Your baby is five. Where did the years ago? Then suddenly KINDERGARTEN is all we can think about. Maybe you’ve kept school in mind all along, but it seemed so far off. Now it’s imminent. While the teachers are often focused on the nerves of their new 5- and 6-year-old students, it’s the parents who need a support session!
Most schools on the first day of school have a special final wave to parents and then walk into their school or classroom. Lots of pictures are taken, tears are shed more by parents than students, and suddenly they are “in school.” You feel your baby has suddenly become a “Big Kid.” How did that happen?
If you were a fly on the wall…
The first few days, kindergarten classrooms are given extra staff to supervise and support those little ones in their new school culture. Their kindergarten teachers are holding hands, reading beloved and time tested books to calm and connect students, and giving time to explore and play. Students are singing songs, finding school bathrooms, and taking tours of their new school.
In September, kindergarten teachers will get a baseline of all skills, academic, social, and emotional.
Students will be asked to do what they can in a caring and supportive way. They will be asked to write their name, recite, identify and write the alphabet. They will be asked to count, skip count, identify numbers and shapes, and notice patterns. Teachers will be checking status of fine motor and color identification skills. They are taking notes on who is anxious or settled, social or isolated, verbal or quiet, and more.
Now before you gasp or give a sigh of relief, this is done formally and informally. Bottom line, they are trying to get to know your kid! That’s their job. Not to deem them ready, ahead, or behind. The kindergarten teachers I know and respect in Mankato are not labeling your child. They are taking the input they are receiving, and finding the best way to connect, build trust, and teach your child. In education we call this differentiation. Teachers are taking the big standards and goals directed to a grade level, and modifying and personalizing them for the little ones in their care.
The biggest change for mom and dad when starting school is that you are welcoming another person into your parenting dynamic. You now have another adult who has observations, trained insights, and vested interest in your child’s success. Your child’s teacher is now spending most of your child’s waking week days with your little one. You still know your child best. You know their fears, the obstacles they have already overcome, and interests. You know the scars and tears they have shed. You know their giggles and token phrases. But I promise you this, your child’s teacher is eager to know your child too! Teachers get that class list, write each name to label spaces and materials over and over. A bond begins to form each time a name is written. Your child’s teacher is eager to welcome them to the classroom, and make it theirs. Kindergarten is this special place where students’ school ‘firsts’ occur. Kindergarten teachers take that responsibility seriously.
I encourage you to volunteer in the classroom, chaperone a field trip, or join your child for lunch. Take part in this new chapter. Get to know your child’s teacher to build a trusting relationship. You are all working to support and guide your child to their personal best.
I leave you with some final logistical tips:
- Clear a drawer or mail slot for papers from school. Build your child’s responsibilities to include emptying their backpack into this specific place to keep track of their work and school papers.
- Expect your child to come home exhausted and moody the first 2-3 months. Their “job” of school is taxing and they are building their stamina.
- Believe half of what you hear. Five-year-olds are not known for their perspective taking skills. Ever have your child tell a story to your friend or their grandparents and leave out some important details? Don’t worry, teachers’ take the stories from home with a grain of salt too:) If you have concerns about what you hear though, email the teacher asking for clarification.
- Save the sharing schedule, school events, and field trips in your calendar with reminders. Forgetting sharing day items or a sack lunch is mom guilt we all try to avoid.
- Help your child learn their classmates names. You’ll find that when you ask who they sat by or played with the first few days that your child does not often know other kids names. Practice introductions and sharing names.
- If you have younger children, consider signing up them up for Ready for Kindergarten through Mankato Community Education (www.mankatocer.com). This is a powerful and aligned program for parents preparing their child for Kindergarten success.
You’ve opened a new chapter of your parenting. It’s a milestone you need to celebrate as well. You’ve got this, Mom! Just keep a Kleenex handy!