The first big decision
When your child turns 6 it usually means that it’s their last year in preschool. In a year, your child will need to start primary school, but how do you know that your child will cope with the formal demands of school? Or be able to function to his/her full potential? As a parent, you may have lots of questions about this new phase in your child’s life. You would want to know that your child is ready to start their learning journey. If your child is not ready, it could influence his/her academic performance.
How do I know if my child is ready to start school?
The South African Schools Act states that school attendance is compulsory for any child from the age of 7 up to the age of 15. But how do you know if your child is school-ready? This is a question that many parents ask and there isn’t a straightforward answer. Some learners are late bloomers and aren’t emotionally ready for the pressure they encounter at school.
When must I seek professional help?
If you are uncertain if your child is ready for school, send them for a school readiness test at a registered therapist/psychologist. The assessment could put the following skills to the test:
- Visual and auditory perceptual skills – how well the learner can interpret information taken in through the senses of sight and sound.
- Concept development – whether the learner has mastered concepts such as colours, shapes, and time (e.g. do they know on which days they need to go to school), etc.
- Fine motor and gross motor skills – the learner should be able to hold a pencil, use a pair of scissors, add beads on a string, etc.
- Emotional skills – the learner should be able to work independently and, in a group, and be able to share the teacher’s attention as learners in Grade 1 are given less individual attention.
The school readiness assessment will help determine whether your child needs additional support. Sometimes learners just need a little more practice to grasp certain concepts or if there is a learning barrier, the learner may need individual attention to overcome it. In other cases, the learner may need extra help on a more permanent basis. The best time to seek professional help is at the end of Grade R or the year when your child turns 6. It is better to make sure your child is ready and be proactive than to find out later that he/she must repeat Grade 1.
What if your child doesn’t cope in a mainstream school?
After the first report in Grade 1, it will be evident whether your child is coping in school or not. A lot of factors can play a role. Sometimes the learner doesn’t understand the teacher, or the pressure is too much. Sometimes the learner feels overwhelmed with all the activities at school, e.g. classwork, group activities, sport, etc. The learner may have a learning barrier or doesn’t get all the attention he/she needs to perform well. Whatever the case, if your child doesn’t cope in school, you should consider all your options.
There are a lot of options to consider, so break away from narrow-minded thoughts or people that will influence you negatively. You could consider home education (otherwise known as homeschooling). Homeschooling will allow your child to spend more time on difficult subjects as it allows learners to study at their own pace. It also provides a nurturing learning environment for children with individual needs.
You can also look for a school with less pressure, with smaller classes or with a different curriculum, whatever you choose it is important to put your child first and that you do what is best for him/her and not what society prescribes.
Hilda Erasmus: Foundation Phase Specialist