I can’t believe we are already halfway through Lucie’s kindergarten year. I wasn’t one of those moms who cried on the first day of Kindergarten. I felt more proud than sad as my independent (tiny) newly-minted Kindergartener proudly marched through the doors with her three-sizes-too-big backpack.
We did public Pre-K at the same school the year before, so I thought we already knew the ropes. Boy, was I wrong. Kindergarten isn’t the same ballgame. It isn’t the Kindergarten that most of us remember, with show & tell, plenty of playtime, and mid-day naps.
Nope. The pressure is already on for these children, barely out of their toddler years, to perform. There are more expectations on the part of the parents. And, with all of this, plenty of mom guilt.
If your school system is anything like ours, I offer you the following tips for when your kid starts Kindergarten.
- There will be standardized tests. This was an absolute shocker to me, as our first standardized test occurred mere weeks into school (what the heck is a Kindergartener supposed to know after 2 weeks of school?) At our school, the kids took the test on computers…using a mouse (what 5-year-old even knows what a mouse is anymore?) When I picked up my daughter the day she took the test, I could tell it had been a stressful day for her. At age 4, she could already feel the pressure.Next time, I’ll do a better job preparing her and emphasizing that the test is nothing to worry about. But can we all agree that standardized testing in Kindergarten is ridiculous?
- Homework begins. One of the many reasons I’m so glad I made the jump from full-time work to part-time, freelance work is that she now has homework. And at this age, they need a lot of help from their parents to complete it (obviously, since they can’t yet read the assignments.After a long day at school, it can be really difficult to get a rowdy 5-year-old to sit down and do even more work. I have found that if you review their school work with them (which is usually sent home in packets), give them lots of praise, and generally show that you’re paying attention to what they are doing and learning, they are more excited to sit down during homework time.
- Projects. A few weeks ago, my daughter came home with a “research project” assignment about bats. The projects have come every couple of weeks after that, while they are not difficult, it’s all hand-holding at this age.My philosophy is to let Lucie do as much of it herself as possible, and to come up with her own ideas. You can definitely tell when a crafty parent gets involved and takes over their kid’s project (thanks a lot, show-offs…). It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap when all their work is hanging on the classroom wall, but I just remind myself how much my daughter’s own unique personality shines through in her own crude (but cute) work and I feel we’re taking the right approach.
- Sight words. When your kid starts learning how to read, you realize just how jacked up and confusing the English language is to learn. The rules have so many exceptions. Some words can be sounded out, and some can’t. Enter sight words — these are the ones the kids are supposed to memorize (and there’s a long, long list of ‘em.) My child is seriously struggling with these.Some people use flash cards or apps. Her teacher said that repetition helps, along with using different mediums to keep it interesting (e.g, forming the sight words with Play-Doh). This hasn’t worked out so well for us. The only thing that seems to help the sight words “stick” for her are reading books that focus on a sight word in each story, repeating it several times (I recommend Bob’s Books.)
- There will be mean girls. Yep, this is already a thing. The other day, Lucie came home crying because one of her friends “told her secret to everyone” (I wasn’t able to extract what that secret was, BTW.) I’m still struggling with how to deal with this, as I know it will only get worse as the years go on. But to try to ensure that my kid doesn’t become one of the mean girls, we talk a lot about inclusivity in our casual on-the-way-home talks.
- You’ll be more privy to school district politics. Sometimes, it will make you angry, or make you feel helpless. For example, in our district, there is severe overcrowding, and it is a constant, contentious issue. To be honest, I’d never gotten involved in local politics whatsoever before Lucie started Kindergarten. Now, I email the school board on a pretty regular basis.
- Your calendar will fill up with birthday parties. Birthday parties are a great way to get some of your kid’s energy out on weekends and get to mingle with the other parents. It can also be a lot to juggle when you’ve already got a busy calendar. My spouse and I try to take turns, and so we don’t go broke on the gift buying, I stock up on gifts from 5 Below or look for deals on the Target Cartwheel app.
- Age differences can have big implications. With a birthday in late August, Lucie is one of the youngest in her class. In hindsight, I would have waited to put her in Pre-K, or kept her in Pre-K for another year. Kids in the class were turning 6 around the same time she was turning 5, and that year makes a big difference developmentally. It’s affected her confidence, and it could affect her ability to get into things like the gifted program, or, in our district, the all-important magnet program.But most importantly…
- You will be so proud of your kid. There’s absolutely nothing cooler than seeing your child’s creativity flourish. At this age, they can finally express themselves through art and writing. I’m pretty sure my kid’s head is full of rainbows and unicorns (which I’m going to take as a win), as most of her drawings contain lots of rainbows and hearts. But then there was the day she brought home a coloring page of a (male) “police officer,” where she gave it long hair and a pink uniform and declared it a female police officer.
And the day she brought home a drawing of a lion with the words “LIN” written underneath it was absolutely fascinating. This age (and grade) has its challenges, but I’m also convinced it’s one of the best.
What is the one thing you wish you would have known when your child started Kindergarten?