My baby is starting kindergarten in a few weeks. While she’s gone to school before this feels different to me. It feels bigger to me and I think it feel bigger to her too.
Somehow, this seems to mark the start of something in life. In my head it certainly marks the start of her academic career, but it’s more than that. It’s the start of who she’ll be outside of our home.
The people in this school, the good and the bad, will begin to shape her from the day she steps through those doors and the idea of that is exciting and nerve wracking.
As I have been thinking about this for the last few weeks I decided to put together a list of ways I could help prepare her for this day and all these changes she’ll be experiencing.
Talk to your child about the new school schedule
My daughter has gone to a daycare/preschool since she was 2. She understands that school is an all-day thing, but her kindergarten day will actually be shorter. In our district Kindergarten was actually only two and a half hours so we enrolled her in something called Enrichment.
Enrichment will supplement kindergarten and she’ll be exposed to more science, math and art then she would during the short kindergarten day. It will be from 9 – 3 p.m., so still considerably shorter than a regular daycare day, and she will have a different teacher for each part of the day so that will feel different to her.
She will also not be required to have nap time, which was required at her preschool. She gave up naps long ago so she’ll probably enjoy this but I’m guessing without any rest time she’ll be more tired by the time the end of the day comes around.
Make sure your child understands transportation
My daughter can take a bus to her school or I can drive her. I’m not sure which we will be doing yet. I’m sure we will start out with me driving her. If she wants to ride the bus I will probably be the weirdo that drives behind the bus. Either way it goes, I need to make sure she understands where she’ll be dropped off, where she’ll be picked up and who is picking her up.
If your child is going to before and after school care there might be an extra step you need to talk about. If I worked a 9-5 job and had to send my daughter to before and after school care she would need to get on another bus and go to a different building.
Even if I end up driving her each day I will more than likely be waiting in a line of cars versus getting out of the car to find her. She needs to understand where to stand to meet me and where no to go (the street). I’m hoping that the teachers will be there to help the kindergartners but we haven’t had orientation yet so…
Review stranger danger rules
This is the perfect time to talk to your children again about, “Stranger Danger.” She and I have reviewed some of the things you do if someone approaches you or grabs you and who to look for if you’re lost. In the next few weeks we will be talking about this over and over again because I’m scared out of my mind.
Visit the school before starting to take a tour or attend orientation
If you have an option to go to an orientation, go. We have our orientation coming up and at that time we will take a tour of the school and meet her teacher. I just received an email about it tonight so I feel a bit more calm knowing there is a day when I will get more information and get an understanding of the people in my child’s orbit.
For her I think this will help her to feel more comfortable as walks into the building on her first day. I’m hoping she meets a few friendly faces that she can connect with too.
Find small ways to enhance how special school is – outside of just the academics
Whether it’s helping to pack lunch, picking out school supplies that help to express their personality or getting a back-to-school haircut, find little ways to make this time of year special for your child. School is a very important and special time for children and kindergarten starts off their school career by giving them some freedom to be their own person.
School is really the place where they get to be independent of parents and siblings and really begin to learn to identify themselves as an individual. Of course the academics piece is important, but so are all the little things that will help make them, well, them.
In my house we always made a big deal out of back to school clothes shopping. My parents didn’t have a lot of money so while it was a huge expense for them, it was a tradition I loved. I want to continue this with my kids because it’s exciting to get to pick out your own clothes. My daughter loves picking out her outfit every day now so I know she’s going to love this year-after-year.
Explain there will be much older kids around
While my daughter was used to having some older kids around when she was in pre-school, I don’t think you’re really aware of that when you’re 2, 3 or 4. Now there will be some kids much bigger than her because the school goes up to 5th grade. Since bigger kids can sometimes be intimidating I want her to understand that they will be around so she feels more comfortable.
At our school they have a buddy program where the 4th and 5th graders come into to the kindergarten class to help the younger kids with skills like reading and writing. It also helps to make them feel connected to the school. And, it helps them to feel less intimidated knowing they have an older friend.
Ask how they feel about starting a big kid school
We have yet to have this conversation but we have been talking about “big kid schools” for a long time. We often pass her high school when we drive and we did visit her elementary school in March for a pre-orientation orientation. But actually leaving her house and going to a new school can be scary.
My daughter is really shy so I’m really interested to see how her first few days go. She “grew up” with her pre-school friends so she never had to actively make friends. I think that might be a little tough for her.
This conversation will also be really good for both of us. I’m going to hold off until after orientation so she has a better understanding of the change that’s coming.
If you know of another kid in your neighborhood starting school, introduce your kids
I’m a little sad that we don’t live in the 1950s where everyone knows their neighbors. We actually don’t know of another little kid her age in the neighborhood. While we have met our neighbors we don’t know them.
However, we do have a neighborhood block party coming up so I plan to introduce her to anyone that looks her age at that time.
If you’re lucky enough to know kids in your neighborhood already that will be a huge help in making your child feel comfortable on the first day of school.
Explain what homework is and what you’ll expect
We had homework in preschool. My daughter thought it was fun. When the simple math started my eyes glazed over. We counted with cereal, traced letters, matched sounds, etc.
If your child hasn’t experience homework before, you might want to explain it beforehand so they are prepared for work after school. You should also explain your expectations for it. Will it be done before dinner? Do you work and will it be done after dinner? Are electronics a no no until it’s done? Lay the ground rules early so there’s not confusion later.
I’m not actually sure if my daughter will get homework in kindergarten but we’re going to chat about it anyways. I see long nights of frustration in my future, even if it’s not this year.
Talk about new bedtime and wake-up routines
During the summertime people can get pretty lax about bedtimes and the bedtime routine. If your child has never gone to school explain to them that there will be an earlier bedtime or a more structured bedtime. Explain that this will help them do their best work in the classroom.
Also explain how mornings will work during the school year. Most kids will need to wake-up earlier. My daughter gets up at 5:30 so I guess I’m lucky there will not be an adjustment for us there. However, talking about this will be prep for me to. She actually has to be somewhere on time now. That’s really going to be new for both of us.
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