Every child is different and this is especially true in the kindergarten classroom. How well a child adjusts to life at school depends on their readiness to learn, and that readiness depends on many factors.
Here are some of the factors that may affect your child's adjustment at school:
- Your Child's Birthday:
Though children in Ontario begin junior kindergarten the year they turn four, there can be significant developmental differences between the child who turned four in January, versus the child with a birthday in December.
"It's hard to generalize," says Maria Haron, an English Language Learners teacher at Stonebridge Public School in Markham, who taught kindergarten for many years. "Typically, the trend is that children born earlier in the year have had more experiences," she says. "They are going into kindergarten with more background knowledge, more schema to draw upon. And because they've had more time expressing themselves, their language may be more developed and that's an advantage when communicating to others."
- Reading Readiness:
Haron says teachers can tell which children have been read to at home versus those who haven't. Children who are read to at home walk into kindergarten armed with many early literacy skills that will help them in the classroom. Haron stresses the importance of reading to, and in front of, your children. "It doesn't matter what language it's in," she adds. "If kids see their parents reading, they are more willing to pick up books."
Cindy Halewood teaches junior kindergarten in the lab school at the Institute of Child Study in Toronto. She says the parents of boys are often concerned their sons may not be ready for school. "You might notice fine motor (skills) are slower to come on. It gets there, it's just that there is a difference between boys and girls when they're young. Boys may have more of an interest in playing with blocks and getting physical." The difference with boys is even more pronounced if they are born late in the year.
- Daycare versus No Daycare:
Another difference in children is that some have been exposed to nursery school or other preschool or daycare programs. "They already understand what it is to move within a group," says Halewood. She adds, however, that they may still have difficulties like sharing, or sitting in a group. But these kids understand the language of kindergarten.
The ability to play with others and be able to sit for longer periods of time or listen to instructions is what Halewood calls "the Big Work of junior kindergarten."
"It's not the phonics program that we introduce, or our printing program that we introduce, or beginning of math lessons or French," she says. "The big work is the social work, the social and emotional growth that happens over the course of that year. It's really quite phenomenal to see."
Kids who attended daycare or preschool may have a head start when it comes to social skills but most children catch up with time.
Kindergarten is the time to level the playing field, so do not worry if your child seems to be struggling. Most kids catch up by the end of grade one. In the meantime, get to know the kindergarten curriculum to see how you can help at home.