The contribution parents, and mothers in particular, have to make towards theactivities of the early school child can be very different from the effort needed for the pre-school child. It will also vary from child to child. Some respond to early school experience and activities by wishing to carry on with these at home so that mothers find themselves involved in providing material suitable for this. Other children may react to school by not wanting to do anything at home which is done or seen at school. This group may be content to with all the material they used before they went to school, albeit in a more advanced and complicated manner. Some children come home very tired and seem to need to regress to the play behaviour of two or three years ago. Inevitably school children are all influenced a good deal by what other children have and do. The parents of a four-year-old may well regret the influence of television advertising on the choice of presents asked for or desperately desired. This can pale into insignificance when compared with the effect of The boy who sits next to me has one so I want one/But mummy, I need one because everyone has one at school/ They won’t let me play unless I have it.’ All these reactions to school mean that any new play material and activities are going to be provided largely at the instigation of the child himself rather than parents doing the thinking, deciding and providing.
Inevitably school is going to have a great effect on children, that after all is what it is for, but a large proportion of each school day is spent at home and holidays are long. Parents at this stage are needed as much as ever they were to make possible and to encourage progress, to reinforce school experience by still reading books, arranging excursions, helping with problems, to spend time talking and listening within a one-adult-to-one-child situation which is so rarely possible in school for any appreciable length of time.
The parents whose children attend primary schools where parent involvement, participation and cooperation are welcomed and encouraged can find their task at once easier and yet more demanding. It is easier both to supplement and complement what school has to offer each individual child, to avoid the pitfall of trying to help with methods which conflict and therefore confuse, and to assess more accurately how a child is reacting to and in school, if parents see for themselves. The often misunderstood, sometimes pure fantasy, and frequently amusing accounts of what goes on at school offered by children to their parents can be equalled only by the misleading information about home which goes in the other direction. Once parents know what really happens they can help and encourage more effectively where their efforts are most needed. Not least of course, if teachers know about the other 75 per cent of a child’s life they are able to make better use of the 25 per cent of his time that he spends in school.