For many children across the country, the countdown is on again.
They've diligently crossed off the days until Santa arrives, enjoyed an amazing Christmas celebration, and now … It's time to work out how many sleeps until school starts!
Although you, as a tired parent may be counting down to that exciting day as well, I'm actually talking about the thousands of five-year-old cherubs, eagerly awaiting their first day of kindergarten, writes Georgie Trenwith.
The uniforms have been bought (and probably worn to the supermarket numerous times), the shoes are polished to within an inch of their lives, and the new school bag that Santa delivered is sitting packed and ready to go!
Sometimes excited, sometimes nervous, and sometimes worried that they haven't done enough to help little Johnny get ready for his big transition into primary school.
When the perfect neighbour from next door has taught her kids their ABCs and how to count to 100, it can be disconcerting as a new school parent.
Have I done enough? Is he going to be ready? Is it my fault if he's not?
I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
As an early years teacher, those ABCs and their numbers to 100? That's our job. I couldn't care less if you have spent your summer holidays completing books of worksheets or flashing flashcards. What I care about is this:
1. Is your child excited?
Have you spent the holidays sharing stories of how much you loved school? How much you loved learning how to read? It sounds obvious, but many parents do not realise how much their past experiences can influence their child's own feelings about their big first day. I often tell parents, "I can teach them their letters, their numbers and how to read and write. However, what I need from you is to model a love and high respect for learning and education."
2. Have you taught your child some independence?
Do you still do everything for your child or are they going to have the skills to navigate a classroom and a playground? If your child is cold, can they get their jumper out of their bag themselves? And even better, can they put it on?! Can they toilet themselves independently and have they mastered the zipper on their school shorts? Your child's teacher is not just there for your child. They will have, on average, 20 five-year-olds to teach a very complex and crowded curriculum too. Imagine how much more learning time there is if all 20 children come to school with a little independence. Every teacher's dream!
3. Have you taught your child about difference?
Your child will walk into their kindergarten classroom and there will be a complete myriad of personalities, abilities and behaviour levels. Pretty much every childhood stereotype and diagnosis will be in that room. The most resilient kids, are the kids that have been taught to accept difference. They are the ones who help their friend when she is struggling with a task. They are the ones who see the shy kid who is sitting on their own and so calls them over. Teach your kids about acceptance and difference, and they will become a better person for it.
A tip for the parents
My final tip is for you more than your little one, and that is to enjoy this time. Do you really want your last few weeks at home with your preschooler to be spent drilling sounds and numbers? Once they start school, they also start homework, play dates, soccer training, after school art classes … the list goes on. Your life will become busier. This is your last few weeks with your little one as a real little one.
So please, leave the counting practice and letter writing to me … teach them to love learning, teach them initiative and responsibility and most of all, teach them acceptance.