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First day at school? How to simplify your child’s transition from home to classroom

By Titus Wekesa Khamala | February 4th 2015
Children during a learning session [PHOTO:Courtesy]

The firstborn son of Faith Njuguna is now three years old and it is time for him to start school. While it seems a normal progression in life, Faith does not know how to prepare her son, Wayde, for the milestone. 

Faith has agonised about the school she will take her son to; a school which will ensure a smooth transition from home to formal learning.

Rebbah Wabwile the District Centre for Early Childhood Education (DICECE) officer in Webuye, Bungoma County explains that besides this transition being the most significant a child experiences in his or her formative years, it also lays the foundation for a child’s adjustment to and future success in school.

“However, transition is not just a one-time event, it takes time, preparation, and advanced planning for both parents and teachers who receive the children in their school,” says Rebbah.

Starting preschool is a big step for many children and comes with many challenges, says Dr Evelyn Makhanu, an education technologist and lecturer at Strathmore University. The most common challenge for most children is the sudden separation from people they are familiar with. For some children this may be their first time out of their home. Others may have separated before, but are now in a new, possibly more demanding situation.

This may cause internal insecurity and culture shock, which when not handled properly can be disastrous

The approach to learning at this level, says Rebbah, is also friendly to ensure that the child’s environment is not drastically different from home.

She says: “Themes such as ‘Home and Family’ allow the little ones to name family members (language), count family members (mathematics), draw family members (creative art), sing a song about family members (music and movement). This makes children have fun, be more actively involved and develop learning skills more quickly, among other benefits.”

Dr Makhanu says transition is the process of change. It can be smooth and satisfying or bumpy and frightening for a child. Apart from the child who directly experiences the transition, other people are involved whose attitudes and actions determine their success.

Larry Tusuubira, who teaches at Makini Junior Academy says, “For us transition means saying hello to a new group of children joining the school. We make the school environment like a home set up so that the child is comfortable with no pressure to perform. This helps our children settle fast.”

The first time experience in school has a vital impact on a child’s future life.

“It is prudent to accompany your child to school on the first day even if the school offers transport. Do not be in a hurry to leave, spend a little time with the child as you introduce the child to her teacher and watch as the child intermingles with others and gets familiar with the environment,” says Teacher Christine of Forest View Academy.

In fact, by the time the parents say goodbye, says Christine, the child is already integrated and busy, joyfully playing with other children and will not feel the absence of the parents.

As much as starting school can be scary and exciting for both parent and child, a parent should psychologically prepare the child for transition. Let them carry a school bag around the house a month or so before actual school entry, and ensure you have stacked it with books and pencils.

Set a routine such as waking and bed times long before school starts.

The day they join school, talk to the class teacher about the child’s allergies, special meals and any medication they are taking. Ensure you exchange phone numbers.

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