Is Your Child Ready for School?

Several factors contribute to your child’s school readiness. An expert from Sacred Heart Schools Chicago explains.

If you have a child approaching school age, you may be wondering about your child’s school readiness. You might be curious if your child is up to speed academically, socially, emotionally – or all three.

Dr. Elizabeth Coleman, Ed.D. and Head of Primary School at Sacred Heart Schools Chicago, believes in considering the whole child when determining school readiness.

“At Sacred Heart, we take a holistic approach when deciding how well a child will handle the classroom,” she says. “It isn’t just one thing that makes them ready; many factors contribute to it. We listen to what parents tell us and help them make the right choices for their child.”

Key indicators of your child’s school readiness

One of the first questions parents might ask is what are some things used to assess a child’s readiness for school.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all concept,” says Dr. Coleman. “But, we do have some common indicators like the child’s ability to identify their name and some sounds. Plus it helps to have some early literacy and math skills.”

To help them learn the basics, Dr. Coleman suggests working with your child’s natural curiosity.

“As you go about your day or run errands with your child, use these as opportunities for learning. Point out letters and numbers and ask them to find shapes and patterns. Read them lots of books so that they can start to learn their letters. If you’re out taking a walk, ask them how many birds they see. Start with having kids observe the world around them.”

Social and emotional readiness

Social and emotional readiness for school could be even more important than the academic aspects, says Dr. Coleman. “I’ve seen great progress from kids who had more limited academic skills when they joined us. However, without emotional readiness, they may struggle academically.”

So what exactly does social and emotional readiness look like? Things like being able to follow rules, respect others and communicate needs appropriately are some basics.

While every child is different, there are some things you can do to help your child gain these crucial skills.

“It’s important for parents to talk to their child about the home setting vs. the school setting,” says Dr. Coleman. “Explain to your child that school requires things like waiting your turn and raising your hand to speak.”

According to Dr. Coleman, one social readiness indicator is your child’s ability to “read the room.”

For example, can your child understand that they are part of a larger school community? Do they accept that they can’t talk over others and that they may have to wait for attention from a busy teacher? Are they willing to share with other kids and resolve conflicts?

Also key: help kids label their emotions so that they can come up with ways to deal with them. Being able to do this will help a child succeed academically, says Coleman. “If a child can say ‘I’m worried right now’ when they are feeling challenged by math or reading, that is going to help the teacher break through to them.”

Involving parents in the assessment process

“Parents know their child best,” Coleman says. “We listen to families and work with them.”

A milestone birthday doesn’t mean a child is ready to transition to kindergarten. Coleman suggests that you speak to a teacher or administrator before making a decision.

“We see a broad range of kids every day and we know what is developmentally on target. After talking with us and having an assessment with your child, you may decide they’re ready after all. We want to be a resource for parents.”

While other schools may have different requirements, your child’s school readiness assessment at Sacred Heart will be simple and straightforward, says Coleman.

“Parents shouldn’t worry too much about what their child knows or doesn’t know. We want to have a conversation with you. Be honest about your concerns. We can work with you and your child to have success at school.”

Embracing your child’s uniqueness

Parents may feel pressure to drill kids on concepts and reach milestones. While exposing kids to academic concepts is helpful, being too overbearing can backfire. “When you make learning fun and game-based for younger children, you will have better success,” says Coleman.

Also important: As you consider school readiness, avoid the temptation to compare your child with others such as older siblings.

“Letting go of specific expectations for your child is hard,” says Coleman. “However, every child is unique. The families that I see who take this approach have so much more happiness at school.”

Ultimately, your child’s school readiness is not just about academics. It’s about embracing the whole child and helping them to thrive in every way.

To learn more about Sacred Heart Schools Chicago, visit shschicago.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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