The Insider Tips to Have The Best Prep Year

first day of school

When you start a new school year with your prep student, chances are you are as nervous as them. If not nervous, you are likely wondering how you are going to cope with all things expected from you as a school parent. I created this guide based on my experience. I would enjoy your ideas and tips as well so that I can add them to help first time school parents everywhere experience the best year for themselves and their children. I would also like to add that this article is not just for parents doing the prep year for the first time. You will find that with every different teacher and changes in the curriculum that every new prep year is like beginning again.

Make a Homework Station

This is what we have in our house and it includes the little one who is yet to start school. It cost around $20 from Officeworks. You could use something more permanent but we are doing a whole house renovation, so it needs to move often BUT I really like its portability too. Top shelf is stationery, specifically pencils, pens, scissors, tape, glue etc. I am a believer in providing the best tools for kids so it’s worth heading along to a stationery warehouse or even heading in February to places like Officeworks or Target who are having big sales on all the back to school gear. The second shelf is all their homework. This means library books, library bags, activity books etc. The bottom level is water paints and scrapbooks. We also have an additional craft holder for all the bits and pieces like old magazines and STUFF.

homework station

Start a folder for each child

You might be a digital person but you are going to get a fair amount of paper in terms of what is expected, curriculum information, handwriting guides and so on, so it’s easiest to make the decision to just go paper for everything. I have a folder for each child with their name on it with clear plastic sleeves.

Buy a diary or calendar or use your phone

The main thing is you decide early on which one you are going to use and stick with it. This is a Kikki K one, though there are plenty of other calendars. Most people I know use their mobile phone calendar, it really doesn’t matter but you are going to need one. The Kikki K Calendar is for special events and due dates and things like that. I use another calendar for library days and ongoing weekly things etc. I am sure there is one calendar that can achieve both. Just do what works for you and don’t rely on your memory.

kikki k calendar

Start a Facebook Group

Perhaps not on the very first day but on the information evening or in the first week it is a great idea to start a group for the class. Just pop a note in everyone’s pigeon hole. It helps for several reasons. It’s a great motivator, it’s awesome for organising social events and making new friends and it’s a wonderful way to find stuff out. Homework can sometimes be confusing and it’s very reassuring to know that you can simply post and ask another parent to validate the answer. Also, prep is the year when you are most likely to make friends if you are looking for some.

Make sure your kids can open their lunchbox

It’s awesome to buy the latest bento lunchbox or the coolest drink bottle and they have their advantages FOR SURE but make sure your student can easily open the clasp before they go to school. Practice Practice.

Buy velcro shoes

If your child can’t tie shoes then please don’t expect your teacher to. Velcro is easy and cool. I remember doing my teacher practicum and there was nothing worse than tying a little boys shoelaces that were wet with…. wee! Same applies to pant ties. Cut them. Sounds brutal but it’s just a nice thing to do.

With homework start as you intend to go on

Set your routine early and make it fun. Your attitude will honestly help to set the tone. If you want to whine about it then don’t do it in front of your student. My first words to my prep student were “OMG how exciting – your first day of homework SQEEE!!!!!” < could be overkill but in any case my 5 year old is so far loving homework. Your routine will depend on your circumstances but for us, its home, 15 minutes to settle, afternoon tea & then homework. OR some days because of after-school activities, straight into homework. We lead from homework to dinner, then we alternate with things to do. My ideal outcome is homework, dinner, bath then bed to read.

Read every night.

It will make a difference more than anything else you do for your children. Read anything, magazines, comics, reference books, just read.

Involve the other siblings.

If you are like me you have a little toddler tearing around while everyone does their homework. We either get her involved or set her up with watercolours and/or textas.

Prepare your children

There is such little “one on one” time at school. Get your kids involved in colouring, practising how to hold their pencil correctly and using a pair of scissors.

Leave when you say goodbye

If your child has separation issues or they are clingy or even if they love to see you go, it doesn’t matter, the same rule applies. When it is time to leave, you say goodbye, you hug them, you kiss them and you wish them the best day of their life and you will be back to pick them up before they know it AND LEAVE. The only thing you might add to this is “Be Brave, Mummy/Daddy Love you, See you soon”. If you ask them what is wrong it is really like saying “Don’t you want me to leave?”. “No they don’t”. BUT,… they have to go to school. Don’t ask what you already know. It is easier on them to believe YOU believe in their ability to be brave and to get on with their day. The teachers WILL call you if it gets out of hand. We reinforce the importance of going to school and even explain the legislation that says all children must attend school.

Organise your day the night before or plan to get up early.

In my first 2 years of schooling with my son, I was just starting Brisbane Kids and also doing my teaching prac. I was working through until 3am and then getting up to go to pracs the next day. Even when the prac was over I was still having less than 4 hours sleep. I was leaving the school day organisation until the morning and waking with barely anytime. I was cranky and every morning was filled with yelling and lots and lots of looking for lost things. Today, almost 5 years later my lesson is learnt, I get enough sleep, I get up early to organise my day and in your case, you could just as easily organise your day the night before (especially if you have a baby).

Consider dropping outside activities

At least for term one consider letting your child just go to school. A full 5 hours of learning is hard work for little bodies and little minds. Your children will be more tired than they have ever been before. You may see regression in behaviour which in many cases can be solved by more sleep.

Get into the habit of asking the right questions

If you punch out the questions the minute your kids get into the car then expect some resistance. I have found that the best way to get questions answered is at the dinner table or over food (without the TV) and being very routine in our questioning – Here is our guide to getting kids to tell you about their day.

getting kids to answer questions

Don’t compare yourself to others and instead lead the way!

For many reasons but not least because this is not a competition and each child comes with strengths and weaknesses. Not least because there is a world of difference between kids in prep that will change drastically by the time they are in year five. This change will be determined by their age, their sex, your input and their own personal strengths and weaknesses. Be their advocate, validate their specific improvements, benchmark their effort- be their cheerleader but don’t push them to “beat” “to better than x” or “not fail”!

I know this all sounds overwhelming but don’t let it be. Your attitude toward education will have the greatest influence on your children. You are their greatest teacher, don’t forget that. If you want a teachers perspective on the first day of school then read another helpful guide to the first day of school here


About the Author
Ngaire Stirling
Owner and Founder of Brisbane Kids, Ngaire grew up in Brisbane and lives with her husband, 3 kids and too many animals. She has marketing and teaching qualifications focused on the early year of schooling. She loves long summer days, bright starry nights and working on Brisbane Kids.

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One response to “The Insider Tips to Have The Best Prep Year”

  1. Kirsty says:

    Brilliant Ngaire. Spot on 🙂

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