By Geli Patrick, Class 2 teacherRingwood Waldorf School
School readiness is achieved not only at a certain chronological age, but also
through physical changes, emotional maturity and skills development which all
signal that the child is ready to begin a journey of more formal learning. In our
experience, it is important that children go through their earlier developmental
stages unhindered by formal instruction and pressure to remember and learn. This
will help them to develop freely, become strong and confident when they reach
school age, and ready to begin a process which otherwise could become very tiring
Starting school is a big step in a child's life, and the best place from which to
take a big step is a secure platform. This means reducing your child's anxiety and
supporting their self esteem in managing this important and potentially stressful
Routines help your child orientate herself in the day and create a feeling of
security if they are the same every day. If you do not have these already,
establish routines at home that will carry on into term time, examples are
breakfast and bed times, a daily 20 minute €˜you and me time' between parent
and child, creative times, tidy times. Pick out what is realistic and achievable in
your schedule, and begin this well before school starts, so that it becomes routine
by September. This will mean that when school starts it is not €˜all change', but
school can fit into what the child knows and trusts.
Children live in the moment, and have big imaginations. Keep any talks about
school very short, matter of fact and above all, calm. During the summer
holidays don't bring up the subject school unless your child asks about it, don't
paint an exciting picture of what might be coming, don't count down the days,
and don't tell your child how brilliant they are going to be at everything. Letting
their imagination about school run wild over several weeks is likely to cause
anxiety and/or false expectations, and a good antidote to this is to stay engaged
with what is happening in the moment. At bedtime you can reflect on the nice
things you did together rather than looking forward to school.
A couple of days is plenty of time for count down to school.
When your child does ask about school, or displays anxiety, link your conversation
to things familiar to the child, such as clothes they will be wearing. You could
walk or drive past the school, pointing it out, and listening out for the real
questions your child has. The key is not to offer information other than what your
child asks for, and then don't rush in with a detailed answer, but allow more
questions to develop. If no further questions come, your child is satisfied with the
simple answers you gave and not overloaded with things to ponder.
Model good behaviour to your child by spending time together: pay attention to
him so he learns to know what it is to pay attention. Have conversations that
alter between speaking and listening to each other without talking over each
other. Teach them practical things such as doing up shoes, coats and lunch boxes.
Spend time together tidying and making a space beautiful. They will find their
place better in school if they get the principle of €˜everything has its place'.
Don't tell them that they have to be good at getting ready or tidying up because
they will soon be going to school - this will put pressure on them that they may
not be ready for, it is better to just do the activities.
Story time: In the last couple of days it might be good to share some positive
experiences of your own early school time with your child, or, if you have met
your child's teacher, share some reassuring first impressions such as kind eyes and
voice, a lovely smile etc.
Shopping! Make sure your child has everything on the kit list, such as lunch
boxes, book bag, change of clothes, wellies - ask if you have not been given a list.
Ensure their clothes, shoes and slippers are comfortable, as this can be a huge
contributor to how your child feels about school. New shoes should be worn
beforehand on a few occasions. Make sure the snacks you pack are healthy and
your child is happy eating this food. Check with your school about policies on
bringing in comforters such as soft toys on the first day.
Visit or have an outing with some friends who will be starting school at the same
time - familiar faces at school will make it feel like home more quickly.
Ensure that your child's teacher is aware of any potential issues your child may
feel uncomfortable about. Teachers can keep an extra eye out for children who
are anxious about certain people, things or activities. They can move children
around for social reasons, or so they have more attention from the teacher when
needed. Some children are nervous about using the toilet, not getting there in
time for instance, or finding it embarrassing to ask. In general, teachers welcome
any extra information to help them make the transition to school as smooth as
possible for every child.
The first day
Having prepared clothes and kit the day before, still get up a little bit earlier
than you need to. There should be no rushing about at all on that morning, it
should be a joyful, relaxed occasion. You could put some special flowers on the
breakfast table in celebration of the day, but avoid sugary treats. Give your child
all the help they need in getting ready, but do it without making a fuss if you can.
Whilst this day is of course special, your child needs to sense that for you it is
really ok for them to be off to school. Don't tell them you'll miss them, even if
they tell you the same. You don't want them to worry about you. If they ask what
you will be doing, you could tell them you will be doing your own chores and will
be ready for them when they have finished school.
Home time: It is a huge temptation to ask: How was it? And to keep asking until
you have every detail of your child's day. You might find it disappointing or
shocking when your child says: €˜rubbish' or €˜boring'. However, when your child
comes out of school, they might not be full of stories for you. They might be
hungry and tired, overexcited about having made it to the end of the day and so
full of impressions that they would find it really hard to order them for your
benefit. So respect your child in whatever their present state is, it does not mean
they had a bad day or school is too much for them. Wait for them to tell you,
they may be more forthcoming if they are left to review their day in their own
time. If they don't want to tell you anything at all, it is very possible that you
simply have a child who enjoys living in the moment, whether that is at school or
If you do have concerns, find out when it would be best to contact your child's
teacher for a chat, or what the school's procedures are for passing on urgent
information. Your views, experience and intimate knowledge of your child are
instrumental in supporting their transition to school, so do contribute and share!