Whether your child’s transition to primary school was full of tears or a no sweat walk in the park, parents are unlikely to forget their child’s first day of primary school. It seems like it was only yesterday that they were babies in diapers who could barely walk, what more spell and count.
Now your child is all immersed in the daily schedule of the new school, made lots of new friends and comes home with plenty of new stories to share.
As a parent, you recognise that the shift from preschool to primary school is a big one.
Preschool and primary school: What’s the difference?
But what exactly would your child be experiencing, emotionally as well as in terms of the actual physical changes? Plus, what is the difference between preschool and primary school?
It pays off if your kid can read
Face it, parents – Primary One just isn’t the way it was back in our day. Some of us may recall not being able to read yet at that age. Now? Kids are being asked to “write letters to Mr Pig” and to be imaginative about it, if you please.
If your child is already able to read simple sentences or at least most common words used in primary school textbooks, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and dig in – either into your wallet for some enrichment phonics lessons or to put in the hours coaching your child into literacy.
Independence Day, every day
While teachers in pre-primary and Kindergarten tend to be more nurturing or even Nanny-like (hey, who can resist cuddling those tiny tots!), primary school teachers are more focused in getting your child to be independent and learn to get things done by himself.
Sure, they’d still be very helpful and forgiving of clumsy fingers spilling drinks or toilet mishaps – the kids are only 6 years old after all and accidents happen. But they’ve got 40 kids to deal with, AND teach a whole syllabus, so don’t expect your child to be babied the way he was in Nursery.
In fact, if your kid had gone to a good Kindergarten, he would have been well-prepared at K1 level for a few important primary school fundamentals: learning to queue up to buy canteen food, counting out money and accepting change and asking to go to the toilet (and coming back to the right class).
Preschool and primary school kids have fun learning in different ways
Poor Junior – and poor you! Welcome to a world of heavy school bags, homework and time-tables. Here’s where you will need to support your child so that he stays on top of things at school.
The school bag is a beast on its own because of the variety of books and paraphernalia he now has to carry in addition to lunchbox, water-bottle and other miscellaneous items. Train him to take care of his things by going through exactly what’s in the bag. Count out the items if necessary and label everything with his name.
Note-taking is another important skill. There will be many things to remember: homework, activities in school, extra payments for this and that. Have your child write things down in a notebook so that you can help him check on what needs handling at home.
There will also be a school schedule to stick to, but he would have had some training on this in preschool. It would do him good if you had a time-table to follow at home as well. This way, time management becomes a learned skill.
Did someone say recess???
Recess will be an oasis of fun in the chaos of your child’s primary school journey. This is where he will make friends and enemies, carve out a niche for himself on the school compound and make or break his image – bully, geek or jock. And for the girls: diva, wall-flower or hanger-on.
Make sure you help your kid in the best way you can by pointing out any pitfalls he may encounter, i.e. if he’s a slow eater or always forgets to go to the bathroom until its too late. Pack him an easy to eat lunch in a brown bag or tupperware or let him have some pocket-money to buy a meal if he prefers that.
There’ll also be a short break of 10 minutes after assembly or flag-raising and before classes begin and again at the end of the day. Here’s also where your child can grab a snack, so pack something light and healthy to munch. Primary school hours are longer than preschool – so it’s more tiring and the hunger pangs may be more frequent.
Monitor your child’s personality progression in both preschool and primary school.
We might loathe it but there’s no escaping it. Even at Primary One, your child will have homework and be tested on spelling. Most of them multi-syllable words like “momentous” or “historic.” Some of them may find it tough. But as mentioned before if your child can read then the battle is halfway won.
Second language is also a common complaint for most children and parents who don’t speak the language at home. This is where additional home support would really benefit your child if you want to avoid having a tutor.
Make it a point to monitor or even assist him with understanding his work. Do this until your child is more capable of self-study. Also, having at least one parent converse the second language at home would also help immensely.
Chin up, parent!
It’s not all doom and gloom, even though the difference between preschool and primary school is a vast one. New experiences can strengthen and build character – for both yourself as well as your child! Be open to him making mistakes, tempting though it may be to hover over homework or keep tying his shoelaces.
The important thing is to make time: to monitor his progress so that you can step in with the right kind of support.
Also, build a partnership with his teachers. This will help you work in tandem with them to give Junior the best primary school experience for him.
Watch this to learn more about choosing the right primary school for your child.
Also read: Three tips for settling a preschooler in childcare