Starting School

Preparing for the ‘Big Day’

The child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of their life. You can help to make it a really happy one for your child.

Tell your child about school beforehand,casually, and talk about it as a happy place where there will be a big welcome for them and he or she will meet new friends.

Don’t use school or the teacher as a threat. “If you behave like that for teacher she‟ll murder you” though said light-heartedly can make some children very apprehensive.

If you feel it would help, you could take him or her for a stroll to the junior classrooms and play area on an afternoon during June when the other children have gone home. Your child can browse around and become familiar with their new environment. On arrival you could drop in to meet the Principal with your child and perhaps your child could meet their teacher, as well.

Your child will like to have their new uniform and their new bag when they begin. These will help your child identify more readily with the school and other children.

Your child’s books will be taken from them, the first day of school and the teacher will hold on to them until such time as they are needed. This minimises books getting lost. Please have your child warned of this fact; in case they think they will never see the books again. All books/copies must be marked with your child’s name. Your child will only feel important if he or she has something in their school bag, so perhaps you could buy a copy or colouring book for your child, which he or she could use at home.

The Big Day

Coming in…

When you arrive at the classroom, be as casual as you can. Your child will meet the teacher and the other children and will be shown to their chair. Hopefully he or she will be absorbed in their new surroundings. So having assured your child you will be back to collect them later wish them goodbye and make your getaway without delay.

Packed Lunches

Lunch is an important meal for school going children. It should provide one third of their recommended daily allowance of nutrients without being high in fat, sugar or salt. It should also provide dietary fibre (roughage).

The traditional packed lunch of milk and sandwiches is under attack from a range of convenience foods like crisps, sweets, biscuits, chocolate and soft drinks. We will ask you to encourage a healthy lunch right from the start. Also, please, only give your child something you feel he or she can manage to eat.

The following guide is designed to help you provide quick, appetising, and nutritious lunches for your children.

Bread & Alternatives

Bread or rolls preferably wholemeal, Rice – wholegrain, Pasta – wholegrain, Potato Salad, Wholemeal Scones.

Savouries

Lean meat e.g. chicken/turkey, tinned Fish e.g. tuna/sardines, cheese, including Edam, blarney, cottage, Quiche.

Fruit & Vegetables

Apples, Banana, Peach, Plum, Pineapple cubes, Mandarins, Orange segments, Grapes, Fruit Salad, Dried fruit, Tomato, Cucumber, Sweetcorn, Coleslaw, Celery.

Start with the Basics

A healthy packed lunch should contain bread or an alternative, a savoury filling which provides protein, a suitable drink and some fruit and/or vegetables.

Going Home

Be sure to collect him or her on time. Children can become very upset if they feel they are forgotten. If you are running late contact the school at (0567767490)

If at any time the collecting routine has to be changed ensure you tell the child and the teacher.

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

Trust the teacher. She is experienced and resourceful and is used to coping with all kinds of starting –off problems.

Try not to show any outward signs of your own distress. Sometimes the parents are more upset than the child and are the main cause of his anxiety.

When you have reassured him, leave as fast as possible. The teacher can distract and humour him or her more easily when you are not around.

Check back discreetly in a short while. You will invariably find that calm has been restored.

You must be firm from the start. Even if a child is upset you must insist that he or she stay for a short time-even ten minutes. Your child must never feel that he or she is winning the psychological battle of wills.

As Time Goes on…

School begins at 9.00a.m. We have a policy where Junior Infants go home for the first two weeks at 12.15 p.m. After that they go home at 1.40p.m. Please make sure that your child is collected at this time. Get your child into the habit of being in good time for school from the beginning.

Children need plenty of rest after the effort and excitement of a day at school. You should ensure that your child gets to bed early and has a good night’s sleep.

When your child has settled in and hopefully, looks upon school as a “home from home” do continue to show interest in his daily adventures. Give your child an ear if he or she wants to tell you things-but don’t pester him or her with questions.

Mind that you take some of your child’s “stories” with a pinch of salt.

If your child’s progress is slow do not compare your child’s adversely with other children while he or she is listening. Loss of self-esteem can be very damaging to your child.

Be careful too about criticising your child’s teacher in his or her presence. Remember that she is your child’s mother figure while your child is at school and for your child’s own well being it is important that he or she has a good positive image of her.

Your child is not going to be a model of perfection all the time – thankfully. You should try to have patience with your child’s shortcomings and praise for his or her achievements.

Children often “forget” or relay messages incorrectly, so please, check your child’s bag each night for notes.

Some Important Areas of Early Learning

Developing his Command of Spoken Language.

