The first day of school is looming ever nearer. For some kids, this is routine, and this is not the first time they are going back to school. They are looking forward to a new year, seeing old friends and meeting their teachers, taking that first swipe at a fresh spiral notebook with a new Nº 2. For the littlest, this is an entirely new experience. They have never been to school and there are so many things that are unknown.
I remember my first day of kindergarten... The school was so big, the faces new... I had no idea what to expect. How would I know for sure that the teachers wouldn't loose me? Would I remember my bus? Would my bus driver miss my stop or forget the way to my house? Would the other kids like me? It is funny, now as an adult, these things seem so silly, in fact, I have since visited my elementary school and it seems so small. But for the first-timers, the whole experience is scary.
I wanted to find out firsthand the ways we as parents can help our soon-to-be kindergartners prepare for school. I spoke with Maria Langowski who is the kindergarten teacher at Central Elementary School. She has been teaching for several years and had a lot of really great advice, not only about helping our 5 year olds feel secure in this new adventure, but ways we can help them be prepared academically.
-First off, its a really great idea to visit the school where your child will attend and meet their teacher. This helps little kids know not only WHERE they will attend school, but WHO will be filling the new role of educator/parent/friend when they are not with you. Then, talk about the experience. Where are the bathrooms? Who can you ask for help? Where's the lunchroom? What will the routine of the day look like?
-The next bit of advice she gave me was something I had never thought of. In the days leading up to school, announce the school schedule as you go through the day. Say, "Its 7:45! This is when your school day starts!" Or, "Do you know that at 10:30 you'll have gym class?" And finally, "Its 2:10, and I'll be waiting outside the front door of your school to pick you up."
-Drive the bus routes or walk the route to school several times.
-Ask the school secretary for a list of other children in your child's class. Set up a play date with another child so your kindergartner will see a familiar face on the first day of school.
-Our summer schedules are full of late nights and relaxed mornings, however, this isn't quite how the school year goes! If you haven't started going to bed earlier and getting back into a routine, do it now!
-Stress reading! Reading is such a vital part of school and is a basic academic building block. Maria suggests reading 15 minutes a day with your child and encouraging "pretend reading," where your child "reads" to you by making up stories from the pictures in the books. If you show that you are interested in reading, your child will see that it is important for him too.
-Work with them in name writing, if you haven't started already. Make sure only the first letter is capitalized!
-Think about life with math on the brain. I myself am not a fan of math, however, the most algebra illiterate such as myself will be able to count the number of blocks to the grocery store, the amount of trees in the front yard, or how many steps it takes to get from the Target entrance to the toy section!
-Children will need to become more independent over the first year of school so make sure they have good bathroom habits, can tie shoes, and zip zippers on their backpacks. Have them help out with setting the table, cooking dinner or making cookies, (Come to think of it, you just might use math in this situation too...) or help dad with yard work. All of this will promote independence and and sense of ownership.
-And last but not least, reassure kids that they will have fun! We have tried to stress this to our about-to-be kindergartner, but it didn't really sink in until his uncle told him that he had a BLAST in kindergarten. And that's all he's been talking about since!
If you need more tips, don't hesitate to talk to your child's teacher, or ask the school secretary if you can borrow a copy of their school-readiness video. It was produced by our very own school system, so there will be familiar faces and places on the video.