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January is a giant leap for parents and school starters, get involved early.

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Johannesburg: In January thousands of young minds will make the giant leap from pre-school to a formal education. Starting Grade 1 is a big moment for parents and children and being well prepared beforehand can pay significant dividends.

Grade 1 teacher at St Martins Preparatory School, Caylee Randall, recommended that parents should start conversation with their children about school as soon as possible. She said: “It’s all in the preparation. And parents need to get their minds around the idea of ‘big school’ before stepping up to the task of preparing youngsters.”

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Randall added that it’s all about building positive expectations. She said: “Have positive conversations about their new teacher, about learning new things. It’s really important to get a child excited about the first day, and their first experience of what a formal learning environment will be like.”

Encouragement plays a significant role, too. Randall said that children should look forward to their first day at school and veer away from separation anxiety, from both child and parent’s perspectives. She said: “It is a giant leap in letting go for parents, and a huge step for children toward independence.”

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St Martins School - Prep School Teacher and girl painting

She added: “A sense of independence is just as important as positive affirmations before the big day.” Randall suggested that teaching pre-Grade 1’s to dress themselves, tying their own shoelaces and doing up buttons and zipping up things could go a long way to creating the level of independent confidence that a child would need as they move into a new learning environment.

She said: “Also responsibilities like packing their own school bags, getting themselves ready before school and creating their own routine.” Randall said that these small influences are equally as relevant for children entering Grade Naught.

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Homework will also be a new addition to a young learner’s life. Randall said that it does not have to be a burden, but rather an opportunity for parents to be engaged with their children. In fact, she said, it is very important. She said: “By making learning fun at school and at home, especially at such a young age, it engenders a love and thirst for education that will stand children in good stead later in life. Reading, spelling and numbers can be fun, and it’s such a beautiful part of a child’s journey.”

Every learning is a milestone, and every milestone should be celebrated, she said. Especially from Grade 1.

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