Got that feeling that the return to school has crept up on you and you’re not sure whether you’re ready for all that this next year will entail? 

We’re here to help every step of the way. Carey Ann Dodah, one of Explore Learning’s founding members with over 20 years’ experience working in supplementary education answers some of those burning back-to-school concerns.

How do I get my child ready for the first year of school?

Don’t worry too much about whether your child can write their name or count to 20. At home, the best things to do are focusing on the skills your child will need in a classroom environment. A lot of that focuses on their ability to be independent. Practice with your child getting dressed by themselves, using the toilet, washing hands, sitting and listening to a story, following instructions etc. If they are confident in these areas they will be ready to get the most out of school.

Should I do anything to prepare for Year 1?

Going into year 1 is actually quite a big transition from Early Years towards more formal maths and English instruction. There’s a little less free choice, more structured learning, more sitting and listening. Your teachers will have been preparing children for this but 6 weeks of summer holiday can feel like a very long time for our 5 year olds. If you can spend some time reading each day, looking at numbers while you’re out and about and encourage your child to sit and focus on an activity for 15 minutes that will be a great help.

How can I support my August born child?

Every child is different and develops at a different rate. In Reception the difference between a child that’s just turned 4 and one who is nearly 5 is really noticeable. Many children are physically more advanced, taller and more confident, however, very quickly your child will settle, build confidence and learn with their peers. You’ll be amazed but in a very short space of time it’ll be hard to tell the summer and winter born babies apart. If there are particular areas of learning that you’re concerned about, for example, keeping up with maths or English, we can provide additional support for an hour or two a week that will help your child approach lessons with confidence.

How can I help my child want to read? After-school reading is a battle.

Having a routine helps with this. Making a time that you’ll consistently read together each day when screens and tablets aren’t available is good to introduce. It doesn’t need to be for long, try 15 minutes to start with. Can you create a reading corner in your child’s bedroom or in another part of the house? Think blankets, pillows, fairy lights with a selection of books on topics that they find interesting – somewhere special to go but only reading is allowed. 

Make reading time a game. Let your child choose which book they want to read. Remember any reading material goes whether it’s a magazine, fact cards, joke books. If your child isn’t interested in reading, start with you reading to him.

Visit the library and choose some different books to try out together.

How do I fit in homework when my children are in after-school clubs every day?

Home learning is to be done outside of school but doesn’t have to always be done by you, the parent. Is this something your care team can support you with? Ask them whether they could listen to your child read a couple of books during the week. The primary school that my children attended introduced a homework club as part of the after-school club which was amazing. 

Figure out an amount of time that you think is achievable each week e.g. 15 minutes of reading before bed each night, an hour at the weekends. Discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher as soon as possible and let them know what you think you can achieve as a family, they may have some work-arounds for you too.

How do I motivate my child to practise writing?

My top tip for this is to get a white board. Children love using a white board pens and erasers whether it’s for doodling or pretending to be a teacher. Post-it notes and colourful pens also add fun to writing. Get them to help out with writing tasks e.g. making a shopping list, to-do list, writing a note to a family member or friends.

Should I be doing extra learning beyond what the school sets as homework?

I love helping my children to learn ‘secretly’! There’s so much to learn through everyday activities. A personal favourite is activity placemats at the dinner table, quizzes while you’re in the car, baking together, going out to zoos, museums, the theatre. They’re all a brilliant way of extending your child without it feeling like extra learning.

I feel my child is behind her peers but is still very little. How do I know when to do extra?

You know your child and whether they are having their individual needs met. Tuition is a way of helping your child get the most out of their schooling. 

At Explore Learning, we tutor children from ages 4-16. Tutoring looks very different for younger children. Think of it as giving them the focused attention that teachers would love to provide if they had smaller class sizes. They might spend 15 minutes practising their handwriting with a tutor giving guidance, they might revise some of the sums they’ve done at school but didn’t completely understand. Tutoring is an amazing resource to have as part of your tool kit. For me, it’s all about being the best possible complement to school. Topping up a child’s knowledge and confidence so they can get even more out of their school day.

How can you help my child with SEN?

Every child is unique and so it’s not possible to give blanket advice for Special Educational Needs. We work with each child and their family to understand their individual needs and whether the tools and tutors will be best suited to achieving their goals. 

Parents have told us that they found Explore Learning has given them an environment where their child can learn differently. Perhaps they learn better with computers and headphones; with a smaller ratio of teacher support; with coloured screens or audio instructions to make material more accessible; where the stigma of working at a certain level is removed because everyone is working on their own individual programme. 

All children learn differently and our tutors find a way to support them at a pace and level that suits them. They help them to take the skills and attitude back into the classroom so ultimately they can succeed in school.

For more information on how we can help your child prepare for their best school year yet book a free trial.

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