What to expect from Grade 1

We are soundly into the second week of school, and thankfully, it’s been an easy transition; most notably with my youngest, who has just entered grade 2! But things weren’t always this smooth sailing last year. I wouldn’t say it was challenging, but it didn’t come without it’s challenges, and although I’ve already seen two kids through Primary School, my experience third time was very different. I’m not sure if it’s because things have changed tremendously in 6 years, or quite simply because I have changed and evolved as a parent…or perhaps it was a bit of both; but it was quite a switch from my previous 2 experiences. I’ve spoken to several first time moms who are finding the prospect of Big School more daunting than their little one’s, so I thought I’d do a quick post to guide them on what to expect and how to tackle it. 
Go easy on the little one’s…it’s a year of big change! Uniforms, an earlier start to the day, longer days, more structure, less play. It’s all very daunting at first and some kids deal with it better than others. Proper morning and evening routines makes it much easier for the children to adjust to their new schedules. I know that sometimes it’s near impossible to fall asleep to the sounds of Mozart or snuggling up under the covers reading a book and sipping hot chocolate. And sometimes we snooze that alarm clock one too many times which snowballs into a morning of epic disaster in epic proportions; but a calming down routine at night, and some positive affirmations in the mornings certainly helps towards having a calm and confident child.
You’ll either land up with a teacher who LOVES homework or one with a gentler approach. Either way, it’s best to set aside a fixed time each day to get it done. This obviously cultivates good habits as the child progresses into higher grades, and is a good habit to have once they enter High School and beyond. I personally don’t like tons of homework, but I love knowing what my child is doing in school and where they are at academically. It also gives us an indication of what they are struggling with or don’t understand. 15-20  minutes is a fair amount of time that won’t rob your child of their childhood, while still cultivating good work ethic.
I’m so on the fence about assessments, but it’s a decision we make when sending our kids the mainstream route! I think it’s important to keep an open mind here, especially in the first year of school; and even more specifically in the first term. Assessing children’s abilities when you barely know them and when they are still shell shocked from entering this new environment sometimes seems counter productive, but you know the saying “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”…well, it is a good attitude to induce into your child. Motivate them to do their best, while also strengthening their faith in themselves and teach them that their self-worth is not reliant on a number/symbol on a report card. Also, to the moms (and dads)…we all think our kids are little geniuses, and sometimes we get a bit shocked at how they perform in the classroom. Cut your kids some slack as they adjust to this new world and be objective. The report card doesn’t only reflect intelligence. Sometimes it can enlighten you to an underlying problem you never knew your child had, in my case, it was a terrible case of anxiety!


They seem to be starting younger and younger! I was shocked to find out that kids do actual, real orals in English AND Afrikaans!!! I also didn’t know that it carries such a big portion towards the overall language mark, and I stand to be corrected here, weighs heavier than their written assessment! I remember how much we practiced at home with my son, and how it did nothing to prevent my kid from having dreadful stage fright. At the time I thought it was too much for the little kids and complained and lamented with the other moms about how flawed the system was…but after term 2, and a pep talk from Naani, my little guy conquered his fears. Although still nervous, he has thankfully made progress.  
Afrikaans is much more detailed in grade 1 than what my older kids did. They learn proper vocabulary and I even spotted a begripstoets. I’m partially thankful for this because the older two struggle a lot with Afrikaans. I’m hoping the new system makes it easier to grasp.
The school my son is at has embraced the Singapore Math system (if that’s even what you call it). I actually quite love this way of teaching Maths and, having the advantage of having older kids in High School, I can totally see how this method helps train their brain to help them understand and cope with Math better at a later stage! I sometimes felt a bit lost with reiterating concepts because they do things differently, but gosh…some really higher grade thinking patterns being nurtured with this system. Love it!
As a mother, it’s natural to get defensive when the system goes against your energy flow, but there’s always a lesson to learn. We thrust our young, innocent  kids into this big, new world and expect them to be able to swim with the tide. Mainstream is a fast paced system and it takes time for them to adjust to it. It’s also important not get too caught up in the competitiveness of it all, to nurture them holistically as well as scholastically, and always create a balance between the two.
 Though Zee started the year academically strong thanks to his Montessori grounding, there was so much that was very new to him. There were times during the year that I doubted my decision and choices for my child. I felt sorry for him and the undue pressure, but I soon realised that there are no perfect scenarios in life. Making excuses does not solve problems, and obstacles are encountered everywhere. I had to toughen up and own up to my child’s weakness, and only then was I able to truly help him! It’s this pairing of teaching and parenting that contributes to our children’s growth.
 As the year drew to a close, my timid little six year old had grown, blossomed, evolved and strengthened in ways I did not expect. By the last 2 terms he was thriving and this year he has entered Grade 2 so much more confident than I ever imagined he would. It just goes to show that Grade 1 is so much more than ABC…but we have to be willing to see beyond the chalkboard and the report card to reach it!

Thanks for reading!!

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