It wasn’t until I saw a post about this book that I realised, with a sudden astonishment, that I had never come across a book designed to help parents and children choose and settle into school. Isn’t that wild? One of the greatest changes to a child’s life and one that will ultimately shape their future forever, and yet parents, it seems, have largely just been left to figure it all out themselves. And what a minefield it is. Which school do you choose? What kind of school? What are the things to look for to guarantee it is the best fit for your child? How do you prepare them? How to you help them settle? And how on earth do you solve all the problems that inevitably come with such a big change? What a welcome relief then, for an informative, research based and practical book, to finally be available to all.
The author of The Starting School Book is Sarah Ockwell Smith, a spearhead of gentle parenting. I first discovered her through a series of Instagram hashtags, landing on someone who, personally for me, felt like a breath of fresh air in the chaotic world of parenting. Her respectful, child led and ‘full of sense’ take on parenting was instantly relatable, and without hesitation I bought her Books, joined her support group and attended a workshop. So yes, I am already a fan, there is no doubt about that… and ultimately I challenge anyone to read any of Sarah’s other books and not come away from them with a profound new understanding of children and the importance of our relationships with them. Whether it is Sarah’s vast knowledge of biologically normal infant sleep, her informative stance on how our adult eating habits have been shaped and how to navigate any challenges with our children’s eating, or her extensive writing outlining ways we can discipline the next generation free from a rewards or punishments mindset and instead truly understanding behaviour and solving problems collaboratively and respectfully with our children. Not only does Sarah cover all bases with regards to parenting, but she does it backed by in depth scientific research and the angle that children are simply young people with not yet fully developed brains, who require our compassion, connection and guidance.
But do not worry if you are not previously familiar with Sarah or indeed Gentle Parenting. The Starting School Book works as a stand alone, and will no doubt speak direct sense to any parent or carer who is looking to understand the whole process and inform themselves of what happens in modern day schools and how we can support our children through it.
In all honesty, The Starting School book covers a much wider range of schooling information than I expected.
Firstly, there are the chapters that cover what you might expect in such a book, such as how to decide on a school suitable for you and your child, and how to help prepare and settle your child as well as common problems and solutions. These include essential chunks of info that previously feel a bit like you had to just ‘figure it out yourself as you go along and maybe find out some of it from a chat with a friend who’s done it before’. Stuff like, what different kinds of schools are there? How do you apply? What do you need to look for in a school to know if its any good? What questions should we be asking on open days? What do OFSTED scores really mean? Alongside all this priceless info is some really sound practical advice. How to talk to your child about the upcoming onset of school, ideas for bedtime routines and getting prepared for the morning rush, how much sleep children need, how to re-connect after a day apart, how to help prepare them for being separated from you – and a wonderfully thought out segment about preparing you for being separated from them. There is also information covered in these chapters that have the potential to really flip our preconceived ideas of when and where we send our children to school. I’ve no doubt that many parents out there are not fully aware of their rights with regards to Certified School Age and opportunities to legally homeschool if they wish.
Secondly, this book delves just that little bit deeper (in Sarah’s straight-to-the-point-no-unnecessary-words style) into what influences a child’s learning, how school can impact behaviours outside school hours and how to encourage an intrinsic motivation for learning within our children. These chapters are not only insightful, but they empower parents with greater understanding of how children grow and develop.
As well as a wealth of information, this school starters manual is beautifully presented and easy to dip in and out out of, with clear chapter and segment headings, and bullet points to sharpen up any hefty topics.
This truly is a book that covers anything and everything… from how to deal with friendship disputes, bulling behaviour and school childcare preparations, to teacher gift ideas and common parasites and illnesses in the classroom. This is it. This is THE book that we all need to read before our children start school. I’ve absolutely no doubt The Starting School Book will be profound in helping many young children settle into a new environment as well as helping to prepare parents too.
Click Here to see the book for yourself, available from 5th March 2020