It’s inevitable. One day you look up, and your baby is no longer a baby, but a big boy or girl ready to start elementary school. While you’re making their lunch or getting a list together to take them school shopping, make sure you’ve prepared them in other ways too.
Here are my five things a child should know before starting elementary school:
His phone number. I visited my daughter’s school one day and truthfully, I was zoned out as I waited for her until one of the office aides said to a student who had walked in: “You don’t know your parents’ phone number?” After that, I couldn’t help but ear hustle and sit there a little wide eyed. This student was in at least the fifth grade and had no clue how to get in touch with his parents. This was amazing to me. What would happen if he got lost or needed help and had to call home? With the advent of cell phones, I’ll admit I’m not as good as I used to be with remembering phone numbers since I normally just save them in my phone, but you best believe my daughter knows my number and my husband’s without the assistance of a cell phone’s memory. For me, this is a safety thing. Your child should always know how to get in touch with you. They should know your phone as well as your real name. (See Five Things Your Child Should Know Before Starting Kindergarten.)
His address. When I was doing a long-term substitute teaching position years ago, I asked my first-grade students one day where they lived. Honestly, it was more curiosity to see what they would say than anything. I was shocked that most of them didn’t know their city or state, let alone their actual street address. Call me overprotective, but when my daughter was younger, if something went down and my daughter got separated from me, I wanted to make sure she knew our address so someone could get her back to me. At the very least, make sure your child knows what city and state he lives in, your full name and your phone number (see above).
How to write his name. Really, I think this should be mastered before starting elementary school, but on the off chance it hasn’t, work with your child to make sure he knows how to write and spell his name correctly. (Also, since cursive writing has been removed from the curriculum of many schools, you might want to keep it in the back of your mind that you need to teach them that too at some point.) Writing his name is something he will be doing for the rest of his life, and it’s never too early to start.
How to read. This is also something I think kids should know how to do before starting elementary school. Unfortunately, thanks to covid, many students don’t know how to read or may not be at grade level. Thanks to the literacy act, beginning this school year, students can be held back if they are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
My daughter has been reading since she was four. I made it a point from the time she was born to read to her every day and to play audiobooks, which helped her develop a love of reading. As she got older, I got books on subjects she enjoyed (mainly stuff like Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues, and I would let her “read” along with me. I even had everything in the house labeled so she knew a ton of sight words, which eventually led to her actually reading and sounding out words. There are plenty of YouTube videos available to help you teach your child if you’re not sure what to do.
How to use a computer/iPad. Listen, whether we want to admit it or not, we are living in a tech world. I’ve seen kids as young as five with cell phones, and most two-year-olds I know can navigate an iPad better than most adults. If your children have not been exposed to technology by the time they start elementary school, they are already way behind. I get you may not want to invest in a computer, phone or iPad for your child. At the very least, let them use yours if you have one every now and then so they are familiar with them. You could also take it a step further and sign them up for one of the classes offered at your local library.
What else should a child know before starting elementary school?