Off To Kindergarten

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This is my personal favorite first day picture. If you know my child, that little hand is showing how nervous she is about her first day, and I’m surprised I took a picture with the tears on the verge of falling down my face. While my child is practically in middle school, a whole group of my friends are sending kids off to Kindergarten this year. I was trying to remember back and give them some helpful advice.

My first thought was to buy iron-on labels for your kid’s clothing and put them in anything your child might possible take off at school. After working lost and found last year, put your last name and cell phone number on the labels. Between after-school activities, church, sports, dance, lessons and visits to friend’s homes your cell phone number is your best bet to get your stuff back. Also, if you send in a bathrobe, teddy bear, water bottle or towel for a fun day, label that also.

My second suggestion was to bring your teacher treats. They don’t have to be expensive, but your teacher is trapped in their room year-round. When you come pick up your kiddo for a doctor’s appointment, bring your teacher a fountain drink from a local restaurant. I have brought in Arizona tea cans, 12-packs of Diet Coke, Sonic Slushes, coffee, sweet tea and other favorites over the years. Teachers really appreciate the treat. It is always a positive thing for your teacher to like you. I’m not saying to go over-the-top, but they do appreciate some attention. I also think you can give smaller gifts more often instead of doing nothing and bringing in a large Christmas or end of the year present.

The third thing is to buy nice school supplies. Don’t get the cheap store brand crayons. They don’t color well. The washable markers don’t wash out and cheap scissors are more frustrating than money saving. Crayola crayons and markers, Fiskers or Westcott are both nice scissors, Elmer’s school glue, Black Warrior,  Dixon or Ticonderoga pencils, pink pearl erasers – these are all good brands.

If you can afford to, buy extra school supplies when they are so cheap this time of year. You child will need extra crayons, markers and more glue sticks than you can imagine. Also, other parents don’t send in what they are supposed to or don’t replace things during the course of the year. Teachers end up spending their own money to make sure everyone has what they need. An extra $5 or $10 worth of supplies is very helpful.

Volunteering is the fourth suggestion. You work, you have other kids, you don’t like kids – I don’t care what your excuse is it is critical to go work at least once in your child’s class. Why? Because it is important to your child and because you can’t understand what goes on at school unless you are there. Coming from preschool, I was surprised that the teacher didn’t tell me if my child ate her lunch. I didn’t understand why she was able to get so dirty with supervision and why we hadn’t had any pictures of activities sent home. Whenever I asked the teacher how Monkey was doing, her answer was always fine or great, but never any specifics. Then I worked in the classroom. There was one of her and 21 students. She couldn’t be every where. Between tying shoes, wiping noses, answering questions and keeping the kids under control she was lucky to get through the day with her sanity intact. When parents help it allows her to do crazy things, like go to the bathroom for 3 minutes. It helps you gauge your child’s abilities compared to the other peers. Hey, it is still normal for you 8-year-old to have a melt down when they don’t get their own way. It gives you a chance to meet the other children in your class and know your child’s peers and friends. It also allows you to know your teacher better. This is always a good thing. When your teacher knows your child comes from a family that cares, is involved and is aware of what is going on, they are more likely to forgive a bad day or cut your child some slack if you forget to send in that permission slip. If you work, take an early lunch or use a few hours of vacation. Usually the volunteer shift is an hour or less. Try to get to know other parents in the class and see if there is a way to do a babysit swap or hire a babysitter to volunteer. I am not suggesting you have to volunteer every week or even more than once, but if you can go into their class and see things from their side it will help you the entire school career.

The fifth suggestion is to be on top of things.

Get your children to school on time. It is critical. You are teaching them life-long skills. Be aware that EVERYONE drops their kids off when it is pouring rain or really cold. Those mornings will take longer.

Check their backpack and folder and sign everything the night before. Every morning is crazy. You won’t remember. If your school offers hot lunches go ahead and put some money in their account even if you aren’t planning to have your child eat at school. There will be a day you forget their lunch, the lunch gets left on the bus or something else crazy happens. If you have money on the account your child can eat lunch without any focus or embarrassment. Kids don’t want anything that singles them out at school.

Check the school calendar. Sometimes things like Grandparents Day, Picture Day, Dr. Seuss Week, Spirit Day or other events are listed on the website before your teacher sends them home. Write them on your calendar.  The morning of picture day takes about thirty minutes longer to get ready minimum.

Have supplies on hand for projects. A few sheets of poster board thrown in the back of a closet might keep you from that late-night run to Walmart or Kroger.

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