This is post is lovingly dedicated to all of you first time kinder mommies out there. The ones that didn’t ask a lot of questions and don’t hold a current or former background in elementary ed, like yours truly.
So you think you’re ready for kindergarten? So did I…
Full disclosure here. I’m a child of the early 80’s. My kindergarten was half day and consisted of drawing and playing with toys. Kindergarten was a place where you learned the ropes of public school. First grade was the place where the foundation laid in kinder was put to good work.
So, yes, it was a little naive of my 2016 self to assume that my daughter’s kindergarten experience would be remotely similar. She has a June 1st birthday, so we toggled back and forth on whether to send her. She did awesome in pre-school and received a great recommendation from her teachers, so we greenlit kinder last spring. Our misstep happened the summer prior to kindergarten. Rather than focusing on the areas that needed the most work, we enrolled her in a well-rounded summer camp program (assuming that would be enough).
Here’s what a I didn’t realize as we walked into the classroom last August:
Get connected sooner than later. You’re thinking, “It’s only March, there’s no rush to figure out all of this stuff out, right? WRONG. Communication to potential kindergarten parents is hard to come by, so it’s YOUR job to seek the information. Step 1: Find your child’s elementary Facebook page and follow it. Step 2: Call the school and find out when the Kindergarten round up is scheduled. Step 3: Do not miss the round up. Step 4: Order the supply kit at the round up. Take it from someone who didn’t, you will find yourself subjected to ordering 1000 pieces of manila paper on amazon because you can find the right pack size. Hot. mess.
Kindergartners are getting older. While it was customary 20 years ago for a boy with a summer birthday to stay in pre-k an extra year, it’s now very common (boys and girls) to attend a pre-kindergarten 4 or 5 day a week program after they have turned 5. Keep this in mind when you decide to send your child to kinder. My daughter (with a June 1st Birthday) is the youngest child in the class by 2 months. Aside from academics, social maturity also plays a big role in their experience – as many of the students turn six by early fall.
Independence is so important. While there are safeguards in place for kindergartners, your child is expected to walk to their classroom independently each day. They need to keep up with their work, their books, their lunch and so on. Oh, and try explaining tardies to a 5 year old fashionista. The school doors lock at 8:00 AM sharp girlfriend!
Kindergarten curriculum is not “play-based”. They have a jam-packed day of centers, specials, and subjects including reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Your child should be ready to pay attention and stay engaged from 8 AM to 3 PM with only a few breaks per day.
“Kindergarten is not PLAY time. There is no nap, there is no free play; Kindergarten is the new first grade. Our day is not spent cutting, coloring and doing crafts. Therefore, kids should hopefully come into kindergarten with basic cutting and gluing skills.” Collin County Kindergarten teacher
Letter sounds are very important. Sure, your child understand and can write the alphabet. But have they mastered their sounds? Learning to read is a combination of “whole language” tactics like sight words and good old, sound-it-out phonics. If your child hasn’t mastered their letter sounds within the first six weeks of school, they may find themselves behind the rest of the class. Soon after the first quarter, students will begin writing sentences and expected to identify on their own the beginning, middle and ending sounds of words. Another reason why knowing those letter sounds well in advance of starting kinder is worth the extra time drilling in the car.
Lowercase letters. Reading, sounding out words and writing requires a mastery of lowercase letters (insert “aha” moment for this non-teacher mom)! While my child had great uppercase writing going into kinder, she wasn’t very proficient with lowercase; resulting in more time to learn the differences so she could start sounding out words. Something we could have totally worked on the summer before.
“It is extremely helpful for kids to already know MOST of their capital and lowercase letters, as well as some of their sounds. They should know how to write their names, as well as form letters and numbers correctly. They should recognize some numbers and count to at least 10. By the end of the year, we expect our kids to read beyond simple, decodable text and write complete sentences.”–Collin County Kindergarten teacher
Enjoy your summer. Come late August, your life will consist of avoiding tardies, carpool lines, and homework. It gets real fast, friends, and I’m here to tell you that it’s been quite the transition at our house!
What did I miss? Would love to hear your own Kindergarten readiness tips in the comments!