Grade one beckons
Cath Jenkin reflects on the next Big Step in her daughter's life
The time has come, too soon for me, I think, but there’s nothing that can stop it. We are now well into the fourth term of Grade R, and the promise of “Big School” looms large in our everyday conversations at home.

Almost every activity we indulge in, is affected by this great transition. The daily talks between my daughter and I about our days have moved on from the “today, I fingerpainted” to “today, in school readiness, we practiced writing our numbers, and mom, did you know!? Two plus two is four!”

Mixed emotions
My mommy heart oscillates between extreme pride and feeling completely bereft. I’m proud, because, according to teacher’s reports, all the necessary assessments and my own indications, my daughter is ready to take on the challenges of Grade One. I’m bereft because this has all gone far too quickly for my liking. It feels like just yesterday that I was fretting about nappy changes, bum rash and whether or not she was speaking at the right level for her age. And now, now she needs me less. Nothing brought this home to me more than just this evening – when she walked into the bathroom, and closed the door behind her.

Our baby days are over. A little person with a big heart has emerged from those hazy days of dummies and Barney on repeat. Somehow, six and a half years later, she is ready. I fear I’m not. I think she will enter school on her first day, courageous and excited, whilst I will escape to the car and sob my eyes out all the way to work and beyond.

Reading up
I’m comforting and preparing myself by reading as much as I can about the great transition. I’m doing all I can to ensure that she is ready don that uniform and operate her pencil case. Dr Edwina Grossi mentions in her recent book, Lanterns and Lunchtins*, that children who attend formalized programmes for Grade R and pre-school, fare infinitely better than children who do not. Pre-school and Grade R are, nowadays, considered essential for children, and not just to provide a place for children to go whilst their parents are at work.

I’m thankful for my daughter’s pre-school and Grade R. She’s been attending daycare since four months old, and stayed on through her pre-school years, in a loving, warm environment that nurtured her, I believe, sometimes better than I could. Now that she’s in her Grade R class, I see how she has developed and learnt so much. I’m grateful that she’s been blessed with wonderful, caring teachers who have the time to pay attention to her specific needs.

Dr Grossi’s book touches on all aspects of a child’s development during the Foundation phase of school, and I’ve been quietly noting when my daughter has achieved something, or excelled at an activity. Naturally, I’ve also been anxious over little things that I think she might not be succeeding at just yet. But, that’s just normal parental paranoia.

She is ready, and I am steeling myself for that imminent day, when she puts on her shiny school shoes and walks into her classroom for the very first time.

*Lanterns and Lunchtins – Fundamentals for Learning in the Formative Years – Dr Edwina Grossi, 2011. Call Embury Group on 031 303 2911 to order a copy.

Read more by Cath Jenkin

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