premature birth|
|Milestones reached in the right order and within the broad time-limit of each milestone||Milestones reached early or very late; milestones skipped|
|A happy family with sufficient food and clothing, and decent housing||A disorganised family with members who come and go, and where food, clothing and housing are barely sufficient|
|A home environment where conflict is resolved and family members cooperate and play together||Constant tension between mother and father or between family members, or tension in the home environment|
|Healthy food||Normally only carbs and sugar, little protein, fruit and vegetables|
|Good health||Frequent illnesses that force the child to lie down|
|Healthy ears without fluid||Ears that are often dore or infected|
|Healthy skin and no circles under the eyes||Eczema, dry and/or itchy skin, allergies, dark circles under the eyes|
|Breathes well and effortlessly through the nose||Regular blocked nose or sinusitis, and breathing chiefly through the mouth|
|Eyes move together as a team||Eyes do not move in the same direction|
|Eyes see clearly and are able to focus on something held at an elbow’s length from the eyes||Squinting to see or nose almost touching something in order to see clearly|
|Good muscular strength and muscle-tone – i.e. he sits and stands without support||Weak muscles and low muscle-tone – i.e. he seldom sits or stands upright without having to lean against/on something|
|A home where family members talk to each other||A home where the child is not really spoken to|
|An abundance of books in the home environment||No books in the home environment|
|Stories are regularly read and told||Stories are not read or told|
|Speaks the language of the Gr. 1-class fluently||Mixes languages or only familiar with a few words in the language used in the Gr. 1-class|
|Frequent and sincere acknowledgement: That’s really clever thinking! Well done, I’m proud of you!||Abuse is more familiar than acknowledgement: What have you done now? You’ll amount to nothing! Idiot!|
|Good age gap between siblings allows each child in turn some self-centred me-time||Siblings born close together and where everything, including time and attention, has to be shared.|
|Senses work well together and the brain processes the impulses easily – good sensory integration/processing||Messages from the senses pile up and cause a ‘traffic jam’ in the brain – weak sensory integration/processing|
|Listens the first time||Does not listen the first time, or only when told the fourth time|
|Hears and follows instructions in the right order – the number of consecutive commands matches his/her age||Instructions have to be repeated and only some are followed, or tasks are completed haphazardly|
|Enjoys touching, handling and investigating||Does not like touching and handling|
|Likes jungle-gyms, swings and slide games||Avoids equipment or moving surfaces such as escalators, suspension bridges, rope ladders|