I Have a First Grader

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Emma starts first grade today. Holy moly. We’re in the big leagues now with the longer days.

This summer she grew and changed so much, more than in any other time of her little life that I can remember thus far. She really is a different kid when I think of the difference between the first day today and the first day last year.

Starting Kindergarten was hard!!!!! It really took a good month for the entire family to adjust to the new groove.

This first day is so much better and I am so GRATEFUL.

I love that we both know what to expect. I love that I don’t have to stress about how drop off and pick up works. I love that I know so many more faces and families. I love that she is excited to see her friends from last year. I love that instead of being overwhelming, it is more exciting.

So mamas, please tell me, how did your back-to-school transition go??

I hope it was an easier one for you too!  And to you first time Kinder moms, you will get through it! Hang in there…

XOXO

Jen

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St. John’s Episcopal School

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It is hard to believe it is already August and the new school year will be here before you know it.  For those of you in South Orange County who might be exploring great private school options, I wanted to let you know more about St. John’s Episcopal School in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Nurturing children ages 8 weeks (YES, 2 months!) through 8th grade, their program is teaching community dedicated to helping every child reach their full potential.

Here are some program highlights:

St. John’s cares for children as young as two months old for mothers who are heading back to work in their unique infant program. With a ratio of 3:1 and maximum class size of 6 babies, you can feel comfortable knowing that your baby is receiving love and attention while you are away from them during the day.

Many parents are choosing private education for their children for the added benefit of smaller class sizes. For example, a typical Kindergarten class at St. John’s would consist of 16 – 18 kids, with one teacher and  one instructional teacher’s aide.  The maximum class size for K – 2nd is 20 students, and all have an aide, for a 10:1 student to teacher ratio.

Because of smaller class sizes, teachers are able to provide every student more individual, tailored instruction to help them learn and grow in the ways that are the most effective and enjoyable for them.

Students are encouraged to investigate areas of interest, strengthen skills and participate in a dynamic learning environment.

Lower ratios mean that teachers really get to know each child as an individual and all the teachers communicate with each other from one grade to the next, to make for smooth grade transitions and consistent learning year after year.

Whether your baby is transitioning from the infant to Toddler 1 class, or from 5th grade into middle school, all the teachers work together to ensure the student’s best interest is always at heart.

St. John’s core curriculum is supplemented by a variety of enrichment classes taught by specialists in each area to appeal to all students, giving them a chance to explore their different interests and talents.

A sample of their enrichment classes include: library, media center, music, choir, physical education, Spanish, studio art, performing arts (6th – 8th), science, technology and religion.

St. John’s offers an extended care program so your child is able to stay at St. John’s from 7am to 6pm to accommodate your personal schedule. The after care program includes play-based activities, recreation, arts, crafts, quiet study-time area with computers, character education and an exceptional staff.

I happen to love this one because I think character development in children is just as important as academic development.

St. John’s is an inclusive Christian school focused on morals, values and spirituality and welcomes students of all faiths.

They have a school wide “virtue of the week” where a different character virtue, for example, “integrity” is introduced and talked about each week.

There are still spots open for your child for the start of the 2012-2013 school year and St. John’s invites you to come to learn more this Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 at 9am.  Details on the flyer above!

[Disclosure: St. John’s is a Tiny Oranges Sponsor.]

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Kindergarten Redshirting: What’s a Parent to Do?

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My oldest daughter, Emma, was born on June 11th. Back in my day, most kids with a June 11th birthday would enter Kindergarten at 5 years old, so in my head I had always assumed she would go to Kindergarten the Fall that she turned five.  Am I right?

But then during her second year of preschool, I started to listen to chattering amongst preschool moms on the subject of Kindergarten, and I learned that many of them were opting to delay starting their kids with summer birthdays in Kindergarten until they had turned 6, a choice known as “redshirting.”

I thought this was typically something only parents of fall birthday babies were doing, but it seemed like summer was the new fall as far as opting to delay.

And seeing that Emma would fall into the “summer birthday” category, it seemed as if I had a decision to make, one that I sort of thought would be a no brainer. In my gut I thought Emma was ready, actually knew she was ready, but I started to hear comments from other moms like:

“I want to give my child that extra year to gain more confidence.”
“I want my child to have the advantage of an extra year of maturity.”
“I want my child to have an easier time in school because Kindergarten is so much harder now.”
“I don’t want my child to be one of the youngest ones in the class.”

Hearing their comments, I started to doubt myself, and it made me feel like sending her to Kindergarten as a (younger) 5-year-old would automatically be putting her at a disadvantage.What mom would ever want to feel like they were intentionally putting their kids into a situation at a disadvantage? Was I making the right choice?

I mentioned my fears to my husband who was a little surprised to even be having the conversation. He knew our daughter, and knew she was ready.  He also had the advantage of not overhearing all the comments.  He knew what I always knew, without the self-doubt.

But I still did my due diligence.  After all, it was a decision that would affect her for many years, and was not something I took lightly. I talked to her preschool teacher and I did the Chancy and Bruce Kindergarten Readiness Test, both of which indicated that she was ready. But in the end, I trusted my gut and my five-year-old started Kindergarten last Fall.

Looking back it was the best decision we could have made for her.  She thrived in Kindergarten. She learned, grew, matured and most importantly, she loved it. Knowing what I know now, I believe that waiting a year for her would have been doing her a disservice.

So my advice to any parent looking at this same question with a summer or fall baby would be: do your due diligence, but in the end you have to trust your gut instinct because no one knows your child like you do. It’s easier said than done, but try not to get caught up in everyone else’s opinion about what they are doing with their children ~ their child is not yours.

And once you make a decision, whether it is to start your summer baby at five or six, just know you are making the decision that is the best one for your family. Then I highly suggest staying out of the conversations lest you start to second guess yourself again! I stopped asking moms what they were doing with their kids, because I realized it had nothing to do with us or our decision.

Lucky me, I will have to make the same decision for little sister, a July 2nd birthday. And by the time she goes to Kindergarten, the age deadline will be September 1st, so she really will be one of the youngest. But we will cross that bridge, and at that time, I will have to do the same and trust my gut.

Have you gone through this dilemma?  What did you do?  What is your advice for other moms?

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The Last Day of Kindergarten

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Today is Emma’s last day of Kindergarten.  The picture on the left is from her first day.  I love how she wrote P for 9 in the date.  And there is my Kindergarten Grad on the right.

In the first picture I can sense some anticipation and a little fear in her eyes, today they are filled with joy and excitement.  And so are mine, as well as a few tears, but they are tears of happiness.

When I asked her how she was feeling about school coming to an end, she said, “Happy ~ Sad,” and I thought that was just the most perfect description for me too.

Looking back to that first picture, I remember how nervous I was for her to start Kindergarten.

Would she make friends in her class?  Would she like her teachers?  How would she be as a student?  Would she like going every day?

I was filled with so much anxiety, just wanting so badly for her to like school and be OK. Sending your kid off to Kindergarten in a way is sort of an exercise in letting go.

I wish I could go back and tell the mom on the left,

Relax. Everything is going to be OK. Actually, better than OK, everything is going to be GREAT.”

For me, this year has also been a lesson in having faith.

And with that, when we walk out today at 1:30pm, I will officially have a 1st grader! Hello summer!  

Are your kids done?  How were your last days?

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Starting Kindergarten: Lessons Learned

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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.

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