Even though I teach older children there are things I suggest the parents in my classroom do to ease the transition of attending full-time school (for the first time, or after a long break), and in a Montessori setting. Javi’s been at home with us for about 3 weeks and here’s what we’ve been doing to prepare for the new school year:
1. We’ve created as many opportunities for independence, as possible: I know firsthand that Montessori schools inspire and encourage a certain level of independence in children even younger than Javi. At home, it’s really easy to do everything for him (basically it’s easier and more time efficient for us) but at school, I know he won’t be the only child and it’s not easier for the teachers just to do things for him. We’ve let him try to do things for himself from the beginning, but this summer we’ve put an emphasis on this type of independence — putting on and taking off his socks and shoes, dressing himself, giving him an expectation or a direction once and trusting that he follows-through. We’ve put away his highchair and he eats all his meals on a normal dining room chair (and we continually ask him to come back to the chair every time he gets up!). We’ve also broadened his “yes-space” to a larger area of our home, and we’ve taken down most of the safety gates and have started encouraging him to go up and down the staircase without holding our hand — knowing that at school he’ll have a large, multi-floor campus to maneuver through — even with teachers by his side.
2. We’ve been talking about his new school, and new teachers: About 3 weeks ago, his new teachers sent him a postcard in the mail with their pictures on it. I quickly put it up on the fridge (at his height) and every time we walk by the fridge I point to the photo and say their names again (he can sort of say both, by now!). The teachers of most toddler Montessori programs complete home-visits and ours is no different. So about 2 weeks ago, one of his teachers actually came to our house and spent time with us in our home environment. It was not only nice to get face-to-face time with a teacher but great for Javi to see us interact with her and for us to ask any final questions about his classroom, the routine, phase-in, etc.
3. We’ve purchased, gathered and labeled everything he needs for school: Javi got a backpack for Christmas last year and it’s a great size for him so he’s going to continue to use it but there were a number of other things listed that he didn’t have — a lunchbox, a water bottle, indoor shoes, etc. For the past month, I’ve been slowly picking up these things as I see them and he’s been practicing unzipping and zipping both his backpack and lunchbox and trying on his new indoor shoes. This evening, I put those items on our table along with a bed sheet and blanket (for rest time), diapers and wipes, 3 extra outfits, his sweatshirt, outdoor shoes, boots, etc., etc., etc., and wrote his name on every single thing. Every single thing. Every single thing. At school, things get lost all the time so hopefully I’ll be able to scoop it back up again if his name is on it.
I’m hoping that all these things, coupled with his 2 week phase-in process where he only attends school for an hour and 15 minutes each day will help with his transition to a new routine, teachers, friends, school, etc., etc., etc.! He has a lot happening for him in the next few weeks and I’m really excited to see how it turns out.