8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Primary One

P1 Prep

I’ve recently received e-mails from readers asking about Primary One registration and preparation. While I’ve tried my best to reply to all your e-mails, I apologize if I’ve missed out any of you, or if my replies seemed too short for you.

The topic of preparing our child for Primary One is too broad, and I can’t really summarize it all in one e-mail or comment. Thus, I’m sharing with you in a blog post – which took me quite a long time to prepare. Hope you’ll find it useful.

First of all, I’d like to emphasize that preparation for Primary One does not require a major effort. In fact the simpler and more relaxed the process is, the easier and more relaxed it will be for your child. So, please bear this in mind.

In fact, the preparation process happens more naturally through the everyday experiences that we give to our children. We can provide additional opportunities for them to practice their independent and self-help skills at home too.

8 Tips for Getting Ready for Primary One

1. Learn to ask for permission & practice the proper use of toilet independently

This used to be my primary concern because Edison is a shy and quiet boy. To help him muster the courage to speak up, we role-played. I (the student) raised my hand to ask him (the teacher) for permission to be excused, and vice-versa. While he’s plucking up his courage, I also trained him on the proper use of toilet by himself.

2. Learn to pack and organize things

Children need to be taught on how to take care of their own belongings at school. Missing item is a common problem, especially on first week of school. For a record, our boy lost three water bottles within the first two weeks of school.

Teach them how to pack their school bags, organize things, label their belongings, and most importantly, keep their pocket money securely.

3. Learn to take the right bus

There are usually some forms of identification given by the bus service providers. Talk to them to understand the process, i.e. their identification method, bus number, pick-up location, emergency contact, etc.

Give yourself the confidence to know that your child can do it as long as he knows what to expect.

4. Train them to buy food and eat faster

This is obviously one of my concerns too as Edison takes half an hour to eat his meals at home. Recess time at school is only half an hour, but it also includes queuing time to buy food, finding a seat, going to the toilet, etc. At the end, he probably has just 15 minutes to eat.

I’ve repeatedly informed him that he cannot take his own sweet time to eat at school because when the bell rings, he has to go back to class.

Our children need to know how to check for food prices, count and use money to buy food, carry their own food to the table, and properly dispose their used plates and cutleries after eating.

So, we can create the opportunities for our children when we’re having meals outside. Give them a chance to decide on what they want to eat, check the prices to see whether they are within budget, count and use money independently.

If you’re still worried, you can always pack some food for your child to eat at school.

5. Build confidence & familiarize themselves with school

Between now till the start of P1, I would advise parents to start sharing their positive experiences in school with their children. Give them assurance that they will make new friends at school and have fun.

Talk to our children on what they can expect in Primary 1 – longer school hours, big school, more children, school rules, class size, what to do during recess, etc. Also, take the opportunity to familiarize themselves with school. The best time to do it is after the parent-orientation, so please spend some time to tour the school with your child.

Some of the important places include their classroom, hall, canteen, toilet, general office, bus pick-up point, dismissal point, public phone, etc. It will be good if you can take some pictures so that your child can view them regularly.

If possible, you can also introduce him to the people that he will be meeting at school, i.e. Principal, Vice Principals, Form / Co-form Teachers, Subject Teachers, etc.

6. Coping with new routines

One of the must-haves in Primary 1 is TIMETABLE. All primary school students need to adhere strictly to a timetable when they are in school. We can impart that understanding to our children before the school starts.

Time is easy to teach because children naturally love to learn it. So, start teaching them how to tell time so that they can manage their time according to the timetable.

I would advise you to create an ‘after-school’ timetable for your child too. Allocate time for him to complete his school homework every day. Also make sure he has sufficient play time and rest time too. Construct the timetable with him so that he will learn how to organize his time in a better way.

7. Teach them how to relay information between the school and parent

School will distribute notices, progress reports, and other important information to parents via the child. So, teach your child on how to do this effectively to prevent any miscommunication in the future.

8. Encourage as a family

Assure them that starting Primary School is a new and exciting experience, and it will also be fun and enjoyable. Show lots of encouragement to cope with challenges in new school. Always be positive and encouraging!

To me, I always believe that it’s more important to make learning and going to school an enjoyable process, rather than chasing for academic excellence.

