Learning to like school

When it comes to supporting your child through their transition to school, NATHAN WALLIS urges parents to stop focusing on their academic progress and instead on whether they are “learning to like school”. By KATE BARBER.

Regardless of when your little one starts school, it’s a massive transition for them. They have to listen to endless sets of instructions, take on board expectations and follow routines, remember to go to the toilet, sit on the mat, make friends, hold all their emotions in, and so on. Imagine how exhausting and overwhelming that must be.

So how can we best support them to cope with this transition, and set them up to thrive? Nathan emphasises that, as a parent, your primary focus should not be on their progress with reading, writing or maths. Instead, the question you should be asking is, Is my child learning to like school?

“Setting up for success at school,” says Nathan, is about “supporting your child to develop their confidence in their ability to learn”.

Nathan cautions parents about fixating on their child’s progress with reading. As Nathan says, reading will come easier when your child is a little older. The thing to avoid is your child developing the perception that they are stupid or naughty, that they are not trying hard enough.

Nathan’s key message for parents is to make reading special and fun, and to avoid making your child hate it. Literacy is about so much more than recognising letters, scanning a line, decoding a sentence. “It’s about other worlds opening up,” he says.

Another question Nathan urges parents to ask is, Is my child learning to like his teacher? Just as the “dyad relationship” between a baby/child and their most responsive carer is so critical for their brain development in the first 1000 days, so is their attachment to their teacher when they start school.

It is about supporting your child to become independent and to be able to manage themselves, which includes regulating their emotions. And it’s about ensuring your child has the confidence to connect with others (especially their teacher) when they need support.

The interplay of these different factors – managing themselves, connecting with their teacher, feeling confident in their learning – will influence considerably how much they enjoy school. And this, says Nathan, is what really matters.

In presentations across the country and overseas, neuroscience presenter Nathan Wallis provides an informative narrative on the different stages of children’s neurological development and offers valuable advice for parents and educators.

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