By Sharon M. Smith
It never occurred to us that kindergarten would be such a stressful time for our family. My husband and I remember kindergarten to be a time to play with our friends, have a short nap on the classroom floor, eat snacks, and learn our letters. We soon discovered that we were completely ill prepared for the requirements of full-time school, the over-tired child, the homework, our son's new discipline problems and how to handle the emotional stresses of childhood play. We started looking into how we could have prepared our child and our family for such a transition.
Expectations of Kindergartners Have Changed: "Most students begin kindergarten much different than you and I did many years ago," admits Mrs. La Cava, who has been teaching kindergarten for nine years at Bird Rock Elementary. The first year she taught kindergarten it was a half-day program, and she had an aid. With no real expectations of writing, she introduced a letter a week and taught every one at the same pace. Now it's full day, no aide, and no nap time. They write the first day of school, have ability based groups, and recognize that their writing can develop at the same pace as their reading.
Suggestions for families: To prepare your child for kindergarten, LaCava suggests families play games together and let their children learn how to win and lose in games. Teaching graceful response to both helps them to learn how to react to situations at school. In the process, they will also learn how to take risks, not to give up, and to keep a positive attitude. She also warns parents not to push their children. There is already so much going on academically, socially and emotionally.
Summertime Transition: Deanna, a stay-at-home mom whose children attend Sunset View Elementary, confessed that her youngest child started misbehaving at the end of the summer. One night as he was going to bed, he expressed his anxiety about going to kindergarten. He was scared of the unknown, being away from his mom all day, and that he wouldn't have time to play with his toys. He witnessed his older sister come home at four, work on her homework, have dinner and take a bath. Then the entire evening was gone. He wasn't looking forward to the change. When school started, our evenings were also hectic for us. I was rushing our son through homework, making dinner late and getting the kids to bed even later. The next morning we often would forget to bring his back pack and rush out the door, sometimes eating breakfast in the car. There was no routine and no sequences to our behavior.
Setting a Routine: Ron and Phyllis thought of patterns and setting a routine before their daughter started her first day of kindergarten at Child's Primary. Two weeks before school started, they made and implemented a schedule, posting it on their refrigerator where their daughter checked off the boxes after completing the task. The list included everything from getting dressed, preparing her backpack in the morning and washing hands to eating snack in the afternoon. The daily sequence helped to ease the transition and assisted the entire family in getting things done without stress and pressure.
The Beginning of the Rest of Their School Years: LaCava concludes that it is important that kindergartners have a good and positive year since that year will set the tone for many school years to come. Our son finished the last half of his school year excited to go to school and discovered freedom in reading. We also established a routine in our lives that made for a happier family. After our experience, we are now ready for our youngest son to start kindergarten this fall. He thinks he is ready too.