Parenting schoolMany parents of children wonder if their kids are ready to start school. Most educators agree that school readiness is not guaranteed by chronological age, but is defined by the total picture of the child's intellectual, physical, social and emotional development.

Today, 98% of all children attend school prior to entering first grade. A generation ago, joining school, was a much less universal experience. A recent Foundation survey found that 35% of children nationwide are not ready to participate successfully in school, due in part to an increase in low-birthweight babies, higher survival rates for premature infants and the changing family structure.

Signs of school readiness include:

  • a sense of confidence and enough independence to begin doing tasks alone
  • a desire to explore and have new experiences outside the home
  • the ability to stay focused on an activity
  • the beginnings of an ability to relate to other children
  • sufficient verbal skills to communicate with adults and peers
  • the ability to separate from you comfortably for the length of the school day
  • the ability to deal with the physical demands of a new environment, such as stairs and the toilet.

School children, particularly boys, who turn 5 in the summer are most at risk for not having a successful school experience. Younger children are more likely to experience difficulty, and boys are more likely not to be ready than girls. Children may not be ready for school if they are small for their age, have problems with small motor coordination, don't want to play with other children and /or fall to pieces easily.

School itself has changed from the play-oriented curriculum, which many children now experience in preschool, to a very first-grade-like experience, which is more academically oriented. Children entering kindergarten should be able to ask for help and accept it, negotiate and collaborate with peers, solve problems, and have the stamina to make it through the day.

They should know four or five colors, understand that letters make words and words represent something, and be able to count, sing the alphabet song, recognize shapes and understand word relationships such as over/under and back/front.

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