Booklet for Parents of Infants Starting School
Starting school will be the first big change in the life of your child. Up to this they have felt safe and secure with you in the home and family but now they are facing the wider world of classroom and school. This may seem a big step for someone so small but most children manage it without any great fuss or stress – and in fact take to it like ducks to water.
However, it is also a time when parents and teachers should take special care to ensure that the transition from home to school is as smooth as possible. If the child’s first experience of school is one of happy involvement, a very good foundation will have been laid for fruitful school years ahead.
We know from experience that parents are very anxious to help in any way possible. We have, therefore, included some ideas for the home, which should stimulate the child’s interest and nurture his desire to know more.
With these aims in mind we have put together this little booklet as a general guide for parents. It deals briefly with the period before your child comes to school and their introductory stage in Junior Infants.
We trust you will find it helpful and that your child will be happy and fulfilled with us.
GETTING READY FOR LEARNING
Children are natural learners. They have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about everything – about themselves, about others and about the world around them. They learn fast, but only when they are ready and their interest is aroused.
Because they come to us so young we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn what they are not yet ready for. Demanding too much too soon can switch a child off completely. At the same time we must cultivate readiness so that they can get moving as soon as possible.
The rates of progress of children can vary greatly. We try to give them an opportunity to move ahead at their own pace or as near to it as possible.
The first year in school therefore, is mainly about settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routine of the school. On the learning side the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by –
- Developing their oral language and expression.
- Sharpening their senses, especially seeing, hearing and touching.
- Developing physical co-ordination especially of hand and fingers.
- Extending their concentration span and getting them to listen attentively.
- Learning through play – the most enjoyable and effective way.
- Co-operating with the teacher and other children.
- Performing tasks by themselves.
- Working with others and sharing with them.
- Teaching each child to accept the general order, which is necessary for the class to work well.
Parents can do a lot in an informal way to contribute to their child’s educational progress and development. The following are some ways in which you can help.
- Language is an essential pre-requisite to reading. Listen attentively to your children. Talk to them and encourage them. Give them time to explain and retell events to you. Avoid interrupting even if you know what they are going to say.
- Read to your child regularly. This encourages a love of books and creates an interest in reading. Ensure that reading is an enjoyable experience. Don’t prolong the reading when the child has lost interest. Short experiences are best.
- Pay attention to the mechanics of reading, i.e. holding the book, turning the page. Let your finger go under the words as you read from left to right. The child’s main interest will be in the pictures. Allow time to examine and comment on them.
- Encourage them to repeat the story to you or tell you their favourite bit. Play “what do you think would have happened if …?” games, or “what would you have done if you were Goldilocks?”
- Enjoy nursery rhymes together.
- Help your child identify colours.
- WRITING: Young children need to develop the right muscles in their hands before they can begin to write properly. You can help this development by encouraging them to do things which involve using their hands, such as drawing, cutting paper, using play dough, etc. You should provide:
- Large sheets of paper and chubby crayons for scribbling, drawing, colouring, tracing, coping, etc.
- Scissors for cutting paper.
- Activities which involve pouring, stirring, mixing, rolling, e.g. making play dough.
- Dolls/teddies with clothes that can be buttoned, laced, zipped and tied.
- Encourage them to dress themselves.
- Choose toys carefully. Children should have blocks to build, simple jigsaws, construction toys, etc. Encourage them to build and make, using odds and ends, i.e. paper-plates, uses packets, cartons, egg boxes, etc.
- You can help your child become familiar with the concepts they will need to understand when they are introduced to basic Maths in school, e.g. Allow your child to help you, sorting cutlery, setting the table, counting out the correct number of spoons, forks, etc. Allow your child to help you divide sweets among friends.
- All children enjoy learning another language besides their own language. They have no difficulty in picking it up because it fascinates them as another code of communication. They are free of any hang-ups about Irish unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be careful that anything you say does not give a negative attitude to your child. We would expect parents to give every encouragement and help to the small ones in their efforts to acquire Irish.
- Encourage your child to collect things from the park or beach, on walks, like shells and pebbles, nuts, cones and feathers. They can have fun later sorting and classifying the different objects. Try the same thing with collections of buttons, badges, lids, etc., and other odds and ends from around the house.
- Use language with your child that will help them understand the concepts of more, less, the same, different, longer than, shorter than and other useful comparisons.
- Allow your child to use whichever hand they feel most comfortable with. Being left handed will not cause any problems in school.
- If your children participate in the daily routine at home they will feel confident about dealing with the school situation. If you are constantly saying “don’t touch” you are saying “don’t learn”. If your children feel you have confidence in them, they will feel they can achieve.
- Useful websites:
- scoilchroinaofaathenry.ie Check school website under Parents Category for the following top ten tips in the following areas, developing oral language, reading, writing, maths and working with your child.
- curriculumonline.ie The New Primary Language Curriculum
- cogg.ie Resources to support literacy and numeracy in Irish
- helpmykidlearn.ie Ideas on how to support your children’s learning over the summer
- into.ie/roi/publications/tipsforparentsBooklets from the publications section of the INTO website with tips for parents of children starting school in September in various languages.
BEFORE YOUR CHILD STARTS…
You should ensure that they are as independent as possible – physically, emotionally and socially. If they can look after themselves in these areas they will feel secure and confident and settle in readily.