8 Important Skills to Practice

1. Ask for permission
2. Buy things on their own
3. Counting and using money
4. Going to the toilet independently
5. Write their names in Chinese and English
6. Organize school bag
7. Take care of own belongings
8. Relay information between the school and parents

Entering primary school is the start of a new phase of life for all children (and parents too!). From a relaxed kindergarten to a formal education in primary school, many children will find it challenging, especially on their first day in a big school surrounded by many unfamiliar faces.

By planning ahead and having a longer perspective, we can ease our children into the primary school education system seamlessly.

Last but not least, if you have a child starting Primary One next year, I hope you and your child will have a smooth and happy start to the new school year.

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Click HERE to read all my posts on Starting Primary One series

Starting Primary One: The Long Preparation

P1 PrepLearning about time, getting a haircut, wrapping all textbooks and workbooks, doing revisions

On 2 Jan 2014, our boy will be among the ~40,000 kids in Singapore who will be starting their formal schooling, and many mothers – including myself, will be quite sleepless this New Year, thinking about how our kids can adapt to their Primary One routine.

So, are you taking leave to join them in this VERY important milestone? No, I don’t. Not that I don’t want to, but it’s the school’s regulation that parents can only drop-off their kids at the foyer even on the first day. It’s a boy’s school, and we, parents, are reminded not to mollycoddle our boys during the orientation day. The school emphasizes a lot on discipline and independence. *sob*

In my days, primary one preparation only started on the first day of school, when my mom came along with me to the school to meet my teacher, make payment, settle registration matters, buy books, etc. From second day onwards, I was on my own.

Now, the preparation work starts months, or even years, in advance. You need to plan at least 2 years ahead on which primary school that you intend to enrol your child in, whether you need to shift (like us), whether you need to become a Parent Volunteer, etc.

In the middle of the year, we received a booklet from the Ministry of Education that highlights the primary school system and its objectives. Two months later, we went through the stressful registration process.

On the last term of Edison’s K2, his kindergarten has arranged a briefing on Primary One to all their graduating K2 children on what they can expect in Primary One. The teachers had also painstakingly arranged a mock-up food stall to teach the children how to buy food at the canteen.

Next came the Admin Day where parents are required to complete all the necessary forms (MOE form, dental form, GIRO form, parent and child personal details form, etc) at the school. And this followed by the purchase of school uniforms, PE attires and books. It’s interesting to discover SO MANY books that a primary one student actually needs. Luckily, the school has a locker. Else, I couldn’t imagine how much weight on his bag that our boy has to bear every day. Still, I wonder if a 7 year-old boy knows how to operate the locker.

The much-awaited Orientation Day came one month after the Admin Day, which follows approximately the same format across all the primary schools in Singapore. I, for one, was very impressed with the school for its effectiveness and efficiency in conducting their orientation program.

On the day itself, the children were shepherded to their respective classrooms to meet their teachers and classmates. It was definitely a good start for the children to get acquainted with their new friends and environment.

The parents, however, were ushered to the hall to attend the orientation where the principal, vice-principal, heads of departments, and school counsellor took turns to give their speech. Halfway through the orientation, it dawned on me that the P1 orientation was not only for the children, but more to educate and prep their parents as well.

A very important message shared to us by the school principal is that ‘loving is to let go’. We need to trust the school and provide support so that they can nurture our children. We need to ‘let go’ so that our children can learn to manage challenges on their own.

While this may not sound as reassuring as it should be, my main worry is still ‘school bully’, which is almost inevitable in a boy’s school. Then, the school dropped a diplomatic hint that if our boy gets into a dispute with another boy, we must inform the teacher immediately and NEVER confront the other boy, or their parents, on our own.

Also during the orientation, the practical do’s and don’ts were highlighted clearly. If we’re driving, we’re reminded to place the school bag in the back seat instead of the trunk, and give our goodbye kisses, pocket money, etc from home so that we won’t hold up the traffic when dropping our boy off. The school is famous for its notorious traffic chaos every morning when the school starts.

Lastly, we were given the important telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the teachers, vice-principal and principal. There was a gentle reminder to parents that all their primary school teachers are always on-the-go and thus, they might not be able to respond to e-mails on the very same day. Thus, they seek our understanding on this matter. And the principal even joked that if their teachers have social medias, parents will even demand hourly updates on their Facebook or Twitter. *smile*

I’ve exactly two days left to do all the last minute preparation for my boy’s Primary One. I don’t think I can ever be ready for this moment, but it’s all happening. And all the best to you if you’re sending off your kids to Primary One this week!

