It’s true, kindergarten isn’t the way you may remember it. Academically, kindergarten is the new first grade. However, the main goals remain: to promote a lifelong love of learning and develop well-rounded individuals.
After six years of meeting new kindergarteners and their parents, I thought I’d share some of the things that will help parents survive the first day—and the first year—of school:
- On the first day of school, be strong. Show that you’re comfortable with your child starting school, and he’ll feel more at ease. Don’t linger in the classroom. Give him a quick hug and kiss at the door and allow the teacher to show him to his seat and get started on the first activity. Even if your child is crying, the teacher is prepared to deal with first-day jitters and your child will calm down and adjust better the sooner you leave.
- If you have questions or concerns you’d like to discuss with the teacher, the first morning of school during the craziness of kindergarten drop-off is not the time to address them. Instead, write a note or email, or leave a phone message with a time you would like to meet with her.
- Children come to kindergarten at many different levels, so don’t worry if your child hasn’t mastered all his letters and sounds, or counting to 30. Those skills will be practiced and mastered throughout the school year. You can help by continuing to reinforce them at home.
- Read ALL the notes, newsletters and flyers that are sent home. Your child’s teacher puts a lot of time into preparing them and they will answer many of your questions.
- If your child is having difficulty with another child in the class, talk it over with the teacher before confronting the other parent. The teacher knows both children and understands their classroom dynamic and may have a solution to try first.
- If possible, volunteer at the school or in the classroom. If your schedule doesn’t permit that, ask the teacher if there’s anything you can do at home to help her out. Parents have helped me with anything from creating a new bulletin board to painting background scenes for an upcoming play.
- Attend at least one field trip throughout the year and any other special school events whenever you can. When you're involved at school, you're showing your child and his teacher that you are invested in your child’s education and that it is truly important to you.
- Teach your child to be responsible for his own things, including homework and lunch money. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear, “My mom forgot to put my homework in my backpack.” The earlier children learn responsibility for themselves, the better.
- Come to conferences with questions you've written down ahead of time. If the teacher has specific concerns, ask for suggestions of things you can do at home to help your child with problem areas—she may already be prepared to give you some take-home materials or ideas.
- Don’t fret about grades in kindergarten. Use grades and evaluations as guides for feedback on which areas to work on at home. But don't let them stress you out!
Finally, use the last couple of weeks before school starts to help your child get prepared. Change your child’s schedule so it reflects that of a typical kindergarten school day: wake up earlier, and eat lunch at the same your child’s class will. Schedule 30 minutes of quiet afternoon time for your child to “read” books quietly.
Read books about kindergarten and talk about your child’s fears or excitement. I suggest The Kissing Hand, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, The Night Before Kindergarten, and Welcome to Kindergarten.
Most children do very well with the adjustment to kindergarten. Approach the year with enthusiasm and excitement and your child is likely to follow your lead. It won’t be long before you realize the transition to kindergarten is as easy as ABC and 1, 2, 3!