If your child is at preschool age this year, you probably already have a shortlist of selected schools in mind. You already know the requirements. Perhaps you already made friends with the admissions department. You know the date of the first day of school. There is just one more thing that’s stressing you out: your preschooler’s entrance exam. Here's how to survive the experience and help your child see his first glimpse of school in a positive light.
1. Stop thinking whether your child is qualified or not. Entrance exam is probably a misleading label when it comes to preschools. The more accurate term is assessment, which is often an interview and rarely involves a written exam. Of course, the experience is no less stressful for you. The stress comes from the fact that parents see assessments as a “labeling of the qualified and unqualified among applicants,” says Trixie Marie J. Sison, MFLCD, LPT, previously the principal of the Child Study Center of Miriam College and presently the chairperson of its Department of Child Development and Education.
Parents shouldn’t view it that way. Sison says that schools assess your kid to see his needs and if the school is actually a right fit for him. Educators know how vital early childhood experiences are, and they want to make sure that their school’s environment is the best for your child’s development. It’s not just about providing the right facilities. It’s about evaluating if your child will thrive in the school’s culture and teaching program.
2. Bring your child to the school even before his interview. Children are used to routine and structure, says Sison. They take a lot of time getting used to new faces and new places. You cannot expect them to easily say hello to strangers. You need to prepare him for first meeting with the preschool teacher.
It also means not neglecting his role in the decision-making process. Kids can be very vocal in expressing their preference so listen well. Bring him by the preschool two weeks prior to the interview date itself. It will allow him to visualize the place and understand why he might possibly go there. Introduce your child, if possible, to the people whom he will encounter. How he reacts to these first meetings can give you an idea whether it will work out or not. Make sure to make an important appointment with the principal and ask all your hard questions as well.
3. Prepare his body clock. If you do have a choice, choose the interview date and time that matches your child’s sleeping and waking patterns. If you do not have a choice for the time, then you may want to gradually adjust his sleeping and waking time days before the date with the preschool. Do explain to him or her why this is very important. Remember kids who have missed sleep will not be able to do well. On the day itself, make sure to be an hour early than your appointed interview.
4. Give your child a preview of what will happen. Preschool may have different ways of making assessements so don't be afraid to ask about the process. You need all the information you can get to prepare your child at home. Sure he knows his ABCs, but to recite in front of a stranger? Or will he be able to tell someone who isn’t mom, dad or yaya that he needs to pee? To make the shift from home to classroom a smooth one, try these activities here.
5. Do not ask your child demanding questions when the assessment is over. Refrain from asking, “How was the test?” “Did you answer everything?” “How did you answer the questions?” Don't nag your kids about what the teacher asked and how he answered, says Sison. Let your child tell you at his own pace. The whole experience should be a positive one for him, and that includes after the assessment itself.
Remember, anxious parents make for anxious kids. At the end of the day, you need to keep calm, relax, and make your child look forward to this experience.
Previously the chairperson of the Department of Child Development and Education at the College of Education in Miriam College, Therese Pelias continues to teach in the same department and is currently the project coordinator of the Growth, Upgrading and Resource Office.