This is going to be my last post for 2013. Here’s wishing all of you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Click HERE to read all my posts on Starting Primary One series.

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Preparing for Primary One

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Blogging has taken a back seat this week. I’m up to my neck at work, seriously overwhelmed with issues and project deadlines. After work, I’m busy coaching Little Edison in his study. In the second half of this year, I’m working doubly hard to prepare him for Primary One.

Let’s face it. In less than 3 weeks, we will be registering him for Primary One. I hope that we’ll be able to secure a place for him as our new apartment is just within 1km from our primary school of choice – something that we’ve planned for him since two years ago.

I try not to give ourselves unnecessary stress about Primary One. Every year, there are thousands of six-year-olds in Singapore who will start their Primary One. It’s not only him. I always paint a beautiful picture about Primary School in front of him. I mean, going for P1 should be FUN. New school bag, new uniform, new shoes, new pencil case, new friends, new environment and new everything. What’s there not to like about P1?

Whenever we talked about P1, his question would be: “Am I going to buy my own food when I go to Primary 1?” And I answered, “Yes, boy. That’s why I’m teaching you about money now.”

I’m really concerned about recess time and food now. I seriously doubt that he is capable of counting money, buying his own food, bringing the food back to his table and eat quickly within the recess time (he’s a slow eater, by the way). But he just have to do it when the time comes.

My friend once told me, the transition is not so difficult, and children adapt easily and more quickly that we thought. There is really nothing to worry about. In fact, that makes me think of how I went to P1 almost 30 years ago. And hey, that was easy peasy! Now, I should be excited because it’s my son’s turn next year.

At home, I try my best to coach him in his study and prepare him in various aspects for the great Primary One adventure next year.

Every night, I spend about 45 minutes coaching him in his study. Our routine looks like this:

  1. Learn his spelling: 10 mins
  2. Do a few pages of worksheets (English /Chinese): 10 mins
  3. Do a few pages of worksheets (Maths, learning time, counting money, etc): 10 mins
  4. Do a revision on lessons learnt from his enrichment classes (Phonics / HanYuPinYin): 5 mins
  5. Read a book: 10 – 15 mins

On item # 1, 2, 4 and 5, we will focus on English and Chinese Language on alternate days. On Saturday, he attends his Advanced Phonics at Jan & Elly (one hour per week). On Sunday, he attends his Chinese Enrichment class at Han Language Centre (1.5 hours per week).

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English Worksheets

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Chinese Worksheets

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Learning about time and money

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Phonics Worksheets from Jan & Elly

This is the study area that we set-up for him at a corner in our living hall. I pasted some Chinese characters wall charts that I bought from Popular book store. He reads them occasionally.

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This white board from IKEA is the most useful furniture at home now. I separate it into four quadrants, and I write his Chinese and English spelling tests from school, HanYuPinYin from his Chinese enrichment class and letter sounds from his Phonics class for easy revision every day.

These are some of the books that we’re reading now. We also attempt to read and speak more Mandarin at home, especially when our primary school of choice is an SAP school.

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On the non-academic side, I’ve been teaching him to put on his school uniform by himself, and how to handle buttons and zips when he needs to change in and out of his PE attire. I’m also teaching him about money and how to take care of his belongings.

The transition from kindergarten to primary school is a major milestone for a child. Besides learning subjects at a deeper level, they need to adjust to a new environment and routine, as well as to exercise greater independence.

I’m doing all that I can to equip him with the necessary skills and knowledge so that he can enter the next stage of his education with confidence and ease.

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The New Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

kindergarten

Finally, I saw what I wanted to see – the new kindergarten curriculum framework released by the MOE recently.

If you’re a kindergarten parent, I’m sure at some point, you’ll wonder how much should you prepare your children for Primary One. There is no national curriculum for kindergarten, and all pre-school programs vary from operator to operator.

When I first read about this kindergarten framework, I was so excited. I dislike reading from my computer’s screen, so I printed it out. When I picked it up from my printer, I was surprised that it contains 125 pages! Luckily, I’ve set my printer to print 2 pages per sheet and double-sided. So, it’s just 32 sheets for me to read. So, please be warned if you wish to print it.

Good or bad, kindergarten lessons today are a far cry from the kindergarten activities a few decades ago. Today, our kindergarteners are spending less time on play and more time on academic pursuits such as reading, writing and maths. Many kindergartens are operating full-day, rather than the previous norm of half-day. And also, many kindergarteners get homework, sometimes even on daily basis.