It would help greatly if they are able to-
- Button and unbutton their coats and hang it up.
- Use the toilet without help and manage pants buttons.
- Also encourage personal hygiene and cleanliness. Your child should know to flush the toilet and wash their hands.
- Use a handkerchief/tissue.
- Share toys/crayons, etc. with others.
- Tidy up and put away play things.
- Open and close the school bag by themselves.
- Open and close their lunch box.
PREPARING FOR THE ‘BIG DAY’
The child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of their life. You can help to make it a really happy one for them.
- Tell them about school beforehand, casually, and talk about it as a happy place where there will be a big welcome for them and they will meet new friends.
- Don’t use school or the teacher as a threat. “If you behave like that for teacher she’ll murder you” though said light-heartedly can make some children very apprehensive.
- Your child’s books will be taken from them on the first day of school and the teacher will hold on to them until such time as they are needed. This minimises books getting lost. Please have your child warned of this fact; in case they think they will never see the books again. All books must be covered with your child’s name clearly labelled on the front. There is a book rental scheme in the school and the Junior Infant readers can be rented from the school in September.
- Make sure you buy a bag that will fit A4 size books and workbooks. Label the bag as children often have the same school bags.
- Rubbers, pencils and crayons are provided by the teacher in September.
- Choose a lunch box and bottle that your child can open easilyand label both items clearly to avoid confusion with similar items. There are two breaks daily. The first break is a fruit or vegetable break and the remainder of the lunch is eaten at the second break. Please give some thought to lunches and follow the healthy eating policy.
- Please peel oranges.
- No cartons.
- No yoghurts or frubes until after Halloween.
- Carrots must be cooked.
- Please buy elasticated trousers.
- Purchase shoes and runners with Velcro fasteners.
- Children will need a large old t-shirt for Visual art lessons. Please label t-
- Label all your children’s clothes and belongings clearly, e.g. all items of uniform, bag, lunch box and bottle.
THE BIG DAY
When you arrive at the classroom, be as casual as you can. They will meet the teacher and the other children.
Hopefully they will be absorbed in their new surroundings. So having assured them you will be back to collect them, wish them goodbye and make your getaway without delay.
Please only take photos of your own child. recordings are strictly prohibited.
- Be sure to collect them on time. Children can become very upset if they feel they are forgotten.
- If at any time the collecting routine has to be changed ensure you tell the child and the teacher.
HANDLING THE UPSET CHILD
In spite of the best efforts of both teacher and parents a small number of children will still become upset. If your child happens to be one of them don’t panic. Patience and perseverance can work wonders.
A Word of Advice
- Trust the teacher. She/he is experienced and resourceful and is used to coping with all kinds of starting–off problems.
- Try not to show any outward signs of your own distress. Sometimes the parents are more upset than the child and are the main cause of his anxiety.
- When you have reassured them, leave as fast as possible. The teacher can distract and humour them more easily when you are not around.
- You must be firm from the start. Even if a child is upset you must insist that they stay.
As Time Goes on…
- School begins at 8.50a.m. To ease the child into the school routine we have a policy where Junior Infants go home for the first two weeks at 12.00p.m. (so no big lunch). After that they go home at 1.30p.m. Please make sure that your child is collected at 1.30p.m. as the teacher needs that hour between 1.30p.m. and 2.30p.m. to clean up and prepare for the next day. Get them into the habit of being in good time for school from the beginning.
- Children need plenty of rest after the effort and excitement of a day at school. You should ensure that they go to bed early.
- Mind that you take some of their “stories” with a pinch of salt.
- Be careful about criticising the teacher in their presence. Remember that she/he is the parent figure while they are at school and for their own well being it is important that they have a good positive image of her/him.
- Children are not going to be a model of perfection all the time-thankfully. You should try to have patience with their shortcomings and praise for their achievements. Please also have patience with the teacher if they need to discuss any issues with you. They are only doing their job.
- Children often “forget” or relay messages incorrectly, so please, check your child’s bag each night for notes/newsletters. Also check your child’s bag every morning to ensure no toys or other items make their way into school.
- All money transactions need to be sent into school in labelled, sealed envelopes.
- If children have to leave school during the day, parents need to sign a book at the Secretary’s office.
- Check children’s hair regularly. Long hair must be tied back.
- Homework should be signed. Guidelines for homework will be distributed in early October.
- If there are any problems, make an appointment through the secretary. If you wish to speak to teachers at 1.30pm, please wait until all children have been collected.
- Social skills are very important. We encourage good manners at all times such as please, thank you, excuse me, addressing teachers properly and being courteous to fellow students and teachers. It is important to ask your child who they played with at school and to also encourage mixing rather than being dependent on one friend only. Rough behaviour is totally discouraged in the playground.
Teacher and Parent
At the early stages some parents meet the teacher almost daily and this is a very desirable thing. However, if there is something in particular that you would like to discuss you can arrange to meet her at a time when you both can have a little peace and quiet or else wait until all the children have been collected at 1.30pm.
We are offering this Guide to Parents as a little practical help in dealing with the education of their children at the very early stages. We will be very happy if you dip into it from time to time and find something in it of value to you and your child.
“Mol an óige, agus tiocfaidh sí”