The importance of healthy development in a child’s early years is seldom disputed – but often the extent of how dramatically it impacts children’s futures is not readily understood. According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, it goes so far as to state that healthy early development “provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation.” In other words, every aspect of an adult’s life.
With this in mind, what then are the key areas that need to be taken into account when considering the healthy development of a child through their foundational schooling years, from Grade R to Grade 3?
In selecting a school for their child, the first steps parents should take is to assess whether their own values are aligned to the values of the school, and whether the school encourages parents to be partners in the team that is helping the child to learn and grow.
It’s also important for all caregivers – parents and educators – to understand that no two children are alike, and that each child is on their own learning journey right through their developmental stages.
Having said that, there are some generalities that can be related to each child’s development that we will explore further.
A child’s mindset relating to values, attitudes, relationships, and behaviours develops in the foundation phase. At this stage, they must be supported to meet the developmental requirements of each grade, including learning to read and write, count and reason.
And possibly more importantly, they need to learn to share, take turns, work as a member of a team as well as independently, ask for help when needed, ask and answer questions, understand differences and not just tolerate them, and be prepared to be brave about trying something new without fear of failure.
The foundation phase is also a child’s first introduction to learning phonics and developing good number sense. Here, experience has shown that a multi-sensory approach to teaching these basics will ensure that all children are able to benefit from the learning; that one or other of the activity will resonate with their learning style. Throughout this approach, children are listening and speaking, feeling, building, categorising, comparing, and developing an understanding of what they’re learning. When this is carried through into the home as well through exploration and conversation, the school teaching is supported and enhanced.
As a foundation phase educator and parent of two boys, I have found that children are most engaged when they feel connected to what they are learning. In this way, giving them a voice, including them in the learning process, and making use of project-based learning ensures that they have fun and enjoy the process of learning to investigate, reflect, and collaborate – all of which are valuable life skills.
Taking this development into account, The Ridge School is a boys-only primary school from Grade R to Grade 7 which enables boys to engage actively in a boy-centred environment, while developing their academic skills alongside their ‘soft’ skills (people and communication skills, character, attitudes). At The Ridge School, we encourage parents to consider a boys-only school for their sons because boys and girls tend to mature at different rates.
This means that the boys can be themselves with less concern about judgement, the teacher can manage the classroom environment that best serves boys’ needs, and the boys learn to be more confident. In this way, a sense of ‘brotherhood’ grows which creates a sense of belonging and connections that often last a lifetime.
Regardless of which school parents choose to send their child to, a key factor to remember is that the early years of a child’s development are critical to their future success. There is much that can be done both in the school and home environments that can contribute positively to this journey.
Opinion by Holly Ferrar, Head of Junior Prep, The Ridge School.
For more information visit www.ridgeschool.co.za