Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Last night, we participated in Henry's Kindergarten orientation at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in preparation for the start of the school year on August 30. We feel oriented, ready for Kindergarten action and very excited!

Conversation on the playground while we were there reminded me of a article that I wrote a couple of years ago. The original is here, and I've adapted it to reflect a few minor developments. Enjoy and please share with other incoming Kindergarten families!


This fall, for the third--and final!--time, I am sending a child off to kindergarten. We are very excited and a little nervous. Whether you are preparing your first child (and yourself) for kindergarten or you’re readying the next one on deck, here are some strategies to help ensure that your family is ready for this transition.

Read about it. We have a much-loved copy of Rosemary Wells’ My Kindergarten that is the star of the bedtime book routine right now. We love how My Kindergarten takes a careful look at what happens in the lives of a kindergarten student, her teacher, and her classmates throughout the year. It’s useful at all year long, and has given us a lot to talk about to help our kids visualize what life in the classroom might be like.

Visit. If you can, visit your child’s school. Each school will have its own policy, and some may welcome visits more readily than others. This time of the year is a key time for teachers to do preparation for the start of the school year, and they may not have much time to chat. But if you have not already, see if it’s possible to visit the classroom that your child will be in. Look at where the coat hooks, cubbies and bathrooms are. See where the outdoor play space is, if the school has one, and what the door that your child will enter looks like. Take a picture, if you can, to make the school feel familiar when the year begins. Many schools also offer kindergarten orientations, kindergarten playdates, and other ways for kids and parents to meet each other and their teachers before the official first day. Go if you can, and if you see your kid making friends with others, take a moment to swap phone numbers with parents so it’s easy to set up play dates once the school year is under way.

Ask questions. The school may have sent you a lot of information about transportation, food, classroom routines, but if it has not, or if you have additional questions, give the school a call. Find out when lunch is and how to pay for it, how to talk with the school nurse if your child has health concerns, what the bus schedule is like, and anything else that you may need. You may not get all of the answers you seek, but the school office is a great place to start, and a great place to make friends with the staff members who are there to make sure your kids are safe and that school is running smoothly.

Make a study space. Homework? In kindergarten? Well, maybe a little. Different schools will have different policies, but nearly all kids will benefit from having a quiet, organized space to work, think, read, draw, store valued work from school and, yes, do a little bit of homework from time to time. An orderly, well-supplied study space will become more important later on, but establishing it in kindergarten makes your little kid feel big and like she belongs in the world of big-kid school.

Don’t forget to take a picture! I often get so caught up in the first day of school frenzy that I forget to take a picture of the big event! This photo shows my son Elias saying goodbye on his second day of school, because I was so excited about getting him there on the first day that I completely forgot to take a picture. So take a moment to get your big kid’s first day on film (and hey, if it’s the second, close enough!).

Talk about it…but not too much. For us, the parents, our kids’ kindergarten debuts are thrilling milestone. And for many kids, it’s a pretty great day. But remember, many kids locally have at least a week left of summer vacation. As much as it’s important to take time to get ready, it’s also important to enjoy this time, to let your children sleep a little late if they are so inclined, to spend a lot of time outdoors, to do all the fun end-of-summer kid stuff that they can. For some kids, transitioning to a mostly-inside, fairly structured routine can be a bit of a challenge. So for now, talk about what’s coming, get ready, but also enjoy the last few weeks in ways that allow all of you to face the first day well-rested, happy, and confident that your child’s entry to kindergarten is the start of a great adventure of learning, making friends, getting to know a new place, and having fun.

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