You guys, I am soooo excited to share my FIRST guest post! This article from Makeba, a teacher and small business owner, is packed full of so much helpful information for those of us that want to make sure our children have the best education possible! Enjoy!
For so long, I imagine that parents, particularly moms, fantasized about the day their children would start their first day of “real” school. Not the kind of school where kids only go for three hours and then they’re back home, but the real school, where they begin to learn real stuff and the level of their intelligence begins to be measured based on what they know and how they plan to apply it, right?…..NOPE!! In ALL honesty, parents are scared to death to send their babies to school. They worry about whether little Johnny will fit in, they worry about whether little Melissa knows enough- is she able to count to 20 without pausing, does she really know her ABC’s, what if she can’t talk, what if she doesn’t talk, will she even enjoy school? A thousand thoughts run through the mind of a parent (I mean, of a mom) who has a child starting school for the first time…OMG, it is just O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.I.N.G.!!
So, let me provide just a little bit of unsolicited consolation…IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY! …I promise, it really is. I’m here to provide some really awesome tips on how you can successfully prepare your pre-kindergartner for entry into “real school” without feeling too overwhelmed. Much of what I will suggest can be done over periods of time and probably should be done over periods of time, however there are some suggestions that will require your immediate attention, as to provide the greatest benefit for your child.
So, really quick, who am I? I am an educator, writer, consultant/coach and business owner. I have taught both elementary and middle school, with my last stint being a third grade Math and Science teacher. I am currently an Instructional Math Coach at a small elementary school in North Florida where I coach teachers on the best instructional strategies for student development in Math. I am wrapping up dissertation work for my best and F.I.N.A.L. degree, a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) and I am STUPID excited about culminating the last four years of doing that! In addition, I am the owner of two companies- EliteMinds Tutoring & Test Prep (a face-to-face & online tutoring company) and The Gorgeous Genius (an educational consulting & coaching company for parents). I particularly advocate for students and coach parents on how to effectively parent their students, providing insight on all things education; it truly is my passion.
But…Enough about me, let’s dive into the brief, but wonderful information I have to share with you!
As you prepare your children for the wonderful world of academics, it becomes important that you understand, you are literally preparing a scholar, one who, once they hit kindergarten, is being groomed for college. I know this is really difficult to see or even understand, but schools are, without a doubt, preparing students for higher education. The benefit you have as a parent, is the ability to set a very useful and effective foundation. There are literally TONS of information on what you should be doing to prepare your child for VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten) and/or Kindergarten, so I’m just going to share some basics and then provide you with a (borrowed) resource that will be a little more specific. I ALSO WANT TO INVITE YOU TO JOIN MY EMAIL LIST HERE to stay abreast on all the education tips I provide, as well as early access to some awesome courses I am creating, and tons more!
Let’s DIVE in…
I have a teacher friend who has a 2nd-grader and her daughter is a genius, in her own right! One of the things my friend told me she did before her daughter entered school was visited the local VPK/head start and inquired about the points she should most focus on in preparation for school. There is a very good chance that the head start office has one or several resources that can be provided to you which will educate you on how to specifically prepare your child based on that school district’s recommendations and requirements- so this would be my absolute first step when the imminent transition is about 1 year out. I taught third grade for several years and it pained me to see how students lacked the very basic of skills and knowledge- how they held a pencil, couldn’t write their numbers correctly, didn’t know their phone number, birthday (month, day and year), parent’s phone number, etc. I am very serious in saying that in today’s society where education is literally KING, you must have a plan and your child should most definitely know how to function within it!
BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO FOCUS ON…
No worries, as a guide of reference, I am providing a few key things you can focus on to make sure your child’s transition to VPK/Kindergarten is a successful one.
- fine motor skills (pencil gripping, proper use of scissors & glue sticks)
- letter/number identification
- counting to 30 (and be able to recite number order-what comes before and after a number)
- write name and identify it (this is a BIG one)
- dress and undress
- tie shoes
I’d also like to add that making learning experiences enjoyable is on the very high list of priorities as well. For instance, if you are teaching number sequence and counting, try using blocks, skittles, grapes or something that ties itself to incentive. Don’t just have them count numbers, have them to also show you the number in representation, “how can you show me the number 7?” If you’re reading, do a reader’s theatre and act out the story together. This may seem a bit advanced but elementary curriculum is requiring a lot more higher-order thinking skill, which means kids have to think on a much deeper level than what is presented on the surface. You’d be surprised in knowing that students can count to 20 but have no idea how 20 looks as it relates to decomposition. I had a college professor friend tell me that University presidents are now implementing initiatives that challenge professors to teach on a deeper level, thus requiring students to think on an equally deeper level- this skill can’t possibly begin in college! So keep in mind that the more you focus on in preparation, the better of an advantage your child will have.
READ, READ, READ
The final point I’ll share is probably the most important. There’s not a blog, educational website, expert or anything remotely similar that does not place a high amount of emphasis on reading to/with your child. Do you know the difference between a child starting kindergarten reading on an advanced grade level and not- it’s YOU. How your child performs in school the moment they walk into their first classroom has absolutely nothing to do with intellectual capability, it has everything to do with what you do with them, what you expose them to, how you shape their minds, and what they read from the moment they enter the world.
In an article posted on Web MD, Pat Wolfe, Ed.D., education consultant, former teacher, and author of Building the Reading Brain, says you can tell by kindergarten-age whether children are likely to have trouble with reading. “Can they hear rhyming words? Do they know that squiggles on a page stand for sounds when they talk?” These are key pre-reading skills that lay the foundation for reading.
A teacher friend of mine suggested these two links to get you started in identifying appropriate books for babies and toddlers.
Barnes and Noble- Kids Books 0-2
Just keep in mind that what you do makes ALL the difference!
So, as I wrap up this “not so short” blog post, I just want to reassure you that you can and WILL do this, parenting is NO joke, add in some academic preparation and you’ve darn near got to be insane to get through it…but people have and you will too!
Don’t forget to stop on by The Gorgeous Genius and sign up to stay in touch, okay?