Starting Kindergarten: Lessons Learned
Tuesday September 13, 2011see more by jen
Our family forged into unchartered territory this past week when our oldest started Kindergarten.
There she is on her first day. I saw this post on Angry Julie Monday and loved the idea of having a photograph with her holding a sign on her first day each year.
Then I thought maybe I will have her write the first day sign so we can also see how her writing changes year after year.
There is her handmade sign. I love that the date reads “P 6 11” instead of “9 6 11!”
So, we survived the first week and overall, she is doing great.
She has lined up and marched in with a smile each morning and for this I am incredibly grateful.
But the longer days and transition from preschool have been a little tough, I am not gonna lie! The first three days she would greet me with a smile at pick-up, then immediately break into tired tears and grumpy rants on the way to the car.
It has been a roller coaster of a week and there have been a few lessons I learned from this whole process of starting Kindergarten that I thought I might share for what it’s worth. If anyone else has tips or advice, please do share! As a mom, I can use all the help I can get.
In hindsight, I would have done a few things different, but being she is our first child I just have done my best. My friend calls first children the “first pancake” because as parents sometimes we don’t know what we are doing and have to test things out trial by error with our first.
Let me first clarify that my particular first pancake is a child that THRIVES on routine, schedules and familiarity. She does not do well during summertime. “Go with the flow” is not in her system, and the unexpected freaks her out. She is a total planner, even at 5 years old. She loves her calendar, knows dates, learned to tell time early because she was obsessed with knowing “what we were doing and at what time.” I wrote out a timeline for the getting ready portion of the morning of her first day and her eyes lit up and sparkled when I read it to her.
I might as well call a spade a spade – she is her mother’s daughter.
So I will start with the positive. I found a few things to be incredibly helpful in the starting Kindergarten transition, so these are the things that worked well for us and our “first pancake” given her temperament:
* Her elementary school was open to play on the playground all summer and on the weekends, so we took her there to play a lot. Familiarizing her with the playground and campus ahead of time was hugely helpful.
* At the tender age of five, kids need some help meeting other kids, so at the orientation the Friday before I tried to introduce her to a few other girls, so at least she had names of a handful of kids going into the first day.
* Pick out the outfit the night before. This has been super helpful. After her shower or bath I have her pick out the next morning outfit from top to bottom, including shoes, undies and accessories and we have everything ready to go in the AM.
* Make a timeline for the morning of the first day and plan to get there early. We left way early on the first day so we had time to get a good parking spot and have a relaxed start.
Things I wish I knew before or would have done differently:
* Set the proper expectations. So many people were over the top (me included) with phrases like “Kindergarten is SO fun!” or “Kindergarten will be even MORE fun that preschool!” and on and on and on about this great time she was going to have.
What I failed to prepare her for was the DIFFERENCE from Kindergarten and preschool, namely the longer days and more time sitting and learning.
I think when she heard about the fun, she pictured Kindergarten like preschool on steroids, so when in reality she figured out there is a lot more sitting and not all this free playtime, I think the first day was a tad bit of a disappointment.
Of course Kindergarten IS fun, but I would have put the emphasis on the fact that it will fun in new ways but also be DIFFERENT than preschool.
* Give it time. The first two days she said she (said) she didn’t like it and didn’t want to go back. We had some on and off again tears. But then she would turn and say she had “fun” as well. It was a whole mix of all different emotions and a big emotional roller coaster for her and for us! Of course, I wanted so very much for her to come skipping out each day expressing her love for Kindergarten and how she couldn’t wait to go back, so this was a disappointment to ME. However, given her temperament and not liking change, this shouldn’t have been unusual.
By the third day, she told me “each day is getting funner” and by the 4th, she was seeming more like her old self and when asked, “how was school?” the answer was “good!”
* Be prepared for the whole family’s groove to change. I was not ready for this! I feel like the whole family is in school now and every night feels like a “school night” from when we were kids. It is sort of a big change…having to be out the door (early for us) five mornings a week, packing lunches, laying out outfits, managing all the paperwork, figuring out the drop off and pick up schedule…I sort of feel like I got on a hamster wheel. My friend who coined “the first pancake” came up with that one too. It’s so true, it’s like once you are on it, you are ON it. I am not good at change either, so it has been an adjustment for me too as the whole family schedule has changed.
The good news is that we will ALL adjust and I have a feeling when we are into our school year groove things will be really great. And I feel like we are on our way already. So far we LOVE the teachers, love the school, love the families we have met, so I have a super positive outlook on this year. It’s just going to take a little time to settled into a nice rhythm and routine.
I hope all of you that are in the new school year transition are doing great. Any tips or advice you would like to share is ALWAYS welcome!