Thursday, July 3, 2014

Preparing for Kindergarten - A Primer

A wonderful and talented friend of ours (who is a great teacher, writer, and parent) took the time to write us this letter, which I would like to share with you. We have found it equal parts helpful and amusing. Her examples are all from her own experience with her amazing daughter. We are so grateful for our village. :) 

10 Things to Know When Your Child Starts (Full-Day) Kindergarten

1.       The first day of school (or every day for the first while) will result in potential tears over irrational things, not necessarily the GOING to school part (i.e. there could be tears because the backpack is too heavy—with all the things you need to put in their cubby--; there could be tears because their shoes are too white; there could be tears because their pants aren’t stretchy enough).

2.       When asked what they did that day, he/she will reply with “nothing.” This is not an accurate description of the day, nor is it indicative of his/her reluctance to tell you. Your child is simply so overwhelmed from the plethora of new experiences that he/she simply cannot honestly tell you. This will eventually disappear. With extreme prejudice.

3.       Due to the frequent inability to tell you what they enjoyed during the day (see # 2), be on the look-out for random, seemingly “out of the blue” comments. They will have no context and will be difficult to follow at first, but they will be little gems of knowledge about his/her day.

4.       Don’t stress about whether your kiddo is getting enough activity simply because they are now going to school all day. They are. All day. Constantly. There will be some structured time for stories, little group lessons on specific content, but they will spend most of their time at the informal “play to learn” centers, going to the library, and hitting the gym, all in addition to being outside for upwards of two hours—each day. This is a lot for little brains and bodies to internalize. They will be exhausted, and fully active.  So no need to hit the park after school or go for long walks or bike rides on school nights (unless requested, of course—be prepared for the consequences for that during the first couple of months, though (see #5)).

5.       Avoid signing up your kiddo for any out-of-school activities, if possible, for the first “season” (2-3 months) that Fall (especially activities that may run in the evening). Your kiddo will be bagged. Utterly bagged. Their brains and bodies are adjusting to a lot of information and new situations, as well as all the play-based learning.  And there will be a distinct correlation between the evening of said activities and injuries on the playground the following day—in fact, it’s almost a guarantee.

6.       Saturday mornings will need to be a time to “chill” or do very low-key activities. He/she will need to recharge—big time. If Saturday mornings are not an option because you’ve got things going on, try to give him/her Sunday as a “day off”. Eventually, the need for the down-time will decrease, but this may not happen for months. In fact, it may not happen until the middle of the following year.

7.       Your own behaviour will suddenly come under scrutiny in the most hilarious and adorable ways. Be prepared to be told off (in the amusing seriousness all 4 year-olds can muster) in language/phrases you don’t use. This is clearly the language of the classroom, and will actually come in quite useful when trying to reiterate the same type of messages at home.  Often, the kiddo will give you access to words that better express what you want them to understand. Use them.

8.       The agenda is the golden book of communication. Do not hesitate to use it. The teacher (or ECE worker) will read them every day, and will also write notes to you, as well. This is where you’ll hear about the kiddo falling off the bikes at lunch, could you please look at the scrape he/she has on his/her knee?, etc. The agendas also work the other way. If the kiddo is having a terrible morning because you had to pull out an especially large splinter, and he/she is upset because he/she doesn’t think he/she is being brave (because they are crying), send a note in the agenda. Describe what happened, and ask for help to convince said kiddo that they WERE brave. Sometimes, your child will not believe you, especially as they develop a fondness and respect for their teacher—they WILL believe the teacher, though. Said child may even come home with a special award/certificate for being brave.

9.       Do not hesitate to ask questions. The teacher will appreciate the transparency, and chances are, he/she gets whatever question you have ALL the time. You are not alone. The teacher knows this. If there is anything about the kiddo’s little quirks that help define who he/she is and how he/she responds to certain situations, tell the teachers. They want to know, and will probably ask you anyway.

And finally,

10.     You, above all else, will enjoy hearing about where your child spends their play “learning” time. Some of it may surprise you; some will not surprise you at all. It’s a source of constant joy to know/hear about what he/she does when given the free choice, as well, as how they are forming into a more defined version of themselves.

Love you guys, lots. I hope Moe loves starting JK in this September. :) 

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