The following is by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not-Ever-Still Life.
Are you and your precious baby about to embark on that journey known as formal education? Are you a little nervous? My sweet eldest starts 1st grade in two weeks, which means we’re kindergarten experts. She’s shy and anxious (and frankly I’m a little shy and anxious) and kindergarten is such a BIG change from everything that comes before it. But if we could do this, you can do this! Here’s my advice:
Envision the toughest parts: are they getting out of the car? Letting go of each other’s hands at the bus stop? Go stand on that corner of sidewalk and hold hands and let go a dozen times. Say fake-goodbyes. Role-play until you giggle.
Ask to visit your classroom. Walk the halls from the front door to class, and from class to the nearest bathroom. Take pictures when you’re there, and look at them from home. Imagine coloring at the blue table and sitting on the circle rug for morning meeting. Imagine what a school day looks like in that space.
Photo by Javier Sanchez
Make sure your child feels good on day one. Teach her to write her full name. Help him memorize his phone number. It doesn’t actually matter that she can or can’t do those things, but her proficiency will ease her nerves.
Rehearse different introductions, like “I have a dog named Noodle!” or “My older sister went to school here” or “I’m going to be a firefighter when I grow up.” Practice conversation starters for making new friends, like “I like your shoes!” or “I like carrots, too!”
Find a friend
My daughter’s guidance counselor gave us the names of two other girls in her class the week before school started so that we could have pre-kindergarten playdates. That way, on day one, not all the faces were unfamiliar.
Follow his cues
Does talking about kindergarten ease your son’s fears or make him more jittery? Help him pick out his clothes for the first day and let him wear them around the house. Buy school supplies together, and pack his backpack. Or don’t: quietly take care of those details so he doesn’t have to dwell on them. You know your kid best.
Keep calm and carry on
On the big day, you keep your nerves to yourself. Let your child shine. Let her be scared and excited and nervous and everything-all-at-once. But you radiate quiet encouragement. You can cry and text and Facebook with shaky hands after, and only after, you’re out of sight.
Photo by plaskota
Believe in happy endings
I hope your child has an effortless beginning. But just in case that’s not what happens, let me tell you about my sweet girl: she needed to be bodily removed from my car in the carpool line by her teacher for the first three weeks. She cried every morning for five weeks. And when June came and I asked her if she remembered when she was scared of kindergarten, she looked at me as if I had three heads. Such a thought was incomprehensible to her. She loved her school, she loved her teachers, and she made a dozen best friends. And she learned a lot, too.
Has the school year started yet where you live? What do you do to prepare your child for school? And if you homeschool like Kara, what have I left out that would help your family?