The end of July is usually when the start of school really starts creeping up on you. It is a weird moment, a time when you still feel like summer just started, but look ahead to the impending fall realizing that school is not all that far off.
For most of us, this means trudging out to do the usual school supply shopping (or thanking your lucky stars that you bought the supply kit back in May!), trying to get an idea in your head about how to organize everyone’s schedules, gearing up to make lunches every night and most of all wondering what you are going to do with all those papers that come home from school on a daily basis. These things are like a proverbial right of passage at this time of year to those of us who have school age kids. Many of us are used to this, but for some, these things lie ahead like a daunting new part of our life.
This year may be the year you are sending your child off to kindergarten and are kind of floating in the shaky world of “I have no idea what to expect”. I remember it well. I was there not too long ago. I was lucky enough to have a close friend that threw me a life jacket early on and carried me along every step of the way, explaining how things typically work at our school, allaying my fears and concerns, and helping me get more prepared than I would have on my own. We are usually wondering as our first one goes off to school, what should I expect? What are they expecting from me? How can I be involved and be in the know? And, how can I help my child have a good experience on the first day? Hopefully some of the information provided below will help you with some of those concerns, and get you and your child off to a great start this school year.
What should I expect from kindergarten?
The biggest surprise parents usually get when they send their first child off to kindergarten is realizing that this isn’t the same kindergarten they attended at age five. This kindergarten is more what we experienced back then as first, maybe even second grade. Kindergarten used to mean a half day of playing, circle time, singing, coloring and practicing basic things such as name writing, the alphabet and counting. These days the kids are receiving an education with a basic curriculum in all subjects including Math, Science and Social Studies, with a focus on reading and writing. Of course, you will see glimpses of the good old days when your child starts bringing home familiar craft projects, singing songs and beginning to blossom socially by making new friends and learning to interact in a group, but in many ways, kindergarten is a lot different than we remember.
As parents, we should be ready to see our child get frustrated as they face new challenges in kindergarten, but overall they should be enjoying the experience and having fun. Parents will see their children grow immensely during this year, socially, emotionally as well as intellectually.
What are the kindergarten teachers expecting from me?
Many times as parents of a new kindergartner, we get worried that we don’t know what we are doing. What is expected of us? Does everyone know what is going on besides us? How are we going to get through the first day, let alone the first year?
If you have had these thoughts, you are not alone. Kindergarten teachers are most understanding of these concerns as they deal with them every year. There are many things you can do as a parent to make sure the transition is smooth. Most importantly, is realizing that your job is not done once you drop your child off at school. A successful kindergartner will have reinforcement and consistency at home and at school with expectations and support with their learning. For example, reading to your child a few times a day and talking about what you have read will help your child stay consistent with their reading at school.
The teachers are also hoping that you take an active role in the school, reinforcing behavior taught in school and supporting your child academically by helping them with homework, talking to them and taking advantage of teachable moments.
How can I be involved in School?
When your child starts school, most parents go through the usual feeling of having a little trouble letting go. It is hard! If you are home with your kids, you know what is going on all the time, if you have them in daycare, or preschool, you are probably used to getting a full report on everything they did, every day. Then, kindergarten starts. Nobody tells you what happened during the day, and when you dare to try to ask your child how their day was, many times, you get a vague, “Fine.”
This usually drives parents crazy!
Getting involved is one way to combat the feeling of not knowing what is going on all day in school. Some parents can volunteer during the day in the classroom, whether it is for parties, lunch or recess duty, or even classroom activities. Usually the teacher or a parent coordinator organizes a schedule and parents are able to come in to see what their child is doing and find out more about the daily happenings. Parents who work during the day may have a more difficult time facing the question of how they can be involved. Although the ways may be different, it is not impossible.
There are usually plenty of ways to get involved no matter what your situation is. Sometimes it can be as easy as asking the teacher if they have any extra work you can take home to work on like cutting, organizing, or assembling.
Also, forming a good relationship with the teacher is important. Communicate any concerns to the teacher that you may have and work together, but also trust that the teacher has your child’s best interests at heart.
Whatever you can do, make getting involved a priority to maximize your child’s education, comfort and confidence in school.
Most of all, remember that many parents are going through the same thing so there is comfort in conversation. Reach out to other parents who are going through the same transition and have a cup of coffee, voice your concerns, and swap information. You may come out of it knowing more than you did. Set up a play date with some kids/parents who are also starting kindergarten. While the kids play, the parents can chat and get to know each other a little bit. When we feel the most nervous about things, these connections and conversations always have a way of pulling us through. Sometimes these transitions can be harder on the parents than they are on the kids. Remember, millions of kids start kindergarten in the fall, and as far as we know, most of the parents have actually survived.
Well, more or less.
Do you have any tips to share? Come back tomorrow to see how you can make that first day special for all your school age kids!