I can still remember my kindergarten school days. We had a lot of class activities like arts and crafts, singing, dancing and performances. We didn’t have homework, we didn’t learn phonics, and we didn’t do any maths either. Okay, maybe a little bit of maths but I’m sure it’s not more than ten. No spelling tests, that’s for sure.

Personally, I dislike kindergartens that are too academic-focused or with excessive homework. It’s a nightmare for me if Edison comes home with a folder full of photocopied worksheets for homework every day. Or worst of all, a whole long list of words for spelling test or dictation.

Imagine a working mother like me – by the time I reached home, had dinner, showered and packed-up for tomorrow, it’s already 8:30pm. There is only 1 hour left before the boy goes to bed. I certainly don’t want to spend this one hour pushing him to do his homework.

I have my own worksheets and materials to teach him at night, to supplement what he is learning at school. We’ll usually spend half an hour doing these worksheets, and the other half to read a book or revise on the lessons from his enrichment classes.

But don’t get me wrong. Homework is okay, but as with all things, moderation is the key. In my point of view, kindergarteners shouldn’t spend more than half an hour a day on homework, and the homework should reiterate the lessons that are taught in the classroom.

So, I’m off to read the kindergarten framework tonight (for my homework :p) and see which areas that we’re lacking and how to improve them. Are you reading this kindergarten framework too? Do you think it is useful?

I had three panic attacks last week

rat-race

So this is how the story goes …

Last week, my friend posted on Facebook about the spelling test in both English and Chinese Language that his son is having at K2. For English, the spelling test starts from eight words in Term 1 to three sentences in Term 4. Even in Term 1, the eight words are not short words like one, two and three. Some of the examples are like ‘breakfast’ and ‘restaurant’. Wait, I haven’t talk about the Chinese spelling test yet!

Admittedly, I panicked a little when I read her post. It’s not because Edison is having a similar spelling test, but rather because he is NOT having any spelling test in school! I began to wonder if his school is missing out something important. Is spelling test a norm for kindergarten now? Oh, please tell me that it’s not.

Last year, I had my first attempt of doing some simple spelling tests with Edison at home, and it turned out pretty well. I stopped after a while, because I wanted to focus on his literacy skills instead. Spelling is more on memorization, and I think he can do it if he reads, writes and memorizes them every day.

With this being said, I think I’ve to restart our home spelling test since he isn’t having any at school.

The second panic came after I read this post about a Primary One English worksheet posted by a parent on Facebook. I nearly fell off my chair! Again, please don’t tell me that these are what our kids are supposed to know at Primary One level. I don’t think Edison can even understand the questions, not to mention the answering part of it.

Later on, I realized that these questions are not the typical stuffs learnt at school. They may be something drafted out by the teachers to identify gifted students. I immediately heaved a sigh of relief!

Then, the third panic attacked (real one!) when his Chinese teacher at school expressed her concern over his complete inability to speak in Chinese. So, this is a real issue and I acknowledged that. She suggested that we can enrol him with some Chinese enrichment or speech and drama classes, so that he can learn to speak in Chinese with confidence.

She also mentioned that it will be a huge problem if he is still unable to speak in Chinese when he goes to Primary One. I agree with her, and I can’t get away from this problem now. So last week, I was frantically searching for a Chinese enrichment class for him.

School A offered me their Chinese story-telling class which is aimed to cultivate interest and boost confidence in speaking Chinese Language at preschool level. It’s not very ‘academic’, so I thought it should be quite fun and interesting for him. The only concern is the location, which is quite far from our home.

School B suggested that we can put him at their K1 class first and start from the basic level, then gradually promote to K2 when he’s ready. Lastly, School C said that we should start with K2 class because he needs to start learning Han Yu Pin Yin this year. If we put him at K1 class, he will not be learning that.

According to School C, most kids have already mastered Han Yu Pin Yin by the time they enter Primary 1. Seriously, I thought that Han Yu Pin Yin is only taught from Primary 1 onwards. I was quite surprised to learn that kids these days have mastered it even before they enter P1.

Considering the location and class timing, we finally enrolled him with School C. “Welcome to the rat race!” I told myself. The overly-advanced and competitive nature of our education system has begun to slap hard on my face.

I can’t imagine the day when I have to prepare him for his PSLE, O’ Level, A’ Level, tertiary education and national service. And finally – to prepare him for life in the real world.

Ah, being a parent is so stressful!