A big step for parents but a giant leap for pre-schoolers. Starting off at a big school can be a tough decision for parents, but for preschoolers, it is an even bigger adjustment to adapt to the grueling regimes followed in most mainstream schools. Did you know you can give your child a few more years of childhood by not making the ‘Big School’ choice just yet? Read on…
Before jumping to any peer-pressured decisions, it is important for parents to know how pre-schools are different from mainstream primary schools. This isn’t a negative comparison, instead of an understanding of how the two different environments affect your child’s growth and future.
When you first introduced your child to a preschool, you must have noticed that your child was welcomed by very friendly and loving teachers who just couldn’t resist giving loads of love and hugs to your child. This is a big difference between preschools and primary schools. The environment in a preschool is one of friendliness and nurturing, quite opposite from a primary school where being disciplined and orderly is the style. A teacher with a class strength of 40-50 children will obviously use the‘discipline route’ to manage 3½ to 4 years olds.
Different children have different developmental landmarks. Some start talking and writing earlier than the others. In a pre-school emphasis is not given to achieving a set milestone by a set year. Rather the focus is on letting the child experience different activities and learning through these experiences. A primary school may be more result-oriented and a teacher might push even compare your child to keep up with the rest of the class in order to not feel left out.
Do you remember how you felt when your teacher gave you homework? We have all felt that heavy heart feeling when you come back from school and instead of freely playing with friends we are burdened with pages of homework. Research has shown that when children are given excessive homework they often end up doing it in a mechanical manner without retaining any information. This has unfortunately become part of a primary school’s syllabus. Instead wouldn’t you rather have a pre-schooler who is excited about completing a fun exercise his or her teacher did in school with them?
Despite a strong inkling about not sending your child to a primary school just yet, you might find yourself swaying in a different direction thanks to all the other parents in your society or social circle who are anxiously applying for admissions and standing in long queues for that prestigious school with enormous fees. If you find yourself to be unsure then the simplest way to check what the right thing to do is, is to check your own child’s readiness for big school.
This you can do with some simple benchmarks -
Can your child play independently with other children? Does he demonstrate basic manners like sharing, talking politely or even being able to get along with other children of his own age? If not then a primary school with a large number of children in one class might scare your child into a shell.
Can your child manage his or her emotions, cope with minimal adult contact in large groups, focus on tasks, follow directions and instructions from teachers, cope with the stress of the new school environment, and understand the rules? If not then the school might become the last place he or she will want to go every day.
It is very important that children are able to talk and listen to adults and other children, speak clearly, communicate their needs, understand stories and begin to identify some letters and sounds. How adept is your child’s communication? Without personal attention from a teacher will your child be able to get what he or she wants to say across?
Check your child’s basic number sense, basic thinking skills? Is he or she able to wait and take turns or are they still throwing tantrums when not given their way immediately?
How are your child’s fine motor skills? Such as being able to grip a pencil and turn pages in a book? Also see if your child’s physical coordination is on par with other children in a big school like running, jumping, climbing or catching a ball.
Can your child manage their needs without adult supervision? Going to the toilet? Dressing up on their own? Opening their own tiffin boxes and eating by themselves? Take care of their belongings?
In the end, stop and think back to your own first day at school. Your hand clutched in your mother or father’s hand, your eyes wide with anticipation of what lies beyond the big gate and an uneasy feeling in the stomach. Wouldn’t you rather have a child happily bounding into school only to turn back and wave you a goodbye kiss?
Our lives anyway turn into a whirlwind of busy routines and competitive escapades. Why not let your child enjoy a couple of years of free-flying happiness, a sports day where every child is a winner not only the one on the pedestal or even an annual function where the main act will always be your child and not a horde of performances put together. A preschool is that essential growing, nurturing and happy place that your child will learn to leave in his or her own time. Big School Can Wait. I hope You can too!