You would have read many articles on how to get your child ready for the big transition from K2 to P1, about things like teaching them to take care of their belongings and buying food at the canteen. Besides those basics, let me share with you 6 essential tips to ensure mummy (that’s you) doesn’t break a sweat for the next 6 years.
1. Their school bag is their responsibility
When #1 started Primary 1 a decade ago, I bought her a school bag, handed her the whole stack of books and told her that she was in charge of it. I laid out all my expectations. She was to pack her own bag, finish her homework and listen attentively to her teachers. From the get-go, she had no problems handling all of it, and neither did her 3 younger sisters. I never had to nag them to do their homework nor help them to pack their bags. Don’t worry that they are too young to start managing on their own. When they are in P1, the teachers are more forgiving and it is the best time for them to make mistakes and learn the skills of being independent. #1 had a classmate who was so used to her mum packing her bag that when she went to Secondary 1, she exclaimed that she didn’t know how to pack her bag!
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work for #5. I gave him the same instructions but his homework never gets completed and bag never properly packed. I have to double check every night to make sure his things are in order. The first time I peered into his bag, I almost fainted. I expected a neat, organised school bag with books properly placed according to height (that’s how all my girls’ bags looked), but his bag was in a complete mess! Worksheets were stuffed into the crevices (some even balled up), books were folded in half top down (don’t ask me how that happened), and there were bits and pieces of erasers, paper, and other rubbish in his bag. No wonder my friends with boys keep complaining and can’t understand how I can stay relaxed with so many kids. Anyhow, it is still important to expect the same for boys, but be prepared to step in to provide more guidance. A LOT more, if your son is anything like mine.
|#4’s P4 unseen dictation|
2. Learning their spelling is also their responsibility
In this climate of very involved parents, I constantly hear friends saying they have to hurry home to test their kids spelling. With 6 kids, my chance of having a life would be zilch if I did this. They know my expectations and will learn their spelling themselves and test themselves. I don’t like to molly-coddle my kids but try to encourage them to find their inner tenacity.
During the exam period, #4 asked if I could sit with her to supervise her revision like all her friends’ mummies did. Before I could open my mouth, #3 told her: “Don’t you know what mummy is trying to teach us? To be independent and self-motivated so that even when she is not with us, we will know what to do. If you need to rely on mummy being next to you, then next time how?” Ah, proud mummy moment.
However, this didn’t work for #5, especially for his chinese spelling. Why am I even surprised. I have resorted to bribing him with 30 minutes of iPad time if he gets it all correct. Works beautifully.
Initially with #1, I gave her a daily allowance for recess and encouraged her to save the rest. I realised that after a few months, she worked out her own brilliant plan by ‘saving’ on food and using the leftover money to shop at the bookshop. I thought about this whole allowance business very seriously and decided to separate the school recess money (which is for them to eat a proper meal) with allowance for toys and their other wants and came up with a simple but detailed system to teach them how to use their money wisely.
Instead of giving them a fixed amount for the 6 years, I checked out the prices at their canteen and found out that $1 can buy them a plate of chicken rice or a bowl of noodles. Since they bring their own water bottle to school, $1 is enough for them as they are not big eaters. My kids think I’m Mr Scrooge as most of their friends get around $2 per day. I asked them if they are going to eat $2 worth of food, and if not, then they don’t need $2. What I did instead was to give them an incremental allowance based on their age. They get $1 per day for P1 and P2, $1.50 for P3 and P4 and $2 for P5 and P6. It gives them something to look forward to!
4. No TV / electronic devices rule
I used to allow them 1 hour of TV but found that they protested more when it was time to turn it off than when I set a blanket ban on TV during school days. Now, it’s not just the TV, but their iPads, laptops, computers and iPhones which robs them of time. They end up not having enough time for their homework and also resulted in them sleeping later. Besides, it’s hard to monitor their gadget use if I’m not at home, so it’s easier just to take them all away during the school week. Every Sunday night, they have to turn in their gadgets and they get them back on the weekends. Yup, I have to run my household almost like a military operation. If you need more tips on how to control their gadget usage, read my 10 house rules for digital use.
It amazes me how much correction tape kids go through. Or how many pencils and pens go missing in school. At one time, Popular bookstore became our regular shopping destination. One fine day, I had enough, and made a new rule. We would go stationery shopping for school supplies once in December and once during the June holidays. They were to purchase the necessary items to last them through 5 months of school. Anything extra they needed would be out of their own pockets. (Unless of course they require ad hoc purchases for projects). Overnight, their stationery requisition reduced dramatically. Not only that, it taught them to plan, budget, and stick to their allocation. When they know their correction tape refill is running low they will be more careful and stop using it with abandon.
6. Early Bedtime
I can’t fathom how kids can thrive with insufficient sleep. Many of their classmates sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. For us, their bedtime is at 7.30pm, and it moves incrementally to 8.30pm at P6. When they are well rested, it is much easier to wake them in the morning, not to mention they will be more attentive in class. Our helper just has to call their name once and they are out of bed. She prepares their breakfast and they are on auto-pilot and out the house at 6am. And me? Still in la la land…
Hope these tips will ease the transition into formal schooling for your child and keep you sane!
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