When is the right time to send your child to school? Is it the time set by your school district or when all your friends’ children of similar ages are starting? Often we are so ambitious for our children, that “the concept of starting school” frequently overtakes our better judgment. While there’s no ideal blueprint to follow in determining when your child is truly ready for a structured school environment such as prep (kindergarten in the U.S.), there are signs that a parent can be on the lookout for to help make that decision easier.
Signs of school readiness are:
Does your child speak clearly enough to be understood by others?
Does your child use words rather than body language to express a feeling or a need?
Does your child communicate well with peers?
Can your child convey two or more ideas in a sentence?
Can your child repeat numbers and phrases said by an adult?
Personal care skills:
Is your child independent in toileting?
Is your child reliably dry during naps or rest time?
Is your child aware of his/her body parts (head, shoulders, knees and toes)?
Can your child dress him/herself using buttons and zips?
Can your child open his/her lunchbox and manage to eat with a minimum of assistance?
Is your child able to separate from parents without incident?
Is your child able to ask for help when necessary?
Is your child beginning to share with others?
Does your child use words like “please, thank you, excuse me”?
Can your child bounce a ball?
Can your child successfully use a scissors?
Can your child hold a crayon or a piece of chalk?
Does your child like to write or draw?
Can your child follow simple directions?
Can your child understand the concept of time?
Is your child able to complete a set task (i.e. a puzzle) from beginning to end?
Is your child able to recognize and/or name colours and shapes?
Is your child able to match or sort items by size order, i.e. from big to small?
Does your child enjoy looking at books and does he/she “read” the pictures?
In addition to the above checklist, it’s important to consider your child’s age at the start of school. There is a natural pecking order in the classroom connected to age, size and ability. Many of the above criteria are things that develop of their own accord over time. Degrees of competence will vary according to how long the child has been demonstrating a skill or behaviour. A younger child may often feel that they have to struggle to keep up with others who are more mature chronologically and developmentally.
Often, there are sound reasons for allowing a child who will be young in their year to wait until the following year before entering school. Their peers will recognise that they are that bit older, more competent and they will seek that child out as a protector and helper. This can have a most beneficial effect both behaviourally and academically in the long term.
If your child has mastered most of the skills on this list and meets your school districts age requirement, then he or she is probably ready to start school.
Note: this is only a guide. If you have any real concerns about your child’s welfare or readiness for school, you should contact your healthcare or other qualified professional. As a parent you are not only your child’s first and most significant teacher, you are also your child’s greatest advocate.