It’s sometime around this point in a Prep’s school year that the rubber hits the road, so to speak. The ‘settling in’ period is pretty much over, the excitement of wearing a school uniform and carrying a big school bag has lost its thrill and kids have been known to say things like “Yeah, that was fun but I think I’m ready to go back to kinder.”
So what do parents need to know for playing the Prep long game?
1. It’s a roller-coaster – each term is made up of peaks and troughs, with a major dip usually in the last two weeks of each term. Sensing the end is in sight, kids tend to get a bit ratty. At around this stage each term, I say “I think ‘we’ need an early night, tonight!” at least six times a week.
2. Keep it in perspective – sometimes (not always, and I may only be speaking for my own children) Preps have a tendency toward the melodramatic. For example, “If I don’t stay up late and complete all of these forty readers I’ll have to go to Mr Penson’s office.”
As parents, we know that no Prep will be sent to the principal for only getting through 39 readers in one night, right? These sorts of wild statements (and the associated anxiety), usually crop up around the end of term (see no.1 above) and can often be solved with an early night – after you’ve read 40 readers, of course.
3. Choose activities carefully – Kinder kids may have jam-packed extra-curricular schedules but parents often drop all activities when kids start school, to allow them to settle in. Eventually, activities creep back on to the after-school agenda. You know what your child can manage but choose carefully and don’t overload them.
Although I’m not the world’s biggest fan of play dates (see why here), Prep is the ideal time to go crazy on after-school fun – it’s a good opportunity for both kids and parents to make social connections.
4. Build some independence – mornings can be manic and as much as we know that kids learn best by doing something themselves, watching a five-year-old take 45 minutes to butter bread for a sandwich is excruciating. It seems so much easier to do whatever has to be done yourself. However, that feeling wears off and before long you’ll be thinking “They should be packing their own bag/ making their own lunch/ organising their own reading folder” by now.
So, start small. In Prep, kids are more than capable of putting into place routines that they can slowly build on. Prep teacher, Sophie Apperly said that the Preps observe many routines every day, starting with unpacking their bags, choosing readers and getting their things organised for specialist classes – they can easily do similar things at home.
5. When did THAT happen?! Your Prep may have started the year a little nervous – there may have even been some tears and separation anxiety – and then suddenly, they’re what could only be described as cocky. Growing confidence and being a little show-offy about school is cause for celebration.
I knew I’d hit that point when my Prep scrambled out of the car and charged off toward the gate, calling over his shoulder “You don’t have to come in with me anymore, Mum.” I was simultaneously pleased and heartbroken.