Starting School – More Information and Things You Might Follow Up

These are links and information about the articles and resources I refer to in various articles on school – whether you are starting, surviving or thriving at school!

Note: this bibliography is a work in progress.  I’d love to hear about what you have read and found useful – please make a comment below!  And check back, if you are interested, for new references which I will post as I find them.  I have used symbols to link to points made in articles as I use the same reference in different articles.

Children sitting in playground with backpacks

School Children, by Madeleine S Winter, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 INT

*$ What Children Are Concerns About Starting School

Centre For Equity & Innovation In Early Childhood (CEIEC), 2008 “Literature review – Transition: a positive start to school” p 6-7, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Vic 3010, Retrieved on 26 June 2015, <http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/research/transitionliteraturereview.pdf,>

This is an interesting review of the literature up to 2008.  What I took from it was this outline of what children are concerned about:

  • Where are the toilets?
  • What are the rules?
  • Who will be my friend?
  • What adult cares about me?
  • Will I get to play?
  • I’ve been here for a long time today…
  • Can I do it on my own?

I think you could break that down into four major areas:

  •  Information.
  • Connection.
  • Feelings.
  • Play.

*! Measures of Stress in Children Starting School

Nauert PhD, R. (2007). School Stress Among Children. Psych Central News. Retrieved on July 14, 2015, from <http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/08/31/school-stress-among-children/1216.html>

Reporting a study led by Dr Julie Turner-Cobb of the University of Bath  – measuring children’s cortisol levels at the start of school and six months later, and as a base-line measure, six months before starting school.  The researchers were surprised to find that the cortisol levels were high at the “baseline” measure. According to this report of the research, they surmised that high level of anxiety six months before might be associated with parental anxiety about school start. (However, when I followed up the research, I couldn’t find any direct reference to this – it might be there somewhere, or might have been an opinion offered in a Press Release or interview).  They were also surprised to find that 6 months into the school year, extroverted kids were more stressed than introverted kids.  They wondered if this was due to the extra challenge that these children might face “fitting into” the school environment: according to Dr Turner-Cobb “possibly because their more impulsive nature gets them into more confrontational situations”.

*= Implicit and Explicit Memories

Siegel, D., & Hartzell, M. (2004). How We Remember Experience Shapes Who We Are. In Parenting from the inside out: How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Penguin. pp22-23

These memories are what scientists call “implicit memories”: memories which are encoded “in circuits of the brain which are responsible for generating emotions, behavioural responses, perceptions and probably encoding of bodily sensations” says child psychiatrist Dr Dan Siegel. He goes on to say that we are often unaware that the internal experience we are having is generated from something in the past. We have a strong feeling (it is often a sense of being “flooded” by the feelings), but we don’t have any clear sense that it is coming from something that happened to us (probably long ago) which has been triggered by a current experience.

*@ Starting School Age

Whitebread, David (2013) “School Starting Age: The Evidence.” University of Cambridge. Retrieved on 16 July 2015 from <http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence>

The “right” age to start a child at school is a regular topic of debate, both here and overseas. In Australia, depending on their birthday, children can start as young as four, and must commence school in the year they turn six.  Academic experts in the UK have “advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven”. In this article, David Whitbread, of the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, makes a strong argument for starting school later.

*% The Importance of Free Play

Whitebread, David (2013) “School Starting Age: The Evidence.” University of Cambridge. Retrieved on 16 July 2015 from <http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence>

There are so many references for this topic, but David Whitebread provides a good summary: “Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions.”

And the Danes (see *^ below) have this to say:

“Scientists have been studying play in animals for years trying to work out its evolutionary purpose. What they have discovered is play is a way to learn to cope with stress. Hanging from bars, play fighting, chasing each other, and learning how to negotiate are all things that occur in play. Children practice putting themselves into fight or flight and stressful situations to see how much they can handle and then they manage how far they want to go with it. They aren’t constantly striving to obtain something in an adult-created environment: an award, a grade, or parental approval. In play there are no pedestals, no special praise, or trophies. Children are motivated by their own desire to keep the game alive and their imaginations.”

