Two weeks from today, public schools start here in RVA. Administrators and lead teachers have already returned for the new year. So, you could say that we are in the final countdown to back to school. Some are in the final countdown to kindergarten.
Kindergarten moms, right now, there is a teacher preparing for your specific child.
That teacher is writing your child’s name on his desk. She is thinking about social dynamics and literacy groupings. She is excited to meet your child.
This may elicit elation or panic in your heart. Or maybe a little bit of both.
Knowledge is the best panacea for the unknown and as a recent kindergarten mom graduate, I’m here to share my best tips. Hopefully, you read our 5 things for your child to practice the summer before kindergarten and have been practicing (if not, start now!)
Here 7 things for you to do, Mom:
7. Label those school supplies and have some extras at home
I’m not sure how it is possible to run a pristine set of Crayola markers dry in two months. I swear the school supply vampires must come suck all the ink out of them at night (or the caps aren’t put on tightly), but when your child brings home his sound sort completed in yellow marker on orange construction paper because “none of the other colors work anymore,” you are going to be glad you have a fresh box to send in. And they are on sale now…so stock up!
6. Collect data on the lunch situation
Tell your child not to throw away anything at the end of lunch. That’s right. Have them close up those containers and bring all the scraps home. It will help you determine what is being eaten and not eaten…and it will help prevent your containers, thermoses, and lunchboxes from ending up in the trash.
5. Set an alarm on your phone for the afternoon bus stop
All reasoning goes out the window that first week of school. Small things will make you lose your ever-loving mind. Set an alarm on your phone for 10 minutes before the bus arrives in the afternoon. Otherwise, every time anything with a diesel engine drives by for the rest of the day, your heart will temporarily stop in a moment of panic that it was the bus and you missed it and your child is being taken back to school.
Remember that to pick up a kindergartener, you MUST be at the bus stop with a photo ID. So set your alarm and set your worry aside.
Also, if there is another kindergarten mom at the bus stop that you know, put her on your bus pickup list. That way if you do miss your phone alarm or can’t find your ID as you are running out of the door or are violently ill and can’t make it outside, she can claim your child at the bus stop and walk him to your house. Life happens.
4. Put a note in the lunch box
Even if your child can’t read, “<3 Mom” will go a long way. The first week can be tough on all of you. New friends and new routines for them at school. An empty lunch table for you at home. The note is a mid-day pick-me-up for them knowing you are thinking of them and a mid-day pick-me-up for you knowing that you sent a piece of you along with them.
3. Wave when you drive by the school
When my son went to kindergarten, my daughter had the toughest transition. She felt like her best friend had abandoned her. Not only was he not at the same preschool with her anymore, but also “he is gone the entire day, Mom. He’s just…gone!”
We pass our elementary school multiple times a day as it is on the corner of the main road from our house. Every time we passed it we waved and called out, “Hi Bradley, I hope you are having a great ______ (art class, math circle, recess, lunch, etc.)!” It helped her miss him a little less, and it made my heart soar to think of the amazing things he was learning and doing.
2. Send them on time, every day
None of this “it’s just kindergarten” mess. It is kindergarten. It matters.
You are setting the tone for the importance of school in your house for the next 13 years. Frankly, having a special girls’ day and getting your nails done together is not more important than school. You would (hopefully) tell your middle schooler the same thing if she tried to skip school with friends, so make sure your actions are telling her now, from the beginning, that school is important.
Hold education in high esteem in your house. Ask what they are learning. Be excited to hear about all the things (even Tommy’s new orange lunchbox that replaced his blue lunchbox and all the other incessant details). Celebrate struggles and the opportunity for growth. And prioritize them being present physically and mentally every day.
1. Remember that you are all on the same team
I’m not sure when the “us” vs. “them” mentality started with respect to parents and schools, but it’s detrimental to everyone involved…especially your child. Spoiler alert: teachers and administrators aren’t in it for the pay or the summers off. They are in it because they care deeply about education and your child.
Teachers and administrators are cheering for your child.
They want your child to be successful.
You want your child to be successful.
You have the same goal, so work together with them. If you have concerns, ask them…with consideration and respect. Be an advocate for your child. Also, trust that the professional educators on the other side of the table have important experience and insight as well. You are all in this together.
It’s true. Life changes when kindergarten starts. But it is an awesome change watching them grow and learn new things. Be prepared and also take things as they come.
In the meantime, soak up these last weeks of summer. Because school is starting in 3…2…1…