5 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Kindergarten Mom

"Mom likes writing and a little math. Do you?"

My oldest son, G, has his last day of kindergarten tomorrow. I can’t believe the first year of public school is done.

I survived.

And, really, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, I only had to email the superintendent once. (And it had nothing to do with G.)

It wasn’t long ago that I lamented over having my little boy go to school. I always knew G was ready. It was me that was apprehensive. Now, I see my friends on Facebook go through the same transition I did. I can’t believe he’s going to be a kindergartner next year. Where did the time go?

As a working mom who’s also committed to being around after school, it’s been an experience. I’ve had to change my schedule several times. I’ve had to leave work early and get to work late.

While I’m not the school-aged mom pro just yet, I have learned a few things over the past school year.

  1. Advocate for your child when necessary. Step back when it’s not. I voiced my concern twice during G’s kindergarten reign. At the beginning of the year when I felt his bus stop was in an inappropriate place, and at the end of the year when I questioned the fairness of the way a program was being filled for next year. Both times, I presented my concern along with suggestions for a solution. For the most part, I was pleased with the result in both cases. I also learned a lot about how the school was run. I didn’t sweat the smaller stuff. As a rookie to this whole process, I didn’t want overstep my bounds too quickly. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let the school handle things.
  2. Don’t forget to talk to your child’s teacher every now and then. And I’m not talking about just showing up for the schedule parent – teacher conferences. Take some time and say hi to the teacher. It’s a great way to find out what details your child, especially if he’s a boy, is leaving out when you ask what he did all day. Though G’s daycare got him to school in the morning, I usually drove him to school on Fridays. Chatting with his teacher made me feel more connected to his kindergarten experience. It’s also fun to see him in his very own world that (gasp) doesn’t include mom or dad!
  3. Listen to the pros who have already gone through it. While starting kindergarten was easy for G, it took me a while to figure everything out. There are a lot of rules in school for kids and for parents. Navigating through the processes of changing a bus schedule or getting your child excused from school can be confusing at first. I know I called way too many people to set up G’s drop off and pick up schedule the first two weeks of school. Talk to the moms with older children. They’ll tell you exactly what to do and who to talk to.
  4. Look at all the papers your child takes home. In kindergarten, there seems to be an endless amount of papers, artwork and notices that come home with your child. While it feels overwhelming from day to day, be sure to peruse the contents of his folder each day. Inevitably, you’ll miss some sort of deadline or event detail if you don’t pay attention. G and I spent some time at the end of each week to go through all his papers. He would tell me about the worksheets, explain his artwork, read his writings, etc. It was a great way to keep up with his progress and hear about his favorite parts of school.
  5. Commemorate the year when it’s all done. I’m told by friends who have older kids that the “stuff” that comes home from kindergarten lessens and starts to be replaced by more serious work as they get older. They tell me to cherish those papers. Makes sense. When you think about it, what other year can you witness such an amazing amount of learning? I have a huge stack of papers and artwork that I’ve been stowing away in the closet. I plan to go through it with G and pick out our favorites. Then, make them into a hardcover book. I can’t wait to look over how much he’s grown in such a short amount of time, from his first worksheets practicing letters to his little stories with big words written phonetically.

G did amazing this year, which is no surprise to me. He excelled in just about everything and make lots of new friends. His teacher even let him have a little “office” in his classroom where he could go to do extra writing. (You have know idea how excited I was to hear about his love for writing.)

He had such a great year, he doesn’t want it to end. After tomorrow, he’ll have earned a grade with an actual number.

And this mom will have a whole new set of lessons to learn.

 

Competitive kids: it’s okay to win.

The big competition in my house right now involves brushing teeth at night. My 5-year-old, G, and 2-year-old, Biz, run up the stairs yelling “I teeth!” (The expression came from Biz, and it stuck.) Both want to reach the sink first in order to start putting toothpaste on their respective brushes. My dentist would be proud.

Of course, their rush to the sink has nothing to do with proper dental hygiene. They just want to win the fight. Rather than discourage the competition, my husband and I go along with it. (Why discourage teeth brushing, right?) Whoever calls “I teeth” first gets the privilege of brushing before the other. So far, they pretty much go back and forth each night. While there may be some whining from the loser of the “I teeth” battle, they understand that they’re not going to win it every night. And if they can’t play the game nice, they don’t get to play it at all.

