Friday, August 30, 2013

Starting Kindergarten

So my five year old is starting full day kindergarten next week and my heart aches.  Michigan in its effort to meet rigorous NCLB mandates has pushed schools, parents and our little ones into a full day program whether we like it or not.  As a SAHM, I am reluctant to let go of my baby and recognize I will probably have more trouble with the adjustment than he will. There is also this fear that what should be play based and social may be more academic because of the new mandates.  As a secondary teacher by training, I want my children to be prepared but I also want it to be developmentally appropriate.
I am fortunate that my little guy is well suited to school. He is a wonderful listener and genuinely likes doing “school work” type activities.  He loves art and astounds me with his ability to capture such detail in drawings at his young age.  He loves listening to books and anything math related.  He attended a Montessori preschool that helped nurture his knack for quiet independent play.  I realize how fortunate he is, entering into a school setting with these attributes and academic inclinations.  His counterparts with fewer fine motor skills and less attention spans may truly struggle.  As a mommy to boys I do worry about how school does seem more geared towards young girls than to boys.  Reading articles about boys being suspended for shooting finger guns at each other does have me a bit paranoid too.  My guy loves Star Wars.  We spend time in the car shooting at Imperial Star Destroyers,  it is unavoidable.  Will he get in trouble?  Suspended?  Add that to my list of questions for curriculum night and my letter to the teacher.

As we cram the last few events into our remaining precious week I reflect on our summer and hope that we did enough and shared enough quality time that he goes off satiated and prepared for his new rigorous schedule.  I have some mommy guilt because we were not as active this summer as we had been the previous two, due to the arrival of his littlest sibling in March.  In past summers we were out and about much more.  He and his brother loved spending time at the local historical village and zoo.  We hit all of the Splash Pads and park play dates.  We didn’t have to think about a baby’s nursing or nap schedule. 
I had to prepare my moms’ group calendar for the month of September and it hurt my heart a little scheduling events that he would love to do.  How can I take his brother and sister without him?  Do I start the mantra that there is always next summer?  I also keep telling myself that I can sneak him out of school on any number of afternoons if I feel it is necessary.  I have already decided a visit to our favorite Santa will have to happen during school hours because the weekend scene is unbearable.  Shh, the teacher in me hates the idea of letting my kid play hookey but the mommy is weak and tender hearted.
I am also trying to incorporate as many memory making traditions as I can to make this a fun and exciting time.  I want him to feel positive about his new schedule and not soak in my trepidation.

Here are some of my plans:
    Both Boys First Day of School
  • I am prepared to take his first day of school picture to then pair it with his last day of school picture. (Already old preschool pros at this.)

Last Day of School
  • I am trying to plot and plan a fun first day of school breakfast and after school snack that will become a fun tradition.  Mint chocolate chip or pumpkin pancakes?  Milkshake and cookies?
  • I also want to establish an after school snack, talk time and then homework routine that we can maintain over time.  I never learned to do homework at a set time every day and feel like that has contributed to my battle with procrastination. 
  • I am collecting items to put together his first German traditional School Cone, we are not German, I just love Pinterest!  (I bought The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and an awesome Star Wars T-shirt.  I have three more days to find fun school supplies that won’t break the bank.  And I also need to fill one for his brother for preschool.)
  • I have to buy a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess and have to go back to his preschool teachers and have them sign it, because I love this idea!Oh the Places You'll Go Idea
  • I want to organize and tackle his scrapbook and school work pages at the beginning of the year so that we get out from under the gigantic back log of memories that are taking over my back room.  Do I scan, shrink and mount?  Do I scan and turn into photo book?  Do I collect, cull and file?
  • I have vowed to join the PTA and volunteer so I totally know what is going on and can lend a hand.  I attended the first meeting in May to get the lay of the land while we were trying to decide on schools.

Suggestions Based on My Own Experiences So Far:
  • Buy LL Bean back pack early in the summer or at the end of the school year.  His top color choice was on back order by mid August.
  • Also buy labels early in the summer or at the end of the school year.  Somehow my early August purchases still haven’t arrived.
  • We went to all the meetings at his new school to help him get acquainted and to feel comfortable in his new digs.  I love that his teacher gave them a scavenger hunt to find their way around the room.  I love that he asked to play after it was over and ended up sitting in a rocking chair poring over a Lego magazine.  He’s ready isn’t he?

  • We went school shopping and I tried to find outfits that all sort of went together so he can dress independently and still look cute.  I’m going with a navy, light blue and orange theme thanks to Crazy 8.
  • If you are planning to move to a new school district before your child starts kindergarten- move earlier than that if you can.  We always anticipated moving before our oldest reached kindergarten but life happens, and we are still in the starter home.  We are making due but it isn’t ideal.  Start researching school districts when your kid is one, start planning at two and then move by three if you can.  Or just have your stuff together before you buy that first house!  We opted for a starter home, my sister picked a forever home.  I find myself a bit jealous, granted the world was a different place when we bought seven or was it eight years ago.
  • I tried to do a school work type activity every day of the summer to keep us mentally prepared for school.  Sometimes we did science experiments; sometimes we did math workbooks, cutting activities, painting or drawing , something that ensured we were sitting at the table working each day.
  • I also tried to be mindful of screen time versus book time.  Reading books together should take up as much or more time than sitting in front of a stupid screen.
  • We bought back to school books to help prepare for the new school year.  Our favorite was First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.  My three year old loved There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books by Lucille Colandro.  I didn’t love it but he can’t get enough of her giant mouth.
  • Take pictures, hug and love on them as much as you can.  They are only little for such a short, short time.

What are your traditions and suggestions to make the start of a new school year fun?

How did you get your Kindergartner ready?
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