s a Single Parent and an Education Consultant, former Headteacher, LEA Adviser for Gifted & Talented Pupils and SEN Coordinator, Judith loves helping families so that they can feel successful in the home and in the education system. She provides expert advice for parents of children diagnosed with a Special Educational Need and to parents of Gifted or Talented children who may need support to maximise their learning at school. Bringing up children is not easy and navigating the education system when things ‘seem to be going wrong’ can feel very demoralising. Don’t suffer in silence; there is always a way. For individual advice you can contact Judith direct at: www.greatvine.com/judith-sharman
Speak to me on 0906 199 5398 £1.53/min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary
What can I do six months before the big school starting day?
Working parents should use grandparents and friends shamelessly to give children a sense of school life. A neighbour took my daughter past the school during afternoon collection time, and to see a couple of playtimes which gave her an invaluable experience of the noise levels and how whistles, lining up and ‘walking in’ operated.
Act out and use games to demonstrate the organisational structures schools use and help your child understand the importance of :
- taking turns, being flexible and accommodating
- starting and stopping activities with little warning
- listening in a group as opposed to chatting with an adult one to one
- the way time is sequenced over the school day and, importantly, that ‘home-time’ always comes!
Learning how to start, stay on task and complete a set activity without adult support gives children a head start in directed self-maintained learning. Start with a jigsaw, sorting snap cards, drawings and so on.
Encourage children to be observant. By putting things in unusual places for them to find in ‘Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around’ games, children learn to spot differences in what they see. Valuable learning comes from classroom displays; observant children benefit most. See extensions of these and other games at www.well-tree-learning.co.uk.
Avoid the temptation to make everything achievable and fair for your child. Vital life lessons and coping strategies are learned when children have to manage disappointment and pick themselves up from failures.
What can I do the year before my child starts school?
Children join school with diverse life experiences, unique personalities and temperaments, different sensitivity to noise and stimulation and varying tolerance levels for the busyness and change that school life demands.
Make the most of any opportunity to see the school in action. Visualise your child sitting and learning in the teaching sessions, what will it take for your child to be comfortable, to look ‘right’ in this setting? Are there parts of school life that your child could find difficult? Plan some preparation time to fill the gaps.
Picture books, school prospectuses and websites and can provide endless topics of conversation.
Start dropping casual remarks into conversations about life in school but avoid veiled threats such as “You won’t be able to do that when you go to school!”
What can families do during the last weeks before the big school starting day?
Sometimes children think that starting school is it – one spectacular single event. ‘Done that, got the uniform, now I’ll move on to something else!’ Ensure children understand that school is a natural progression and similar to parents working; an ongoing and interesting part of everyday life.
Dummy runs are great. Rehearse the organisation necessary to get the family out of the house and still smiling. Establish the morning and evening routines in sequenced pictures and have them up all over the house. Photos of the stages help develop good habits – tidying up toys, cleaning teeth, bath, into pyjamas, preparing clothes for the next day, in bed etc. Morning routines use similar prompts, including smiling faces at breakfast and everyone ready by the door. Having a list in words and pictures of ‘Have we got?’ items by the door, which includes things for all the family to remember, helps children see that everyone has a part to play. Turn these dummy runs into fun by timing them. Extend this to include ‘showing off uniforms’ expeditions to a friend or grandparent, providing additional fun while reinforcing teaching about getting somewhere quickly, efficiently and safely.
Remember, ‘Keep Your Cool’ and ‘Be Prepared’! There will be great times and tough times ahead for children AND parents but, when schools and families work well together, the sky is the limit for the children they care for.
For more expert information visit: www.greatvine.com/judith-sharman