Sometimes I think we’re in the minority, but my husband and I believe that a little competition is good for kids. We’re both competitive and have achieved a decent amount of success in our lives because of it. I have to admit, I cringed when I heard G talking about races they have in gym where everyone wins.

I understand that you don’t want to put too much emphasis on winning in kindergarten, but you don’t have to discourage it either.

When I asked Gavin who was finishing the races before the others, he told me there was a girl in his class that kept winning. He sounded discouraged when he told me. I pointed out that maybe she has had more practice doing those type of races, or maybe she was just naturally fast. Maybe, if he practiced more, he could be just as fast. He was fine with that. He just didn’t like that she was bragging about her wins to her classmates.

This is why I think it’s so important to communicate with your child about these things. Dig a little deeper. I was trying to make the point that winning is okay. In fact, it’s feels pretty good when you win. However, it’s important that you be a good sport when you win. It’s also important to know that you’re not always going to win. No one is perfect. He noted that he didn’t feel good when his friend bragged about winning. My husband and I are quick to point out when he goes too far when he wins, like when he beats me at a video game. How would you feel if someone treated you that way?

It’s an ongoing lesson, but I think it’s important. We can’t shelter our kids from disappointment forever. While the coaches didn’t keep score during the kindergarten soccer games this past fall, the kids did. They knew exactly which team had more goals. Sometimes G was on the winning end, and sometimes his team barely scored a goal. Either way, we always talked to G about the positive things his team accomplished in the game, despite the win or loss. Maybe they showed good teamwork, passed the ball more or showed improvement since the previous week. I could see G’s competitive juices flow, and I wanted to encourage him. By the end, he could see how good teamwork helped his team score more and how more practice made him a better player. If you ask him now, he doesn’t remember how many games were won or lost. He’s just looking forward to next fall when he can play again.

Win or lose.

Not So Traumatic Kindergarten Transitions

My oldest son, G, started kindergarten this week. I fully expected it to be a traumatic experience for both me and him.

It was not. In fact, it feels like just another week.

At barely five years old (he turned five mid-July), this child continues to amaze me. I keep waiting for the event that’s going to really throw him for a loop. It hasn’t come yet.

G was an early talker and was fully potty trained by two and a half. (I mean really potty trained. No transitional night time diapers or anything.) When he decided to ride a bike without training wheels this summer, he got on the bike and never looked back. In nursery school, he would call the teacher out if she said anything incorrect.

The key to G is talking and prepping. While I was pregnant, my husband and I agreed to never use baby talk. It’s just not our style. So, from the beginning, I’ve always talked to G. I tell him what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, what’s going on around us, what’s about to happen, etc. And, we talk every night before he goes to bed about how our days went and what’s happening tomorrow.

For the big transitions, as long as I tell him what’s going on and what’s coming up, he knows what he needs to do. (The one hiccup I made was in his first year of preschool and I forgot to tell him about picture day. He freaked out a bit, and the teacher told me he wasn’t good with change. Fast-forward a year, and she told me he was taking over the class from the teacher. Go figure.)

Kids are human beings, and a lot smarter than we give them credit for. While I freaked out a few times this summer trying to figure out how to navigate the whole kindergarten thing, I never let G see this. We talked about how fun it would be and how his schedule would change. He was so excited this week, he’s been up around 5:30am every morning. He had a ball riding the bus with me and my husband on the first “mini” day with parents. And on his first day (without parents) when he had to wait for the bus to loop around the block because the bus driver didn’t see his daycare provider who was there to pick him up, he wasn’t phased one bit.

G’s one complaint so far? Having to sit at a table to wait for his bus number to be called at the end of the day. Apparently, that’s too boring for him. I’m thinking this will change once he goes to a full day next week. Hopefully he’ll be more tired after a full day, and the table sitting won’t be as annoying.

Now I have to transition into leaving work on time so I can be at the bus stop for G in the afternoon. I’m thinking I can handle it, with a little prepping from G.

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