Maybe your kids are heading into conventional school, maybe you’re planning your homeschool set-up for the year ahead. Either way, we thought a few ‘school readiness’ tips might be timely, whatever ‘school’ means to your family. We’re just over halfway through school holidays, here. It’s lovely. It would be lovelier if the kids slept past 6.30am, but the slow mornings are great – the only rush is beating the heat when we go to the beach. Having said that, we are starting to think about getting ready for school soon. Mainly, because my kids don’t like being hurled from easy-going holidays into a new routine, cold turkey. So, we’re starting to get back into a routine this week, in preparation for school.
Here’s our suggestions on easing back into school readiness mode:
Regular meal times
We’ve been kind of grazing our way through the day. Actually, the only way I get work done is by creating a huge platter of fruit, veggies and sandwiches, after breakfast, and leave it out on the bench for the kids to snack on, so I’m not at the mercy of “Muuum! I’m hungry!”. However, getting back to regular breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner times is good for adjusting back to a kindergarten or school schedule. We also get out any new lunchboxes and start using them, so little fingers learn how to open and close them. I actually just bought new lunchboxes this week, so the kids have been using them each day.
Independence skills are just as important as learning to count, in the early years. So, things like: teaching your kids to dress themselves, including socks and shoes, is great for their fine motor skills as well as self-confidence. I’m now getting my kids to make their own beds each morning and empty their own bags at the end of the day. For older kids, you could agree on weekly chores they’ll do – put a chart up on the fridge. My older nieces and nephews have a cooking roster, so they take it in turns to make dinner. They find recipes, shop for ingredients and cook for the family when it’s their turn.
Travelling to school
Are you going to be walking, riding or driving to school each day? If you will be leaving the car at home, practise the walk or ride to school, so it’s not such a huge deal on the first day back. Even if you are driving, hop in the car and get your child to direct you. You may end up in the wrong suburb, initially, but it’s a fun little adventure as they are getting familiar with the trip. We’re even starting at a whole new school, in a new town this year, so the kids are enjoying little trips from home to school, so they feel familiar with it.
Now is the time to get back into a regular bed time routine. If the kids are still going to bed at 10pm in a few weeks, you may be able to get them out of bed for school, but they won’t be able to concentrate in the classroom for very long. The long, summer days can make it hard to get kids going to bed early, I know! A block out blind is a pretty good investment. For us, we rely on a talking book app on our phones – after doing teeth and stories, we turn on a talking book for the kids to listen to in bed, as they drift off to sleep. Even if they’re not immediately going to sleep, it’s better than them jumping on the trampoline or watching Netflix at 9pm.
I’ve already mentioned regular meals, but breakfast is one meal that a lot of parents struggle to get into their kids, especially if they’re working to a deadline such as school drop-off. It is so hard for them to maintain the energy required for school, if they haven’t eaten in the morning. Prepare in advance. I have one child who happily eats porridge every morning. However, I have another child who just. Will. Not. Eat. Breakfast. So, I have a series of easy, stand-by breakfasts for her that can be eaten on the run. These include: smoothies or frozen smoothie ‘icy poles’, wholemeal pancakes (already cooked and frozen – just need reheating in the microwave then they get rolled around yoghurt and fruit), home-made muesli bars or jars of granola (less sugar if you make them yourself), small containers of berries and yoghurt, breakfast burritos (I keep a pack of tortillas in the fridge and fill with any dinner leftovers and put in a sandwich press for less than 5 mins); mini quiches; fruit & cheese kabobs.
Arrange a few play dates with class mates
This one is especially good if your child is going into a new class and doesn’t know many people. You might even be able to organise most of your child’s class to get-together for a park play date the week before school goes back. It helps to ease some of the nerves if you have a child who is a bit worried about school.
I work best when I’m organised, myself. So that means: a bit of meal prep at the beginning of the week; emptying the dishwasher each night before bed, so it’s ready for the breakfast dishes; making sure school bags are emptied after school each day and there’s a set of clean school clothes ready for the next day; having all excursions, term dates, birthday parties etc on a wall calendar for everyone to see. Label everything! Clothes, bags, shoes, lunchboxes . . . something will get lost at some stage. I get the kids into a good morning routine: get up, get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack bag.
If your child participates in extra curricular activities, such as dancing, cricket, athletics, swimming, etc, think about how that will work into your weekly routine and how much structured activity is realistic for your family. There’s so many choices now: your child is possibly coming home with flyers for everything from ukulele lessons to karate. Loads of them look great and teach some amazing skills. However, all of the time and expense can be pretty wearing on families, especially if you have 2, 3 or more children. My kids get to choose 2 things each that they can do – and at that, we’re still out 3 evenings and all Saturday morning. Some quiet, free play time is also really important for kids – for their minds and bodies – as well as all of the structured lessons.
Read, write, draw
We’ve had a fairly physical, outdoorsy holiday break, so I’m getting the kids to do a bit more reading, writing and drawing each day. It’s a good wind-down activity after dinner. It gets them back into ‘school mode’ in a gentle way and introduces some lovely reflective type of activities that lend themselves well to holidays. You might like to keep a holiday journal with their writing, drawing and photographs. We’re also doing a bit of cooking, so they’re writing out shopping lists, reading instructions, measuring and counting.
Talk positively about school
Don’t talk about dreading the rushed school mornings, or how hard the before school/after school/work juggle is, or how much you don’t want holidays to end. Talk positively about getting ready for school and new beginnings, as a family. Use family meal times to talk about all the good things you have coming up this year. In our family, we’ve started talking about all the things we want to learn this year. We’ve got a board where we’re all writing the things we want to achieve and be able to do. This gives the kids a sense that we’re all working together towards goals and puts school into a broader context – we need to go there so we can learn and be able to do these things.
Enjoy the last of the summer holidays – have some adventures together as a family and make some great memories. Talk to each other, without screens and devices and have fun.
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