You know your preschooler’s ready for Kindergarten. He mastered sharing toys and sorting shapes. But are YOU ready for Kindergarten? 10 things you MUST know!
Parents, are YOU ready for Kindergarten?
You watched your child walk across the big stage a few weeks ago, getting their well-earned diploma for excelling in toy-sharing, color identification and shape sorting. You breathed a sigh of relief: one milestone down.
I was there this year, for the third time, bawling my eyes out at a preschool graduation. I remember all too well his first day of preschool – and the weeks that followed. Jansen had the worst case of separation anxiety I have ever seen in any of our kids. With patience and persistence, he eventually warmed up to the idea of playing with friends for three hours a day.
Right now, we are enjoying a quiet summer at home. But just around the corner is another milestone, one both he and I will remember for years to come: the first day of Kindergarten.
I bet, you are also fully aware that the first day of “real” school will be here before you have eaten the last freeze pops and used up all the sunscreen for the summer. I’ve been down this path before with his two older brothers, so I know what is expected of both of us.
I feel confident in Jansen’s Kindergarten readiness, academically and socially. However, my emotions may get the best of me on his first day of school, so… I made a check list for parents with kids starting Kindergarten. (If I doubt whether I am ready for Kindergarten, I bet other parents have the same worries about themselves.)
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A comprehensive list of things all Kindergarten parents NEED to know:
- Prepare for the first day of school TWO to FOUR WEEKS in advance!
- NAPS: If your child naps or rests during the day, start shortening his rest time, or move it to later in the afternoon when he would be home from school.
- BEDTIME: Adjust bed time and morning wake-ups two weeks before the big day. Most of us get a little relaxed with our bedtime routine over the summer. Start slowly by moving the bedtime back to normal and make sure your morning starts when it will once school’s back in session.
- UNIFORMS: This is a big deal for some kids. If your child is used to wearing his favorite dinosaur shirt day in and day out, and you already know that the school’s dress code will be “an issue” for your child, don’t delay this!
- Show your child the uniform dress code two weeks prior.
- Have him pick out the shirt colors (if allowed) or take him shopping with you.
- Find a way to make him feel “in control”, even if it is simply picking out the most comfortable socks and underwear.
- Let him wear the uniform clothes BEFORE school starts, so you can address any issues with itchy tags, scratchy shirts or socks that are weird – trust me on this… I have been there.
- BREAKFAST and LUNCH: Talk to your child and together decide WHAT you will pack in his lunch box every day.
- Find several lunch and snack options, to avoid getting in a rut and packing the same sad sandwich day in and day out.
- If the school is completely nut-free, plan accordingly, especially if your child is used to peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Together, find healthy alternatives and serve them at least a week in advance, so you KNOW that he likes it.
- Will your child eat breakfast at school or at home? Our kids’ schools offer free breakfast, which they enjoy once in a while. They always leave our house with a full belly, so anything they eat at school is simply “extra”.
- If your child is buying lunch, find out if you need cash or if they have an online account. Work with your child to count out the right amount of cash, if necessary. Set up a place in the kitchen where you keep lunch money.
- Your mommy morning routine!
- How will a new drop-off routine impact your daily schedule?
- Do you need to get up earlier?
- Will you be getting to work earlier or later? (Talk to your employer ahead of time.)
- Which route will you take to get to the school or bus stop?
- How long will it take you to pack lunch boxes, snacks and make sure everyone has shoes on the right feet and pants on! (Pants are a tough one to remember for our kids, for some reason!)
- There will be (a lot) LESS communication from the teacher than in preschool.
- You are used to seeing his preschool teacher every morning, chatting and connecting with her. In Kindergarten, the only way to brown-nose your child’s teacher is THROUGH your child. In other words, you are relying on your kid’s good behavior and great personality to win over the teacher.
- In Kindergarten you communicate with your kids’ teachers via email, writing notes in the agenda and quarterly or semi-annual conferences.
- You may see the teacher more often if you volunteer in the class room, but prepare yourself that you won’t get that daily confirmation of how wonderful your child is.
