Don’t worry, I’m groaning inwardly too at how premature this post is. The summer hasn’t even got going yet! September school starts are a world away.
But I also know, after starting 2 of our children in school over the past three years, that if this is your first start at school it will likely already be weighing on your mind. And even if it isn’t the First Day of school, there are often challenges – moving school, moving grade, a departing favourite friend – that makes the September deadline loom large with expectation and apprehension.
So with that in mind, here are 5 ways to prepare:
1. Stay calm
There are a lot of variables in starting school and it’s quite possible to start feeling anxious about an unknown outcome. From experience I can say that even children who you feel are absolutely not ready for school yet, may in fact have suddenly leapt ahead over the summer in maturity and be more than ready.
I also focus on remembering that nothing is set in stone with school. There are a variety of options, negotiations and supports and you will navigate it as you go. Not to mention, it isn’t as permanent as it feels. There is a long weekend or holiday every couple of months anyway and you will find yourself able to look forward to those.
A trial run or two over the summer is a good idea. Walk the route to school, play in the campus if it’s allowed, meet up with other children who will be there. Anything that makes school a more familiar space will help the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Thinking broadly around what expectations for your child next year is also a good idea, so that you can practise some of those basics too – simple things, so for kindergarteners / reception children, being able to recognize / print their names, use the bathroom independently, and put their own shoes and coats on.
There are ways you can make even a rigid school system more personal and part of your ability to do that rests on you knowing what your options are. For example, I discovered that I was able to have my son do a half day, one day a week for most of his first year – which made the school start a little less exhausting for him.
4. Be low key
There’s a lot of build-up to a new school start. Every adult your child encounters over the summer will ask, with all good intentions, how they are feeling about the school year ahead and after a while this can really pile on the pressure. We tried to keep our talk about school pretty casual; we made sure to focus on things that would remain the same – as in, we’ll still go to the park you like, that sort of thing.
Having a clear sense that life won’t completely abandon normal routines is pretty comforting.
5. Keep expectations low
This ties in with keeping the build-up low key. I didn’t want to promise too much and then have our children feel like school failed to deliver on all the entertainment, learning and friends we’d promised.
Managing expectations is important for you too, through the first term. If it is your child’s first term at school – even if they have been doing full days at a preschool or daycare, there’s every chance that they’ll be totally exhausted at the start.
I tried not to over-schedule them with extra play dates or additional music/sport classes. Instead, we had a pretty simple after school routine – connecting by sitting on the sofa with a book, or I would set up a train track / pour out a pile of Lego before picking them up at the end of the day ready for their return.
5 ways to ready yourself for school, even though it is a lifetime away (promise). Staying calm, being proactive, and keeping expectations low. Not to mention: having a lovely summer.