Education Cheat Sheet: Getting Ready for Kindergarten
Preparing for school goes beyond the ABCs and 123s. Here are six things you can do at home to get your little one ready to enter the classroom.
Editor’s Note: It feels like summer just started, but the back-to-school sales are already in full swing. Monday, Aug. 5 is the first day of school for Hawai‘i’s public schools. Even if elementary school is a few years away, it is a good time to start thinking about preparing for that next step. Cari Suzuki of Montessori Community School has some tips parents can utilize now.
Maria Montessori—the Italian educator and physician who created the educational method that bears her name—believed that “the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.”
With this thought in mind, how can you ensure that your child will be ready for kindergarten when the time comes? If he or she just started preschool, it may be a good time to start planning ahead. A child’s birthdate will determine whether they are eligible for kindergarten—most schools require students turn 5 prior to the beginning of the year—but when evaluating applicants, independent schools are likely considering a number of factors in addition to academic skills. More than pencil grip, identifying rhyming words and counting beyond 10, can your child follow multi-step directions? Is he or she able to focus and concentrate on work? Does your child work well with others in a group setting?
At Montessori Community School, when deciding on kindergarten advancement, our teachers also consider the social-emotional development of each child. Because the kindergarten year is the culmination of our preschool program, teachers are also looking for a child’s leadership potential and the ability to be a self-directed learner. In our multi-age Montessori classrooms, the kindergartners are the role-models for the other children, some as young as 3 years old. Our teachers guide the children in building competency in reading, writing and mathematics, while using hands-on learning and concrete materials. Older children might reinforce the activity by practicing with younger children. This develops a community spirit within the classroom and it helps to reinforce the learning concept for the kindergartner.
Here are some ways that you can help prepare your child and enhance his or her learning preparation:
- Encourage and support your child’s emerging independence by giving them real chores around the house. By giving them practical activities, children will learn to contribute to the household and family. Chores can also help develop fine motor skills, focus and concentration.
- Model honesty and respectful behavior. Your child will follow your example in how you treat others. Promote positive social interactions at home, including team work and compromise, so that your child can work cooperatively and collaboratively in school.
- Be consistent. A regular routine helps kids to know what to expect and builds their confidence. Family trips are meaningful experiences but traveling too often during the school year can interrupt progress made in the classroom.
- Limit screen time and encourage imaginative, creative and critical thinking. Through hands-on learning and exploration, your child can develop a deeper understanding of basic concepts and will have a broader foundation for abstract thoughts.
- Read with your child. Not only does a daily story time strengthen bonds with your child, it also prepares them for reading on their own.
- Provide options for challenging work. Reassure your child in their abilities and encourage them when they are ready to try something new! Recognize effort more than mastery. Don’t put too much pressure on them. Every child is different and progresses at his or her own pace. Every school has a different philosophy and learning expectations, along with different kindergarten requirements and application deadlines. Research the different programs and take a school tour to get a sense of the classroom and school community so you can decide on the best fit for your child.
Cari Suzuki is the director of admissions and marketing at Montessori Community School, which offers accredited Montessori programs for children ages 2 years old through sixth grade.