It’s already the beginning of May. We’re into the magical months for schools. These are the months they throw open their doors to welcome visitors. They’re also the months they begin asking for registration confirmation from existing students (along with a handful of post-dated checks), not to mention applications for new students.
For parents, it’s a more stressful time. If you already have children in school, you have to face the daunting school fees that are once again due.
If you are looking for a school, you are on a constant round of visits to open days, and you are trying to prepare your children for entrance assessments. Yes, the dreaded assessment. If you are the parent of a little one, you are still trying to decide whether your little lamb is ready for big school. Your child seems like a genius to you, but what will the schools think? Will your little star pass the entrance assessment?
It’s a tough call, especially when you come from a country where the idea of entrance assessments is foreign. Back home kids grow old enough to go to school and then they go. They don’t need to know their letters or shapes or colors before they go to school. That’s what they learn in school.
Of course, the schools in the UAE are all private schools, so they have higher standards – at least that’s what their websites indicate. But what are they really looking for in your child? How exactly are they going to assess your little one who is leaving home for the first time or leaving the comfort of a loving, play-centered nursery?
That is the big question that is in every parent’s mind.
So how can you, as parents, help to prepare your children for these assessments?
Early preparation, of course, is very important, but it doesn’t have to be as rigid as you might imagine. In fact, by focusing on the skills that children need to have grasped as they enter formal schooling, rather than ticking a whole list of check boxes, is going to provide your little one with a better, broader, and more solid foundation for school, as well as the assessment.
But knowing which skills should be worked-on and when is like navigating a minefield of opinions, research and curricula. When should my child be able to hold a pencil? How can I teach her to play confidently with other children? When should she learn to share? At what age should she understand that her toys can be sorted into ‘cuddly’ and ‘musical’ piles?
When your little one goes in for an assessment, he or she will be evaluated on the seven areas of childhood development: personal, social and emotional development; language skills; physical development; literacy awareness and skills; mathematical concept awareness and skills; their understanding of the world; and creative ability.
So working on these areas has to be a key part of learning and play at home.
Many activities we naturally take part in with our children help to build these skills, but a lot of parents are not empowered with the information they need to know the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of exploration with their little ones.
For example, do we realize that a simple trip to the zoo could hold the opportunity for personal, social and emotional development; language and literacy development; and an understanding of the world, if only we knew what questions to ask?
Early years educators know that development in the seven key areas begins very early on. From the very first weeks of their lives, children are natural learners. Their experiences and interactions with people and the world around them are all part of their learning experience.
In a culturally diverse environment like the UAE, where children come to school from an array of backgrounds, beliefs and languages, it is vital that a solid foundation be built in the pre-school years by parents, nurseries, and even home care givers.
Some of the things you can work on with your child include:
- An awareness and respect of differences and similarities of different people
- How to separate mum from dad with confidence
- Knowledge of who they are and where they came from
- Physical abilities to do things for themselves
- Language skills in the language they will be educated in
- Good reasoning and problem-solving skills
- Creative ability and the freedom to express themselves and explore
- An understanding that print holds meaning and a healthy interest in books and reading
You can begin working on all of these now, through play and investigation with your child. Through normal but structured activities with your child you will have started on this journey without even realizing it.
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This article was written by Dana Bader, Author of Rainbow Readiness - The Complete Guide to Getting Your Little Ones Ready For School. More information can be found at www.rainbowreadiness.com