Countdown to Kindergarten…Are You Ready?

IMG_0177_2So much anticipation surrounds a child’s first year of “real school” that I often wonder if our fears, expectations, and worries can get the best of us. Presently I sit at a very safe distance from that first day of kindergarten. With all four of my kids in either college, high school, or middle school, I can wake up on the first day of school with excitement for their new beginnings.

But here is what I wish I could have read before that very first day of “big kid school:”

First Week:

  • TalUnknownk about what to expect the first day and week with excitement and realism. “I’m so excited for you to start school. Now some days may seem long or they may seem like they go by fast. Some parts will be so fun and other parts might be a little boring or tricky. I can’t wait to hear about it when you get home. Your teacher is so excited to get to know you.” Visit the class before if possible.
  • Read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  • Some kids will miss you terribly and others will wave vigorously as they go off on their adventure. Both are “normal” and will figure out their new routine. YOU be confident in this transition time. Smile.
  • Be ready at the end of their day to welcome them home and let them lead how they want to decompress. Some like to talk while others like to relax alone. I’d try to avoid the TV/video game time that lingers beyond 30 minutes. Their time at home has been severely cut with school, so maximize these precious hours. Just doing NOTHING is what many kids need at the end of a long day away.

First Month:

  • Some kids are barely five and others are already six on that first day. The differences can be extreme. Let maturity do its work and don’t be tempted to make up the gap on your own. Use the time outside of school to nurture and connect rather than doing flashcards or coloring inside the lines.
  • If emotions or behavior are a little off this first month, give them grace. “It seems like you are having trouble with managing your frustrations at the end of a long day. I’m going to give you some space. I bet by next month you will feel and act more like yourself. If not, Dad and I will help you get back on track.” Better to be supportive and encouraging rather than piling on punishments and harshness after a tough day.
  • If you have heard from your child or the teacher that there was a problem at school, don’t freak out. Support the teacher to your child, “Sounds like it was not very easy for Mrs. Jones to teach today.” But also encourage your child, “Everyone makes mistakes. I know you’re upset about getting in trouble, but I know you’ll figure this out.” Don’t mentally forecast your child ending up in prison just because they “flipped a card” or “clipped down to yellow.” Adding consequences at home usually isn’t necessary until the problem lingers for months. Support the teacher’s consequences and wait.

First Year:

  • Kindergarten now focuses intensely on reading and math skills. Some kids simply aren’t ready for such abstract concepts until first grade. Our hurry up culture has caused kids and parents to feel “behind” even though they simply are waiting for maturity. Help your child not feel anxious about not reading etc. “You’ll get it, buddy, when you’re ready. Mom’s not worried about it!”
  • Let the teachers teach the school curriculum—you have your own things to teach. Usually this is the first time that many kids are with other kids their age for such a long time. Colorful vocabulary, aggressive play, social drama, and “cool” stuff begin to enter your home even if you have sheltered your child from every use of the words “crap,” “pissed,” and trashy TV show. (Watch for my next post on a parent’s curriculum for elementary school.)
  • Focus on your child as an individual. Talk to them about what things are easy for them and what things are more challenging. Talk about who they like to play with and why. Ask their favorite color, food, place, animal etc. Talk about favorite games and activities. Help them understand who they are so they won’t ever be tempted to chase the elusive culture of “cool.”
  • Encourage curiosity, imagination, organization, positive attitude, and effort. These are the building blocks. But don’t be tempted to freak over sporadic poor effort. They are figuring out how much time to spend on different activities. Wait patiently and encourage a strong work ethic…but don’t force it.
  • Being a student is a small part of who they are. Once the school years are in full swing, don’t forget it’s not all of them or even most of them. Don’t start the obsession about school performance. Ironically, by nurturing the whole child and not just the student part, being successful in school is simply what happens as a by-product.

IMG_0275I’m so excited about the new year that awaits each of you. Such an innocence and sweetness fills the hearts of these tiny students. Nurture that innocence. If we have filled them up with 5 or 6 years of who they are in Christ and who they are to us, then rest easy that school is simply a new opportunity that awaits them to learn and mature and grow.


Countdown to Kindergarten…Are You Ready?

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