How to support your child’s learning during their first year of school.


Author: Prof. Lara Ragpot

Department of Childhood Education

Faculty of Education

University of Johannesburg

If your child has started school for the first time this year, it has probably been a very exciting experience for your child as well as for you as parents. Even though it might be a wonderful and exciting time, it is also normal for children to go through some difficulties during the first days of school and they need some help to get into this new time in their lives. It is very important that family is there for the children to help them during this time. The following guidelines may help the child and family to make sure that the first year of school is a good and positive learning experience:

  1. Routine

In the child’s classroom at school, the teacher will make use of a specific routine during the day. This means that the child will do certain things at specific times, such as Maths early in the morning, break-time at a specific time and then maybe storytelling before going home. This routine is usually the same every day, as it gets the child into the habit (certain way) of doing work. It is also important for you to set up a routine at home. A routine makes children feel safe as they know what to expect from their morning before school and their afternoons after school.  Make sure that the same routine is followed every day:

  • let children set out their school clothes the night before;
  • they should go to bed early, so that they can wake up nice and rested and fresh the next morning – so no late TV during the week;
  • in the morning wake your child up at a specific time (the same time every day);
  • make sure that they get a good breakfast and that they have enough time to eat the breakfast.
  • make sure that there is enough time to get to school on time. It is really upsetting for the child, as well as the teacher and the other children in the class if the child arrives late at school.
  • in the afternoon if children come home after school, make sure that they change out of their school clothes, eat lunch and do homework straight away. In this way it gets the child into the habit of doing homework straight after school. Often when children are given too long of a break between school and homework, they forget to do certain tasks, or get lazy and do not do work at all.
  1. Homework

Young children cannot do homework on their own so always make sure that your child has someone who can assist them with their homework. If you are unable to do so ask a family member or friend. You could also ask a child who is in secondary school to help the little one – this may be a fun experience for both the older and the younger child. Just always make sure that children are safe if they are left with someone else to help them with homework.

Always praise children when their homework is done or if they bring some work back from school to show you. Young children are always so proud of their work and they need to be encouraged to want to work more. If you tell them how good they are doing, even if their work is not perfect, they will have more courage to try again next time. In this way you help your child to grow confidence – this is the way in which they believe in themselves.

  1. Children must play

Now that your child is going to school, it does not mean that he/she must not play anymore. Children often learn through play and playing with friends is important. When your child is visiting a friend make sure that there is a responsible adult at the friend’s house and that your child is safe.

  1. Talk to your child

Ask your child about his/her school day and give him/her time to tell you about school work, but also about friends and their whole school day. If you start this habit (way of doing things) of speaking to your child from the time they start school, they will come to you more easily to talk about problems at school, or issues such as bullying.

  1. Communicate (talk) with the teacher

It is always wise to immediately contact your child’s teacher if you are worried about your child’s school work or if you see that he/she is unhappy at school. If teachers see that parents are interested, they will tend to give your child more attention and will also let you know if something is wrong at school. Make sure that you attend parent meetings and that you know what is happening on the school’s calendar.

Lastly trust your instincts as a parent, if your child seems unhappy contact the teacher and/or the school principle. You are allowed to contact the school with any problem you might have. Remember that you are the client of the school and it is your child’s right to receive the best education possible.

How to Support Your Child’s Learning During Their First Year of School- Chart

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