Two weeks of Kindergarten in the books. A lot of family and friends have asked about how it’s going. So, I figured I’d share our short experience so far with public grade school and how it has worked out for our family.
Mornings. Have been going quite smoothly. We started reintroducing earlier bedtime and gently encouraging earlier mornings about two weeks before the start of school, which helped. By the second morning of school, both littles woke up by 7:15 on their own (and have woken up between 7 and 7:15 on their own since). I typically wake up before them, around 6:15, to allow time to tend to myself and get the house in order a bit. School starts at 8:30, which we are familiar with from our preschool days, so it hasn’t been much of an adjustment except for the extra amount of mornings per week we are out of the house that early. There have been a few darker, foggy mornings that have caused the kindergartner to ask if school was cancelled because it looked “spooky and haunted” outside. A detail I want to remember – Fall is coming!
Transportation. Well, we walk. Or bike (for a quicker commute). But, usually walk. If my husband is taking or bringing him to or from school, he usually bikes. I haven’t gotten used to riding with traffic while towing the double bike trailer. School is a straight shot down the street from our home; however, there are “bulb-outs” every few yards that cause some safety concerns for me while riding the bike with trailer in tow. The first week was perfect walking weather. Sunny, no rain, mid 70* temps with light breezes. This past week, the afternoon walk home mostly, has been a bit more brutal with the heat wave that has hit us. And it has rained a few times this week, which has intensified the humidity levels. This has been as much a new experience for me (I rode a bus to school), as it has been for him. I really cherish this time to talk to him about his day before we get home, in the door, and quickly distracted by other tasks. I’m not sure how I will feel about this arrangement the first time we have to walk to school in a thunderstorm/torrential downpour or in January and February, but now I really enjoy it and what it brings to our day.
Teacher Communication. Has been great! E-mail is her preferred method of contact, since they are required to check it numerous times a day, which has also convenient for me. We also have a parent-teacher communication folder that comes home with our child each day and goes back to school with him each morning. It’s where reminders, newsletters, sport/community flyers, book club orders, fundraiser info, worksheets, etc. come home in.
Curriculum, Lessons, Teaching Style. It’s really hard to get him to talk about what he did during the day…. in his classroom (I hear all about lunch, recess, and his expressive art of the day). So, this is still much of a mystery to me, except for what has been shared with us through the newsletter his teacher provides for the month. He came home this week with his first set of sight word flashcards to practice, so I’m curious about if that’s the approach they heavily rely on for introductory reading. Something I would like to ask his teacher more about.
Lunches. I pack his lunch. They were pretty vague in explaining their lunch system at orientation, instead directing most of their focus towards how to apply for free or discounted meals. So rather than attempt one more new thing in an already huge transition, I decided to pack his lunches for now. And it seems to be going well. He understands that he can buy lunch at school, but instead makes special requests of things he’d like to see in his packed lunch the following day. Most days, he eats the entire contents of his lunch. Finding a lunchbox and storage system that worked well for him was the biggest challenge. I loved the idea behind and inspiration provided by bento boxes to manage portion sizes and cut back on plastic bag use. I found this little set at Wal-Mart and, despite my first reservations (being plastic and lids that can easily be lost, left, or accidentally thrown away), has worked out really well for him (all pieces have made it back home). If packing lunches continues to be what he prefers, I may consider investing in a PlanetBox to cut my concerns of plastic (but it’s an investment, so I want to make sure the preference of packing holds first).
The youngest little. Misses her brother hard throughout the day. As much as they fought, they still did EVERYTHING side-by-side and she just didn’t know anything different. We have found a simple rhythm to our days that has helped us find balance between playing and accomplishing (household chores, cleaning, etc.). She also starts preschool (just two short periods each week) after Labor Day, which will do her a world of good in allowing her to develop some new friendships.
Afternoons. Are low-key. We purposely didn’t sign either of the littles up for anything extracurricular during after-school hours this Fall figuring the oldest one would be tired after his full days of school. This decision has also allowed us to sit down and eat dinner as a family at about the same time every day, which has been so nice for a change (following a full summer). We have been re-evaluating our budget and really watching where we spend our money (for a separate post), so eating out for convenience has been something that we wanted to cut back on – having our afternoons to spend together as a family without many other obligations has really facilitated these efforts. And no homework. The teacher explained to us at orientation that she understands what a long day Kindergarten is now, especially with the change in standards over the past few years, so she doesn’t give homework. Their minds need time to “rest,” as she put it – and I completely agree! She may send home an activity that can be done to extend upon something they are working on in the classroom, but it’s not required back. She simply asks that we read to our children every night, to continue building an enthusiasm for reading.
Evenings and Bedtime. Not much has changed, except now we read before bedtime as part of our routine. It sounds kind of bad to consider that reading wasn’t part of bedtime routine before, but it shouldn’t imply that we never read to our children. Most of the reading just usually took place earlier throughout our days and by the point bedtime rolled around, it was no longer something the littles retained interest or focus for. They were just…. ready for bed! But now that our afternoons follow a slower pace and allow for a bit of rest before dinner, reading has easily become a looked-forward to part of our bedtime routine that they enjoy sitting through. Only other change here is that most nights, we stagger bedtime (since, they share a bedroom). The youngest little gets a bit more rest during her day than the oldest little (the kindergartner), so I’ll lay her down and tuck her in AFTER he has fallen asleep for the night. I read the idea here, and am still not sure how I’ve never thought of this approach before. But it works great at preventing them from keeping each other awake, instead of falling asleep.
Overall, I’m really satisfied with where things are at. The encouragement from other caring adults, more chance to feel autonomous from Mom and Dad, and opportunity to flex his independence a bit more has been really exciting for my little guy and equally exciting (bittersweet, too) for me to observe.