- IF your child’s teacher gives you their email and/ or phone number, please use these sparingly. Get in the habit of sending notes in your child’s agenda. Don’t expect to become pen-pals with the teacher from the first day. The 19 other darling kids in the class also have anxious question-filled parents.
- You will read and sign A LOT of forms!
- The first several weeks of school, parents spend countless hours reading, completing and signing forms from the teacher, the school nurse, the administration – and there are probably a few from the lunch ladies as well.
- Read the forms, they will answer most of your immediate questions. Until you get your first paper avalance of forms, read here what Kindergarten Teachers want parents to know.
- Your child’s teacher may, after a few weeks, have an open house for the parents to visit the classroom after hours. This is when you will learn about the plans for the school year. Keep a list of non-urgent questions for this event.
- This is a great list of questions to ask during “meet the teacher” events.
- Make sure your child is comfortable with your dismissal routine:
- Talk to your child about how he will get home every day – and then talk about it some more, so there is no doubt.
- By BUS: find the bus stop and drive by it from both angles, so your child will recognize when he needs to get off the bus.
- By BIKE or FOOT: time the trip, so you know exactly how much time you need in the mornings. Talk to your child about crossing guards and how he should follow their signals.
- By CAR: make sure that he can open the car door, get in and buckle himself without your help. Don’t miss these creative ways to skip the car line!
- By CARPOOL with a friend: make sure your child knows what your friend and her car looks like.
- Establish a solid emergency routine:
- Just like in preschool, you need to identify someone who is authorized to pick up your child if you are unable.
- After the first few days of school, make sure that your emergency contacts know where the school is, what time the kids are dismissed and what the dismissal routine is – in case of an emergency.
- Set a homework routine from the beginning:
- Decide what your after-school routine will look like and set up a quiet area for your child to do homework.
- At our house, we use the kitchen table for homework.
- I sit down with the kids and go through their folders and agenda while they do homework. This way, I am available if they need me, but I am giving them a chance to work independently… and I have time to complete the 47 redundant school forms they brought home.
- We have pencils, markers, crayons at the table, everything they need to do their homework.
- When our kids come home from school, they shower, change clothes and then come downstairs for a QUICK snack before they sit down to do their homework. There are no electronics or toys allowed until their homework is complete.
- Address Medical and Allergy Concerns with the school!
- Speak with your child’s pediatrician before the school starts and get letters signed if there are any restrictions or allergies.
- Contact the school’s administration BEFORE the first day of school to find out about their procedures for children with allergies and other medical issues, or if you know your child will need an IEP.
- Speak with the school nurse either via phone or in a face to face meeting.
- One of our children has medical concerns that the school needs to know.
- I send a letter to his teacher every year and follow up with an email after school has started. I also meet with the school nurse face to face (the first year, then just via the phone the other years he is at that school).
- You are your child’s advocate, so don’t hesitate to speak up. It is his safety, school experience and wellbeing at stake.
- Expect some bumps in the road. Remember the school administration and the teachers start each year with a whole new set of kids with new medical concerns, allergies and restrictions. Educate them on what is needed for your child… and stay vigilant until you know that your child’s needs are being met.
- BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES!
- Yes, this is the big leagues and many schools require each child to bring in a certain number of glue sticks, pencils and random household items needed in the classroom.
- Please be a cool parent and get the brands they request, the quantity needed and do so with a smile. These supplies directly benefit your child and his learning experience.
- It is also super nice of you to check in with the teacher 3-4 times a year to see if they need their supplies replenished.
- Be prepared to watch your child grow and develop leaps and bounds their first year of school.
- They will go from being shy and timid the first day, to confident and outgoing by the end of the school year.
Until school supplies are out in the stores, and the flyers in the mail taunt me to stock up on yellow highlighters and wide-ruled composition books, I will be over here, enjoying summer with the kids. You should do the same, things will get “real” soon enough!
Hugs – from one Kindergarten mom to another.
Hopefully you will never need these posts, but just in case – they are full of great tips and good information to know!