Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Preparing your child for Kindergarten from a rising 1st grader mom

Back to school time!

I know, it seems crazy early for most people around the country, but we go back at the beginning of August here in the South. Our last day of the school year was May 22nd, so we've had our fun and now we must prepare to return.

Amelia will be a first grader. She will move up the hallway in the school and she returns with excitement and confidence. She knows where the various rooms are within the school and she knows the routine. She will walk in like she owns the place. Amelia is anxiously awaiting meet and greet day so she can find out which teacher will be hers and which friends will be in her class once again.

Kindergarten was an amazing experience for us both. I cannot help but smile when I think about it - she grew up faster and learned more than I ever could have imagined. For those of you who may be facing the start of kindergarten, don't fret. I know it may be very difficult to leave your child at his/her first "big kid school", but just wait. The year will astound you. These kids learn so much more in kindergarten than we did, perhaps even in first grade!

(1) Establish a routine early. School can be a shock after a summer of lax schedules, later bedtimes, vacations, and fun events. Kindergarten is serious business. It begins on time (for us, much earlier than preschool) and the students get right to work immediately. The kindergarten day is busy; the students bounce from activity to activity rapidly throughout the day. It is good that way because at their ages, attention span only lasts so long. Establishing a morning routine will help to keep everyone in the family sane. Children thrive best on schedules. And when they have some serious schoolwork and learning ahead of them, it helps to begin their day the same way as much as possible. They know what to expect. Eventually, that routine becomes habit.

(2) Teach them to tie their shoes. The kindergarten teachers were so excited that Amelia could tie her shoes. In fact, she often helped other students to tie their shoes because the teachers had so many little feet pointed at them throughout the day. Around December this year, the teachers sent a note home asking parents to please teach their children how to tie their shoes. So get on that, moms and dads, you still have a few weeks of summer left! Your child will be proud to be a helper if he/she is one of the few that can help the other kids.
(3) Discuss what to expect. Obviously, each school and classroom will be a bit different, but for the most part, kindergarten is going to be a bit more serious than preschool, and likely a longer day. Your child will be expected to sit at a table and do school work and probably sit on a carpet and listen and participate in discussions. There will probably be a few quick and fun breaks during the day (Amelia's teacher had silly learning dance videos she would play when the children needed to get their wiggles out), but there will be a lot of listening and learning time too.  Your student will probably visit the school library and may watch a few special guests (like the safety cop or the special science person). They will probably walk with their class to the cafeteria, and they will need to know if they are bringing a lunchbox from home or going through the food line. Obviously, it's up to you to find out what the child's day will be like at your specific school, then have those discussions with your child. Keep it lighthearted - remember, they need to know that kindergarten is FUN.
(4) Work on sight words and beginning addition. These skills will become great building blocks for the kindergarten year. Many websites offer sight word lists, worksheets, and games. The same applies to beginning math. Find simple dice games or addition worksheets and use them as a playtime session this summer. Games like those available via Starfall are fantastic and often played in the schools. The more your child gets used to small words and numbers, the more they will be one step ahead and be able to move faster through the kindergarten curriculum.
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I am really looking forward to finding out more about the first grade year. My kindergartner went from a shy quiet kid at the start of last year to getting "difficulty controlling talking" on her report card at the end. But I am so proud of her for growing as a person, overcoming some of her shyness, and becoming a true leader. Yes, we are working on when it is OK to speak out and lead and when she should keep quiet. But knowing that she doesn't shrink back when addressed makes my heart proud. She is reading everything she can get her hands on, and her concepts of numbers and math are really improving. Her newfound love for science is contagious. We spend many nights looking up information to answer so many of her "whys".
Enjoy your kindergarten year if you have one coming up! It is a very special time for your child - and for you too.
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