*& The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

United, Nations (2013). “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child General Comment 17 on Article 31.” Published by the International Play Association. Retrieved on 24 Mar. 2015 from <http://develop.ipaworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/CRC_CG_17.pdf>

I found this a fascinating read.  In particular, the Convention highlights that adults benefit from joining children in play, but that the benefits for children “are diminished, particularly in the development of creativity, leadership and team spirit if control by adults is so pervasive that it undermines the child’s own efforts to organize and conduct his or her play activities.” (p2)

*^ Play Based Parenting – The Danish Way

Hintz-Zambrano, Katie (2015) “Play Based Parenting – The Danish Way.” http://www.mothermag.com. Retrieved on 22 July 2015 from <http://www.mothermag.com/play-based-parenting/>

“From the dawn of the first educational theory in Denmark in 1871, play has been seen as crucial—not optional—to a child’s development. Even now, children up until the age of 10 leave regular school to go to something called ‘free time school’ where they are encouraged to play. This is incredible if you think about it! Danes feel play is so fundamental to building the ‘whole child’ that all the Danish parents we interviewed for our book found the idea of excessive focus on ‘developing’ children quite odd. As they see it, if children are always performing to obtain something—good grades, awards, or praise from teachers or parents—then how do they learn to develop their true inner drive?”

*$ How Stress Affects Learning

Medina, J. (2009). Stress – Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. In Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (2009 ed., pp. 169-195). Seattle, WA, USA: Pear Press.

“Emotional stress has huge impacts across society, on children’s ability to learn in school, and on employees’ productivity at work.” (p195)

*? Parental Involvement in Children’s Education and School

Michigan Department of Education (2002) What Research Says About Parent Involvement In Children’s Education. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from <https://www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_Sheet_14732_7.pdf>

Now getting a bit old, this PDF still packs quite a punch, outlining the benefits to children of parental involvement in education, measures of that involvement, and the support schools should offer in order to facilitate it:

“Decades of research show that when parents are involved students have

  • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates
  • Type of Involvement
  • Better school attendance
  • Increased motivation, better self-esteem
  • Lower rates of suspension
  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Fewer instances of violent behavior

“Family participation in education was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Some of the more intensive programs had effects that were 10 times greater than other factors.

“The more intensely parents are involved, the more beneficial the achievement effects.

“The more parents participate in schooling, in a sustained way, at every level — in advocacy, decision-making and oversight roles, as fund- raisers and boosters, as volunteers and para-professionals, and as home teachers — the better for student achievement.”

*X Crying Releases Stress

Mann, N. (n.d.). The health benefits of crying. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from <http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/the-health-benefits-of-crying.htm#ixzz2pg8Fp4Bd>

“A study by Dr William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre in Minnesota, found that there is an important chemical difference between emotional or stress-related tears and those simply caused by physical irritants – such as when cutting onions… According to the Minnesota study, crying can help to wash chemicals linked to stress out of our body, one of the reasons we feel much better after a good cry.”

*3 Adults that make sense of their own stories are better able to connect with their children.

Siegel, D., & Hartzell, M. (2004). The Adult Attachment Interview. In Parenting from the inside out: How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Penguin. pp141-142

*+ The Movie ‘Inside Out”

Inside Out [Motion picture]. (2015). USA: Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures. Web: http://movies.disney.com.au/inside-out.

This film is quite lovely – though perhaps the finer points of neurobiology might be lost on the average 11 year old.  It is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), where five personified emotions—Joy. Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust —try to lead her through life as she moves with her parents to a new city.  It explores how memory is made and maintained, and how personality is formed and changed through the influence of emtions. Riley’s personality has several foundation “islands” – family, goofiness, her love of hockey, which are shaken by the challenge of moving cities, and growing up.

You can learn more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_Out_%282015_film%29

Patty Wipfler, Founder and Program Director of Hand in Hand Parenting, has written a thoughful piece about it in the Huffington Post:

Wipfler, P. (2015, July 1). Accepting Feelings: The New Frontier in Parenting. The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patty-wipfler-/childrens-feelings-the-ne_b_7701164.html

*~ The Brain.

Medina, J. (2009). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (p. 80). Seattle, WA. Pear Press.

Mediina describes the pre-frontal cortex as “That uniquely human part of the brain that governs “executive functions” such as problems solving, maintaining attention and inhibiting emotional impulses.”

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