Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How to Have a Great First Year of School

By Heather Pohlabel

It can be a scary thing - sending your child to school. We've all had nightmares of our young child screaming for us as we walk away and leave them in the care of a virtual stranger. If you are a first time pre-school parent, here are some simple suggestions to help you survive your first year at school!

Communication

You MUST be able to communicate effectively with your children's' teachers, no matter what your personal feelings are toward them. In school, the teacher is the teacher, and he or she is guiding your child in learning and social activities through the duration of your child's stay at school. Teachers, more often than not, have the best interest of your child at heart and really want to do a good job of teaching them what they're there to learn. However, it is a good idea to establish some sort of relationship with your children's' teachers throughout their educational careers, so starting in pre-school will be good practice.

Communicating through short notes on a frequent basis is a good way to keep in touch with the teacher if you are not the one dropping off or taking your child to school. This ensures the teacher that you are interested in what your child is doing, and even though you don't see her often, you support her in her job of educating your child. If you do take and pick your child up from pre-school, coming a little early and observing or staying after a little bit to chat will help you to communicate with the teacher. Teachers welcome the opportunities to show off what they're doing and to show you your child's progress.

It is VITAL that if you have any questions or concerns that you address them immediately with the teacher. Not only will you feel better about sending your child to school, but the teacher will appreciate your concern and your willingness to ask questions! If you communicate well with your child's teachers, your child will benefit immensely. Not only will you and the teacher share a better relationship, the teacher will respond better to your child if he/she understands you and where you're coming from. Your child will also learn how to communicate with people and to be comfortable with his/her surroundings!

I always say that I went to pre-school with my daughter. I was in there every day, sometimes staying all day. The teacher actually got sick a few times during the year and went home and I took over class because I knew the routine so well (and I was a certified substitute). I developed a relationship with her teacher that was useful for the next year when she went back to pre-school, and the relationship lasted beyond the classroom and still continues today. We still talk and catch up when we see each other, and she has never forgotten my daughter.

Allow Play!

Pre-schoolers are establishing routines, exploring social situations, and learning a bit about the ABCs and 123s. Beyond this, you should not expect your child to come home and be able to read or write to a great extent. Playtime is learning time. There are many things to be said for play-based learning. Don't be upset if you visit your child's class and he or she is "just playing" all day.

Hand and eye coordination and motor skills are built in pre-school, and the best way to develop these skills are through playing with building blocks and other manipulatives. Many preschools are filled with puzzles and playdough and sand tables. These are all sensory based play activities that help to stimulate your children's' senses, which, in turn, will help them to be able to grasp a pencil and write or a crayon to color. The stimulation provided through these activities helps the brain and the hands learn to communicate and work together.

Gross motor skills are developed by playing games such as duck duck goose or hopscotch. Many pre-school classrooms have small trampolines for children to work on developing the muscles in their legs and torso. It is also a great stimulant for a bored child or a great outlet to burn off extra energy for an over energetic child.

Remember, Your Child has a Lifetime of Learning

If your child does not leave pre-school not being able to spell his last name correctly or knowing how to read, the school has not failed you. Your child is gearing up for a lifetime of learning while in pre-school, so let him enjoy it. There will be challenges throughout his academic career that he will learn to handle through the social and play skills he learned in pre-school.

The best way to handle your child's pre-school years is to not stress. The teachers are there to help you, so communicate with them as much as possible. Your child is there to learn through play and exploration, which will lead to a lifetime of learning. Enjoy the pre-school years. They'll be in Kindergarten before you know it...and the pressure is on!

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