Starting Kindergarten: 12 Things You Should Know
1. Some Kindergarten Classrooms Do Still Have Naptime
What was my daughter most excited for when entering kindergarten? NO NAPS! Of course, as soon as school started we received a notice home asking us for a towel for naptime. You can imagine the tears that followed since my daughter has been “willing” away naps since she was three years old. I wish I had known there would be naptime so I didn’t suggest “no naps” as one more thing that makes kindergarten really cool!
2. Touch Paper Once (or Twice at Most)
There is so much paper that comes home it’s unbelievable. From school notices to permission slips for a walk to homework to art projects. If something needs to be signed, sign it and put it right back in the bag. If it’s addressed to parents, read it and then move on. There’s too much paper to put it in a pile you sift through every few days.
3. Establish a “Temporary Home” for Artwork in Your Home
Did I mention you get a LOT of art projects? For each picture you want to save, there will be 10 you just don’t know what to do with. In our house, the “temporary home” is the laundry room. Before moving anything to the “temporary” home, take out that smart phone and take a picture. Next, after your kids go to bed move the paper you don’t need or intend to display to the laundry room (or other temp home). If a week or two later they haven’t asked about it, put it into recycling. Just make sure you let your child show you each picture so they can tell you why they are so proud.
4. Take Time to Read Everything
Yes, I throw a lot out but we also have a ritual in our family. On Friday night, we unpack the backpack and go through EVERY item that gets sent home. My husband started this tradition and at first, I thought he was nuts. He would sit there for 30 minutes listening to our daughter recap thirty pieces of paper, one at a time. However, after awhile I realized this means so much to her. She is really proud of her work and even more excited to share what she’s done. After all, she should be. Six year olds can accomplish quite a bit!
5. Communication is Minimal
Sure, people tried to tell me this ahead of time but I was nowhere near prepared. Lengthy emails to the teachers received short responses. The only time we heard about how our daughter was doing was when it was negative (“she went to the bathroom six times today which was very disruptive”). There’s no more patting on your back, reassuring you that your child is doing well. No news is “everything is fine” news.
6. Enrichment is No Longer a Priority
Art class? Not at our public kindergarten (just whatever the teacher does in their room). Computer Lab? On Wednesdays, but not if there’s early release (there are 14 early release days). Only four lucky teachers have smart boards. Music class? Maybe once a week, but not if the kids act out. Gym? Twice a week, but once a week the classes combine for a 40 child gym class. Recess is 15 minutes (can you even get your jackets and boots on that quickly?). I don’t know, maybe I don’t remember what it was like being a kid but it seems these things that were once so important to a child’s physical development and creating a well rounded child are limited.
7. Volunteer Options Aren’t as Consistent
Just as teaching styles vary from teacher to teacher, the volunteer options vary too. Have Mrs. Johnson for a teacher and parents can volunteer several times a week. Have Ms. Smith and you’ll be lucky if you’re invited to an End-of-the-Year Celebration. Just as some teachers have nap time and some have smart boards others don’t have regular volunteers.
8. It’s Harder to Get to Know Your Child’s Teacher
You may meet your child’s teacher a few times, but there are no more daily notes, no more regular teacher conferences, photos, drop-off and pick-up check-ins. It’s harder to establish a real one-on-one relationship.
9. Pay Close Attention to Homework Assignments
We pulled our daughter out of school a day early from vacation. I told the teacher ahead of time but never thought anything of it. Her bag came home packed to the gills and as usual we sat down and went through everything. Or so we thought. Two days after vacation, I received an email from the teacher asking where her homework assignment and journal were. What? I went to the “temporary home” and found neither. One project she later explained involved a bag of tissue paper. A bag of tissue paper? There was no way I would have kept that. So, I emailed the teacher apologizing. Thankfully, a couple hours later the journal and tissue paper turned up. Lesson learned: don’t throw anything out until you are certain they are not homework assignments being overlooked!
10. Classroom Dynamics Can be Challenging
The first time I volunteered, I was surprised by the pure mayhem of the classroom. In particular, there was one child kicking, hitting and spitting at another adult. A teacher took the child out of the room, brought the child back in, took the child out of the room, brought the child back in. I was distracted by this and other happenings and kept wondering how the classroom teacher could focus with all the distraction in her room on a daily basis, but she never batted an eye. In addition to that child who clearly had an aid (at times two aids), there was another child who struggled to sit in their seat and a couple of kids who were constantly chattering. During that hour, two kids used the bathroom and one child aggravated another child by “accidentally” kicking them under the table. The teacher did an incredible job of maintaining control of the classroom despite the presumed typical and yet presumably unique circumstances. I, however, was overwhelmed for her. The one child who was having a tantrum initially caused me to have some concern for my own six year old. I’m constantly trying to educate her about right and wrong ways of coping, especially because she historically has a tendency to overreact and will often say things like “well she was allowed to do X” or “it’s not fair that she gets to do that and I don’t!” As the year went on I would get play-by-plays of what happened in the classroom or on the playground, but I never would get the full story (I did however learn that shortly after February vacation the child who was hitting and kicking that day was no longer in the class). What I did determine the first year of kindergarten was that classroom dynamics can be difficult for everyone involved, it just takes some time getting used to.
11. Lunch is REALLY Short
Lunch is a mere 20 minutes. For kids buying lunch, there’s hardly enough time to pick up a fork. If you plan to pack lunch, for the first few weeks, pack things that are easy to eat and keep the fruit snacks at home. Otherwise, the fruit snacks will be eaten first and there won’t be enough time to eat that sandwich which is what will fill your child up. Your child may forget to eat some days because he/she is too busy talking. It will take some time for them to learn to eat quickly and efficiently so expect your child to be ravenous when he/she comes home. It’s likely that’s why they are really cranky when getting off the bus. Have a snack in hand.
12. Your Child Will Make Friends. Promise.
No one wants to think of their child sitting alone at the lunch table or playing on the playground alone. Don’t worry, they won’t be. Your child will make friends and will have fun in kindergarten. Even if your child tells you she played by herself at recess, she probably didn’t and if she did, it was just one day. The teachers pay close attention to the social aspects of childhood at this age so if your child is having challenges, trust that you will be alerted. Otherwise, relax. Kindergarten will fly by.
- E-family news: Getting Ready for Kindergarten – What to Expect