Review: The Starting School Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

(AD Gifted) We are currently in that limbo waiting period between applying for primary school places in January and waiting to find out what we will get in April. This is the second time for us so I feel slightly more prepared, but how do you choose which school is right for your child? What do you need to do to get them ready for school? and how do you help them when they start? These topics and more are covered in Sarah Ockwell-Smith's new book “The Starting School Book.

A dinosaur school bag with a teal book sticking out of it. The book is called the starting school book by Sarah Ockwell Smith providing information about how to choose schools, how to prepare and how to settle
All the information parents need for when their child is coming up to school age


What You Need To Know Before Your Child Starts School


I remember before starting the process I knew nothing about how or when to apply for schools or what happened next. I missed most of the school open days and found out information from a local friend with older children (together we wrote some blog posts about preparing to start school). Handily Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s book takes the guess work out of the process in her easy to understand, well researched book.

As pointed out at the beginning of The Starting School Book children spend around 21000 hours at school so the decision about where they go is an important one. Depending on where you live and how oversubscribed the schools are (very in our area) it can feel like you don’t have much choice, but it is still useful to understand how to choose the school you want, starting age or even why you might consider home schooling.

Preparing Your Child (And You) For Starting Primary School


Even before that April day when you find out where your child has got a space you can start preparing your child for school. As Sarah points out this isn’t about teaching them to read and write, there are much more important things to focus on like encouraging a love of learning, books, curiosity, art etc as well as more practical skills which will help them to be more independent. Sarah provides tips and a list of ideas of what to focus on.

A big part of reducing anxiety in children before they start school is about familiarisation. Without older siblings they will probably be unfamiliar with the location, uniform and what happens there. It’s a big unknown and we all find that scary. The more you can help them understand what they will experience the more confident they are likely to feel about starting. Again the book includes lots of ideas on how to do this.

Unsurprisingly, given that Sarah Ockwell-Smith is a sleep expert (who even managed to help with our sleep problems) she emphasises that sleep is an important part of preparing for and doing well at school. There is a section in the book advising how to establish a good routine and manage sleep.

What You Need To Know Once Your Child Has Started School


You’ve chosen your preferred school, got a place, prepared and had your first week, but that isn’t the end of the parenting questions we all have. Helpful sections in the later part of The Starting School Book include: common parasites and illnesses, play date etiquette, homework and getting involved in the school community, but one of the most interesting sections for me was reading about the effect starting school can have on children’s behaviour at home and how to find out what they did at school.

I pretty soon realised that asking my children about their day whether at nursery or at school was pointless. I have tried getting some information out of them through creative questioning, but it’s still of limited benefit because I have been doing it at the wrong time. It was also really useful reading about the restraint collapse (a definite “oh yay I’m not alone moment”) where behaviour at home can deteriorate after behaving all day at school and how to reconnect with children in the evening.

The Starting School Book is yet another easy and helpful read from Sarah Ockwell-Smith Smith. It is just the book I would have loved to have found before my eldest started school and there are so many tips I will be following with my youngest who starts school this year. 

The Starting School Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

How to choose, prepare and settle your child at school.
Published by Piatkus on 5th March 2020


***Disclosure: I was offered a copy of this book and as a long time fan I said “yes” straight away. You can read my review of The Gentle Eating Book which I have recommended so many times to parents since reading it. ***

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