Beyond a strong sense of family identity and intimacy, every child needs a foundation in learning readiness before formal schooling can begin effectively.
Learning readiness encompasses four vital specific areas: emotional, relational, physical and spiritual. A child who physically lacks the small muscle motor skills to grasp a pencil and write will find schooling very frustrating. Poor relational skills make a day’s learning taxing and difficult, while the lack of a solid spiritual foundation undermines everything else we set out to accomplish.
You can help your child grow in emotional maturity by dialoguing about fears, joys, disappointments, jealousies, pride, selfishness and the like. An enjoyable, natural way to generate these important dialogues is through books. Many times a situation in a child’s story book will provide the gateway into one of those helpful conversations. “How do you think the character felt?” you might ask. “How would you feel if that happened to you?” You might discuss these important questions and followed by, “Is there some other way the character could have handled the situation with his friend?”
Sometimes, a specific event in your child’s life or the life of someone around him will present a rich opportunity for discussion. Pointing out truly excellent behavior and commenting on how much you appreciate it can spark your child’s desire to imitate. You can also choose to be transparent about a difficulty in your own life and model an emotionally healthy response for your child. For instance, if you are angry you might say, “Mother is feeling very angry right now. I think I need to go sit down in the rocker and try to calm down, so I can decide what to do about my problem.” And then do it! Without any direct instruction, your child is getting ready for formal schooling by observing how you handle difficult situations. It is often said that some of life’s most important lessons are caught, not taught. Let your child catch you often in the act of healthy emotional responses.
None of us enjoys being lectured about our behavior, although speaking honestly and directly to your child about his behavior is sometimes necessary. Most children actually enjoy trying to emulate the good behavior of a story character, or trying to avoid the poor behavior of a bad story character. So, reading excellent children’s story books is a vehicle to help your child toward emotional maturity. If you choose story books that display the truths of life, your child will see consequences for actions and rewards for proper behavior acted out before him right on the pages of his books.
You can also help by constantly watching for all that is good and excellent. Be on the lookout for anything worthy of praise in your child and others around him and complement these behaviors. Have fun letting your child know that you value him, and many times a day let him know when he is pleasing you.
It is this foundation of learning readiness that will prepare him for formal schooling, and the lack of this foundation will hinder any efforts to begin if a child is not ready. Take the time and effort to develop this readiness when he is naturally ripe for it, and you and your preschooler will be prepared together to begin formal schooling when the time is right!