Starting school will be the first big change in the life of your child. Up to this she/he has felt safe and secure with you in the home and family but now she/he is facing the wider world of classroom and school. This may seem a big step for someone so small but most children manage it without any great fuss or stress - and in fact take to it like ducks to water.
However, it is also a time when parents and teachers should take special care to ensure that the transition from home to school is as smooth as possible. If the child’s first experience of school is one of happy involvement, a very good foundation will have been laid for fruitful school years ahead.
It is important too, particularly during the first year that parents understand what the aims of the school are, as many may be expecting too much in the way of academic achievement.
We know from experience that parents are very anxious to help in any way possible. We have, therefore, included some ideas for the home, which should stimulate the child’s interest and nurture her/his desire to know more.
With these aims in mind we have put together this booklet as a general guide for parents. It deals briefly with the period before your child comes to school and her/his early days in Junior Infants. Much of the information is taken from a variety of publications and online resources.
We trust you will find it helpful and that your child will be happy and fulfilled with us.
Getting Ready for Learning
Children are natural learners. They have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about everything – about themselves, about others and about the world around them. And they learn quickly – but only when they are ready and their interest is aroused.
Because they come to us so young we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn what they are not yet ready for. Demanding too much too soon can switch a child off completely. At the same time we must cultivate readiness so that they can get moving as soon as possible.
The rates of progress of children can vary greatly. We try to give them an opportunity to move ahead at their own pace or as near to it as possible.
Our first year in school therefore, is mainly about settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routine of the school. On the learning side the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by –
Before Your Child Starts
You should ensure that your child is as independent as possible - physically, emotionally and socially. If she/he can look after herself/himself in these areas your child will feel secure and confident and settle in readily.
It would help greatly if your child is able to-
Preparing for the ‘Big Day’
The child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of her/his life. You can help to make it a really happy one for her/him.
The Big Day
When you arrive at the classroom, be as casual as you can. She/he will meet the teacher and the other children and will be shown her/his chair.
Hopefully she/he will be absorbed in her/his new surroundings. So having assured her/him you will be back to collect her/him wish her /him goodbye and make your getaway without delay.
Lunch is an important meal for school-going children. It should provide one third of your child’s food requirements for the day. We ask you to encourage a healthy lunch right from the start. The following guide is designed to help you provide quick, appetising, and nutritious lunches for your children. Please also refer to the information leaflets published by the Health Promotion Department of the HSE.
Bread & Alternatives
Fruit & Vegetables
The most suitable drinks for children to have throughout the day are water and milk, both of which are tooth friendly, while milk is also very important for healthy bones. Drinks that are suitable for lunchtime include:
Handling the Upset Child
In spite of the best efforts of both teacher and parents a small number of children will still become upset. If your child happens to be one of them don’t panic. Patience and perseverance can work wonders.
A Word of Advice
As Time Goes on…
Some Important Areas of Early Learning
The Importance of Play in the Early Years
Play helps to bring children to a state of readiness for the more formal learning they will experience later in their primary years and should continue to be part of children’s lives in the primary school beyond the infant classes. Children should be allowed to live their lives as children.
Developing her Command of Spoken Language
It is important that the child’s ability to talk is as advanced as possible. It is through speech that she/he communicates her/his thoughts and feelings, her/his needs and desires, curiosity and wonder. If she/he cannot express these in words she/he will tend to remain silent and will often withdraw from the learning activity of the class. This can be the first sign of failure in the school system and must be remedied, if at all possible. That is why a lot of attention is given to language development in the first years of school.
You Can Help….
First Steps in Reading
The ability to read is the foundation for all future progress in our school system. However, learning to read is a gradual process and a lot of preparatory work must be done before a child is introduced to her/his first reader.
We very deliberately do not rush or push children into reading. We get them ready for it over an extended period. Reading is something to be enjoyed. It should never start as a chore for the small child.
You can Help
First a Word of Warning
Maths for the small child has nothing to do with “sums” or figures or tables or adding and subtracting. These will all come much later. Maths is really part of the language your child uses in understanding and talking about certain things in her/his daily experience e.g.
Understanding of these concepts comes very quickly for some children. For others it takes a long time. Be patient. You cannot force Maths understanding on a child.
But You Can Help…
All children enjoy learning a second language. They have no difficulty in picking it up, because it fascinates them as another code of communication. The first five years of a child’s life is also the period during which the child learns languages with relative ease.
The main objective is to foster the child’s enthusiasm for Irish and to make it enjoyable and relevant
Children are free of any hang-ups about the Irish language unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be positive in your attitude to the language.
We ask parents to give every encouragement and help to their children in learning Irish. If they learn new words in school encourage them to use them at home. Use little Irish phrases or words now and again. Children are delighted to find out that their parents are into their new code as well. If they must learn Irish, let them enjoy it and master it to the best of their ability.
Getting Ready For Writing
Making letters on paper is not easy for the small child. She/he must learn to hold the pencil properly and make regular shapes. Her/his hand and finger muscles are only gradually developing at this stage.
You Can Help…
Your child must develop the ability to get the hand and eye working together. This is very important. Get her/him to manipulate toys like:
Other Areas of the Curriculum
The child in junior infants learns by engaging in a variety of other activities, which we need not elaborate on here. Her/his general development is enhanced through Art & Craft, P.E., Music, Drama, Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Religion is also taught in all classes, though there are children of different faiths who do not take part in these lessons.
As in the other areas of learning we have referred to already, the child will benefit from practising at home what she/he has learned at school.
Social skills are very important. We encourage good manners at all times, please/thank you, addressing teachers properly, being courteous to fellow students and teachers. It is important to ask your child whom she played with at school and to ensure she isn’t alone, also encourage mixing rather than being dependent on one friend only. Rough behaviour is totally discouraged in the playground. You will find a copy of the school’s Code of Behaviour in the Parents’ Information Pack.
As well as having a dedicated Computer Room with a networked computer system with broadband internet access, each classroom also has computer facilities and interactive whiteboards. Your child will become familiar with these facilities quickly.
Who is the Boss?
Gradually the child will get used to the general discipline of the classroom. She/he will come to understand very quickly that in certain important matters an instruction from the teacher must be obeyed promptly and without question.
Teacher and Parent
At the early stages some parents meet the teacher almost daily and this is a very desirable thing. However, if there is something in particular that you would like to discuss you can arrange to meet her /him at a time when you both can have a little peace and quiet.
Easy Does It
There are lots of ideas and suggestions in this booklet as to how you can help your child. We are not advocating that you do ALL of these with her/him in a systematic way. But if you find from time to time that she/he enjoys a fun approach to certain aspects of learning then we would say – give it a go – but remember don’t overdo it.
We are offering this Guide to Parents as a practical aid in dealing with the education of their children at the very early stages. We hope that you find it useful as you and your child embark on this great journey together.