It is important that the child’s ability to talk is as advanced as possible. It is through speech that he or she communicates his or her thoughts and feelings, his or her needs and desires, curiosity and wonder. If your child cannot express these in words your child 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…. Talk to your child naturally and casually about things of interest that you or your child may be doing-at home, in the shop, in the car, etc. Remember that all the time he or she is absorbing the language they hear about them. It takes your child a while to make it his or her own and to use it for his or her own needs.

Try to make time to listen when your child wants to tell you something that is important to him or her. But don’t always make your child the centre of attention.

Answer your child’s genuine questions with patience and in an adequate way. Always nurture your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder.

Introduce your child gently to the ideas of why? How? When? Where? If? etc. These demand more advanced language structures.

Your child will have their own particular favourite stories that your child never tires of hearing. Repeat them over and over again and gradually get your child to tell them to you.

First Steps in Reading

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 his or her first reader.

As well as building a strong oral language base children will experience a print-rich environment in the classroom, they will hear stories read to them and they will also be involved in reading large-format books (big books with large print) with the teacher. Other activities include saying and chanting rhymes, playing games involving words that rhyme, and breaking words into syllables. This will help children to develop an awareness of the different sounds in words. Great stress is also placed on developing children’s ability to recognise the relationship between letters and sounds. Throughout these early years, the emphasis will be on engaging the child in these vital emergent reading activities. These activities will lay the foundation for formal reading which will take place later.

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..

Have attractive colourful books in the home.

Read your child a variety of stories from time to time. He or she will get to associate these wonderful tales with books and reading.

You must convey to him gradually that books are precious things. They must be minded and handled carefully and put away safely.

Look at the pictures with your child and talk to your child about what they say.

Read your child nursery rhymes. Your child will learn them off his own bat. Don‟t try to push him.

Above all, don’t push your child with his or her early reading. You may turn your child against it for evermore.

Remember that the teacher is the best judge of what rate of progress is best suited to each child.

Sing the alphabet song with your child, so that your child can at least hear the letters. If your child knows what each one looks like, all the better.

Understanding Maths

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 he or she uses in understanding and talking about certain things in your child’s daily experience e.g.

Your child associates certain numbers with particular things – two hands, four wheels, five fingers etc.

Counting – one, two, three, four, etc.

Colours – black, white, red, green, etc.

Prepositions (telling position) and their opposites: over/under, before/after, inside/outside etc.

Matching/Sorting – objects of the same size/colour/texture/shape etc.

Odd One Out – difference in size/colour etc. 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…

In the course of your ordinary daily routine in the home, in the shop, in the neighbourhood you should use suitable opportunities to casually introduce the maths vocabulary referred to above. E.g. How many cakes? The glass is full/empty. We turn left at the lights.

The child gets to understand Maths best by handling and investigating and using real objects. This has been your child’s natural method of learning since your child was a baby. This at times can be a nuisance but if it allows your child to do the learning, the final result is well worth it.

Gaeilge

All children enjoy learning another language besides their own language. They have no difficulty in picking it up because it fascinates them as another code of communication. They are free of any hang-ups about Irish unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be careful that anything you say does not give a negative attitude to your child.

We would like you to give every encouragement and help to your child in their efforts to acquire 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. Your child must learn to hold the pencil properly and make regular shapes. Your child’s 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 him or her manipulating toys like:

(a) Jigsaws, Lego, beads to thread etc

(b) Pleistocene (Marla) to make his own shapes

(c) A colouring book and thick crayons

(d) Sheets of paper that he/she can cut up with a safe scissors

When your child begins to use a pencil make sure that he or she holds it correctly at the start. It will be difficult to change him or her later.

Your child may be making block letters at home even before he or she comes to school. This is fine. But when he or she starts making lower case letters at school you should try to get your child to discontinue the blocks and practise his or her new system whenever your child feels like it. Consult the teacher about this.

Don’t discourage left-handedness. If that is your child’s definite natural inclination, don’t attempt to change your child.

Other Areas of the Curriculum

The child in juniors learns a lot through many other activities, which do not need any elaboration here. Your child’s general development is enhanced through Art & Craft, P.E. and Music.

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 he or she played with at school and to ensure your child 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 list of school rules and policies on the school website (www.clinstownns.com).

Parting Thoughts

Who is the Boss?

Bit by bit the child will get used to the general discipline of the classroom. Your child will get 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 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 little book as to how you can help your child. We are not advocating that you do ALL of these with your child in a systematic way. But if you find from time to time that your child enjoys a fun approach to certain aspects of learning then we would say – give it a go – but remember don’t overdo it.

Our Hope

We are offering this Guide to Parents as a little practical help in dealing with the education of their children at the very early stages. We will be very happy if you dip into it from time to time and find something in it of value to you and your child.

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