Are you readying your child for school?
Earlier this year, I met a young woman who signed up with Teach for America, and was working in New Orleans. She brought a lot of passion and intelligence to her work and she loved her students. In talking about her work she admitted to the occasional difficulties with parents. And something she said to a particularly ornery parent really stuck with me. “Ms. Johnson, I am here and ready to teach your child. But you have to bring him to school READY TO LEARN.”
What did she mean exactly? And did the mom understand? There are long lists that describe what educators and policy makers are looking for with “school readiness.” No matter how you define it, readiness begins at home. As parents we are expected to bring a school ready child to the pre-school or kindergarten classroom door. So, what do you do, and when do you do it?
All the evidence points to infancy as your starting point for what we call school readiness. And that’s because being ready for school is less about reciting numbers and letters, and more about mastering certain behaviors. The earlier you begin, the easier your child will become a master of these behaviors. My earlier posts on brain development described how some of these behaviors emerge. The specific skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, science, art, music and movement will all come together as these behaviors are mastered.
In the top ten list of behaviors your child will need by age 5 are:
- Be Attentive for at least 30 minutes at a time.
- Be Social and able to get along with other children.
- Show Empathy and care for others
- Show a Desire to learn and discover
- Take Responsibility for his or her own behavior and decisions
- Master the Self-discipline to connect thoughts and actions
- Have a large Vocabulary and use lots of different words
- Understand the Concepts of quantity, time, size, relationships
- Interact with the tools for learning; books, pictures, paints, games, puzzles, and yes, technology
- Motivated to achieve and develop more in one or more areas.
With each of these highlighted words you can easily think of everyday things to do that develop these behaviors in your baby. Conversation that describe and explain everything you do builds vocabulary. Play dates and group activities develop empathy and social skills. Asking your baby and toddler questions develops the concepts of big/small, up/down, while shapes and numbers fosters skill building in counting and naming things in the environment.
While it may be true that “it’s never too late” to start doing something that needs to be done, it’s also true that “timing is everything” if an action is to have its greatest effect. In the case of school readiness, the time to start is somewhere between 4-6 months, but if your baby is closer to three years old, it’s not too late. Just be prepared to be a little more intense! Every able child who develops these behaviors from the inside-out, will also master the skills to be successful in life. That’s a proven fact.