If you are reading this my guess is that in a few weeks you have a little one headed into Pre-School, Kindergarten or Grade school. I bet your little one may be quite excited and I bet it is because of their new backpack and new school shoes! I can also bet that you are not quite as excited as your little soon-to-be-student.
What you may or may not know about me is that I am a French Immersion Teacher. I have spent three years teaching Grade 6, three years teaching Grade 1 and a year working in everything from Kindergarten in September to English 30 in June! Although my littles are not school aged yet, I think I have a few tips to help you newbies out.
1) YOU WILL BE OKAY!
Let’s face it! For the last 5 years you have given your child everything you possibly could in your fishbowl, and now your little fish is headed out into that great big sea! It’s a big deal! And it is scary! Mommy (or Daddy), you probably will shed a few tears, and that is normal! My guess is that you will shed a few more of those tears as the years go by! Change is never easy, but change is always good!
2) Do what works for you
Some parents give their child a kiss goodbye at the bus stop, others at the playground and others in the classroom. And well, some kids just won’t even want a kiss goodbye! If you do choose to come into your child’s classroom, my suggestion is to make it short and sweet, because the teacher is in the midst of trying to start her day with 20 little students who have never been to school before! Just picture trying to herd 20 labrador dogs into a big kennel! If your child is having a hard time separating from you, understand that this is very normal too. Reassure them that the day will go by quickly and that they will have lots of fun. Reiterate that you will see them at the end of the day at the school bus, or at the school as this will help them to feel a sense of security. If your child is getting emotional, I know how hard it will be for you to leave them, but just understand that they are in great hands and the early years teachers are well prepared to support these little students on their first day of school. Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers truly are experts and I admire them greatly!
3) Be prepared to accept whatever the year brings
Your child may excel from the first day of school through to Grade 12. However, this is not always the case. I can’t begin to imagine how hard that would be for a parent to hear that their child is struggling academically or behaviorally. If this is your case, I ask you one thing! Please understand you are not a failure! Everyone learns differently, and some learn easier than others.
When thinking about behaviour struggles, understand that how your child behaves at home, may not be the same way they behave in school. I have heard so many times “My child would NEVER do that!” I promise you, that we do not make up stories just to get a reaction out of you.
If your child is one that excels, challenge them at home! That could be simply by asking them a harder addition, or reading a more difficult book, or asking them deeper questions.
Just like any relationship, communication is key, so keep that communication line open and respectful with the teacher. They truly are your best ally.
4) Prepare your child
One fun way to prepare them, is to read back to school books prior to going to school. Check out my Pinterest board labelled Back To School for some great book choices! Talk about what they are most excited about and what they are nervous about! That way you may have a chance to talk them through some things they are nervous about.
5) Label EVERYTHING
I cannot tell you how many unlabeled clothes, shoe (Yes one shoe), shoes, hats, mitts end up on the lost and found table throughout the year and never get picked up again! Mabel’s Labels is something that is quite popular in the schools and works great! https://mabelslabels.com/ If you want to keep it simple, just put the last name into everything. Lunchbox, backpack, each shoe, each mitten. Trust me it is probably time consuming but it is so worth every minute of your time! When you are labeling shoes, label in the tongue, not on the bottom, as the bottoms wear out pretty quickly.
6) Encourage independence
Be sure your child is able to put on their shoes, zip up their coat, open the containers of their lunch kit. Of course there will be help if they can’t but what better way to build their self confidence! Shoe laces are not their friend in those first years of school.
7) Prepare a “Just In Case” bag
This is simply an extra set of clothes you can place in a Ziploc bag and put in their backpack . That way if any accidents happen of any sort, they can still feel comfortable and confident in their own clothes! Extra socks come in handy especially come spring.
8) Know the power of love notes
Through my years of teaching I have seen the cutest ways that parents show their children a little special love during the day. My favourite is little notes in the lunch kits, but I have also seen them written in agendas too. Sometimes it is in the form of a joke, riddle or simply saying “Hope you have a good day” or “Mommy loves you!” . I’ve seen them write little notes on Friday of all they have to look forward to that coming weekend. If you follow me on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.ca/willowandgrow/pins/ you can check out some cute ideas I have pinned.
9) READ! READ! READ!
In the early years, your child will most likely not come home with much homework. Take that opportunity to read with your child, and when they are able, get them to read with you! In grade 1 we always suggested 15 minutes of reading a day at home. Read a story, get your child to retell the story. Ask your child to read a story just based off of the pictures they see. There’s so much you can do with reading. Most importantly make it a fun time of day for your child. It is such a great one-on-one bonding moment because let’s be honest, after school can be a hectic time of day! With that being said, I suggest not to do it right after they get home. They have been mentally challenging themselves all day, so give them a little chance to unwind and relax that little brain of theirs! You may not know this but kids who love reading tend to become good writers! The two go hand in hand!
10) Create a lane of communication with your child from Day 1!
A child may not out right and tell you how much they love school, or something that bothered them in school. By going beyond the “How was your day today?” question, you can really get a feel for how things are going at school for your child. Beyond that, just showing interest in their day from the start, will create a lane of communication that may really come in handy a few years down the road! I have pinned an After School Questions Jar idea on Pinterest that you should check out!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST- Take pictures!
You will not believe how much your child changes in a year’s time! Make sure to get that first day of school picture in! I don’t mean to make you all teary, but before you know it you will be attending your child’s graduation!....by that I mean Kindergarten grad of course!
Check out these cute Chalkboard signs that you can use year after year!
And well Mamas (or Daddies) take a deep breath, drink a nice steaming hot coffee and if you ever feel overwhelmed I am only a message away!