The centre takes a very progressive approach to school readiness. We believe that each stage and age of a child’s life is to be celebrated for the accomplishments made and not be simply about preparation for where they are going next. If we spend our whole life preparing for the next stage we never get to truly enjoy being in the moment, children are the same and they give so many “moments” of wonder, challenge, excitement and achievement on a daily basis that we do not want to miss allowing them to benefit by valuing these ‘moments’ for their true worth as they unfold. Learning should be a continuous journey that unfolds as life experiences are shared and not a segmented selection of experiences that are randomly grouped together for recognisable achievement. It is this way of thinking that underpins how we view and plan for children’s transition to school.
If parents are to ask a school about how to identify a child who is ‘ready’, they may be surprised to find that the school identifies being ready as a child who can listen, concentrate, ask questions, challenges the ideas of others, who is socially confident, who separates easily from their parents showing secure attachment, who can be responsible for their own belongings and who is confident in their own capabilities. These are not easily identifiable skills such as writing their own name or reciting the alphabet, but are skills which allow a child to transition to a new environment and to be immersed in the next stage of their learning life. While it would be so much easier to say a child is ready if they can count to 10 and tie their own shoes (because these are skills that can be easily taught and observed) the actual requirements for children to transition are much boarder and don’t simply develop in the year before school.
So what is our school readiness program??? To say we don’t have one would be slightly incorrect , more so by definition than by anything else. We believe that school readiness is everything we do in our programs provided for the children from the youngest baby to the child who may leave to start school next week. Because we have a program which is based around the morning meeting held with the children (as explained in the information on our developmental programs) we start allowing the children to develop skills of shared learning, listening, confidence and researching ideas, from the day they start. It is important to us that the children are given opportunities to follow their ideas, to find answers to their questions, to challenge the ideas of others and to do so respectfully in a supported community of learners... this is school readiness.
Our staff are all highly qualified and believe in the potential of cross curriculum teaching. By this, our programs and often projects of interest, are chosen for their ability to take a child’s interest and use this motivator for learning to include skills in all developmental areas and all outcome areas. An example may be for a very young baby who has an awareness and interest in music, to be offered a program with songs to increase language and vocabulary, different songs which introduce numbers and counting, add finger puppets to the music for role playing and scarves to add movement and finally instruments for exploration of sound and physical skills.
For children in the older age groups, there may be a child who has been away with their family for the weekend, who brings in photos of camping that spark an interest among their friends. The staff identify this interest, they plan drama and role playing, they sing songs around a pretend campfire, they do drawings, paintings or block building of their campsite, tent and family away together and they engage with their peers in verbal conversation about where is the best place to camp, how do we get there, what will we need, what are the dangers, who will go???? The learning possibilities are endless and cover all curriculum areas while the children are involved and motivated because the learning experience is interesting to them.
Learning to write your name is an important skill, however when a child finds the need to be able to write their name they will do it very quickly, if a child is learning to write their name because we tell them they have to and they see no reason for this, the process can be very drawn out...what exciting learning opportunities are being missed while we do this? Children will want to write their name to identify their own painting or to sign themself into their own classroom, it is our role to find the reason that motivates the child so that the skill is an important achievement to them and they value the need to write. Playing a game identifying numbers on a die and adding them together, seeing who has built the tallest tower in the block area, counting that tower or what shapes make a more supported structure are all ways that children engage in learning about literacy, numeracy and their world, and they want to do it. Ultimately our aim is to transition children to school from the centre who are children that love to learn. Learning should be fun, motivating, life enhancing and not repeated rote learned information that cannot be applied to a new setting. If we can allow children the opportunity to learn and to enjoy and be supported as they make new discoveries then we can develop motivated and involved learners who transition to school confidently. Remember... the child who asks the best question may well be far more knowledgeable than the one who can answer it!
As part of the transition process in preparing the children for this huge change before they leave the centre, the staff each year will work closely with the 4-5 year old children in a few specific experiences. We will allow the families to know who is going to each of our local feeder schools, families can begin networking for support well before the end of the year. We develop a photo book of the different schools and compile a folder so that the children have a clear visual idea of the setting they will be going to. We write letters to the schools, usually to the kindergarten classes of the schools the children will be attending, and the children ask all the questions they need answers to. This is usually things like “Do you have a canteen?” or “Do you have rest time?” It is about validating the genuine questions the children need answered before they leave the closeness of the centre they are so familiar with. Finally, we have an afternoon tea in the new year a few weeks after school starts back, this is about seeing the children and catching up with how they have gone....but it also about starting the transition for the next year’s school leavers, to show them that these children who they are so familiar with have gone to school and come back to tell them what a great place it is!
School readiness is not so much about cutting out magazine pictures for the ‘letter of the week’, children have developed far beyond this and we need to recognise that they are worthy of more. Let them learn every minute of every day and let us value that learning, there is learning opportunities while driving the car, while folding the washing, while having coffee with Grandma and while singing a song...it is this learning that will prepare your child as it is this that will allow them and encourage them to be confident individuals.