Back to school

Some of your kids have already gone back to school (too early!), but most of us have another week or three before the kids go back.

I thought we could talk about being prepared, what to expect, and what to watch out for.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for, when my older son switched from preschool to Kindergarten, was feeling like we were just cogs in a machine. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to go from a place where the teachers knew and cared about him to a place where the teacher really just needed him to sit down and be quiet for the first month. And it wasn’t the teacher’s fault, but there are just too many kids per teacher so they can’t care about each individual kid’s inner thoughts right away.

I would hold off on buying new school clothes until you see what the other kids are wearing. It’s horrible to be excited about new clothes and then realized they’re not what’s cool at your school.

Try to work within school rules for communication as much as possible, and remember that for the most part it’s OK if your kid doesn’t get special treatment. But if something’s wrong, advocate for your child. I will forever regret those days I told my son he had to “just go in” to a teacher who was mean and scapegoated kids, because I’d mentioned it to the Assistant Principal and thought administration would be on top of it.

By the same token, if you have a great teacher, realize it. My son’s teacher last year was amazing (different school) and I still tear up thinking of all the little things she did to honor who he is. I did what I could to thank her without becoming a sycophant, ’cause that’s just creepy.

What questions/issues/advice/wisdom do you have? Things you’re glad you did? Wish you’d done differently?

0 thoughts on “Back to school”

  1. How do you know what happens in the class room? And how do you know what the kid tells you is what’s really going on? I just don’t have a feel for this. My oldest is just now in Pre-K and I get to spend quite a bit of time in there with the teachers and other kids. If I just based my opinions of school on what the kid said, well, I have no idea what I’d think. My one concern with Pre-K is the quality of the communication I receive. Once kindergarten starts, I am nervous.Here’s the deal…I will never drop-off or pick-up my child from Kindergarten. I will rarely see the teacher (open-house and conferences, I would guess). Do they send notes home (daily, weekly)? How do parents know what to do when? When are there forms to fill out and things to bring back to school? How do you know what you need to do? I remember how things were when I was in school, but something tells me times have changed.

  2. I totally understand your anxieties SarcastiCarrie. My advise as a teacher (of Middle school – not early years) is to take communication with teachers into your own hands and not wait for them to call you. As Moxie said, there are just too many kids in a classroom these days.Secondly with more and more kids who need extra attention due to learning disabilities or other more apparent issues your child may go unnoticed for some time. If you contact the teacher it will put your child into the forefront of his or her mind.
    Further to that, please try to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know how many times last year I had to deal with parents who took their child’s word as gospel and did not even ask me what was going on or what had happened in the classroom. There are always two sides to a story so please take that into account. Most teachers are doing the best they can with what they are given. Having said that, as a parent I do believe in what Moxie said that you have to be an advocate for your child. Especially when they are so young.
    I suppose it is a fine balance. Best of luck. I am still several years away from starting E in school – she only just turned 2. (and slept through the night in her big girl bed for the first time last night!! First time in the bed, first time she’s slept through the night in I don’t know how long!!!)

  3. @sarcasticarrie – there will most likely be a homeroom mom who will gather an email list and contact all the parents re things like teacher appreciation week, holiday gifts, volunteering to help out, etc. A’s teachers have been available by email. They do send notes home but typically those are for behavior problems – so if you want to know more day to day, you’ll have to initiate the communication with the teacher – at least that’s been our experience so far in public elementary school grades k-2. He starts 3rd grade this year. School supply lists for each grade are on the school’s website (kleenex and hand soap and copy paper are not things I remember taking to school with me so yeah some things have changed). He wears a uniform so shopping for school clothes is pretty basic and boring.

  4. yay for e the big girl!i’ll be reading avidly today – jameson starts montessori preschool next week. something nice they do (and maybe everyone does, i have no way of knowing!) is have only an hour of ‘class’ instead of 3 hours for the first few weeks and expect a parent or parental-type person to stay with the child. obviously it’s not a good plan for folks who work jobs with traditional hours, but they wouldn’t be likely to choose a 3 hour a day preschool, i guess.

  5. SarcastiCarrie, Eldest was in a pre-school run by the school district this past year (so I feel I have some experience with the system) and what we found was notes and communication (and there was A LOT of communication) always came home in the backpack. I made a point, first thing, of taking everything out of her backpack when we got home.*If at all possible* I would highly recommend volunteering, if only once or twice, in the classroom. This will give you a clear idea of what’s going on. You’ll also get to know the kids, which is priceless. And the teacher will get to know *you*.
    Moxie, great advice about the clothes. Seriously—I wouldn’t have thought of that.
    I think a bigger thing is adjusting to the fact that your child (our child, too!) will just be one of many. It’s shocking but true. (lol) I think it’s key to consider the teacher a partner and an ally, and work with them accordingly.

  6. We’re starting Kindergarten this year. SarcastiCarrie, if your kid will be going to public kindergarten, I recommend going on-line. Our elementary school had a very limited web page, with no useful information except the phone number and contact for the school.I called, registered over the phone, and got some basic information about 1) when we would receive form/registration packets, 2) when the kindergarten orientation would be, and 3)the deal with registering for before and after care which, at our school needs to be done well in advance. So, calling the school was useful.
    I am going to try to go to the Back to School Night and talk to the teacher about how I can best be informed and stay involved.
    Also, even though I know there are two sides to every story and that 5 year olds are not exactly reliable witnesses, I do think I’ll be able to tell by DD’s mood and actions whether there are ongoing problems that I need to address. Also, DD is much more communicative at 5.5 than she was a year ago, and I am hoping this will continue to improve. At least until her tween years where she will become embarassed to be seen with me. 🙂
    One of the neighborhood moms with kids who are in the second and fourth grade said that the one piece of advice she had for me was to be aware that your kid will likely be extra tired and wiped out for the first week or two of kindergarten (full-day, in our area) because they get substantially less down-time than they do in pre-school.

  7. @ rudyinparis – Yes, the folder home is invaluable. I forgot. How quickly the summer blurs the memory. 🙂 The PTA sends out a weekly flyer with all kinds of information, fund raisers, news about the school, etc. And of course classwork comes home that way and when they get older homework, too.

  8. I’ll be reading advice avidly today. L, my oldest, starts kindergarten in a month. She seems moderately excited, and I am scared shitless 9but trying not to show it. Pre-K was a trying time for us, what with the evaluations and the therapists and the mean-ass kids (why are kids such jackasses? why?) – even with the most supportive, inclusive and “on-it” preschool in town. I’m a bit terrified of sending her to a big classroom at elementary school. I really hope that I’m vastly underestimating her resilience and ability to either fit in or defend herself.Plus, we won’t even know what school she’s attending until the 4th week of August. We’re trying to open enroll because our home school is know for being good with very typical kids or for kids with easily definable issues. Since we don’t have either (she has an IEP for social language and sensory issues, but is not on the autism spectrum to our knowledge, eval. pending) things might get a little hairy there. They also tend to see her type of issue as a problem that must be corrected instead of a personality characteristic for which adaptations should be taught. So we’re trying to get her in someplace else. Which is a crapshoot.
    Ok, kindergarten makes my head want to explode. send wine, please!
    (the funny thing is that my younger will be starting preschool for the first time – he’s 2.5 – and I’m not even remotely concerned about him. he’s a child who, when another kid says “I hate you!” just smiles and says “you LUB me,” which 9 times out 10 then makes the other kid back down and say, “yeah, ok, I don’t hate you” – he’s going to be hell on girls in bars some day)

  9. My son was in kindergarten this past year and I had a newborn right before he started. Consequently, I wasn’t able to be involved and didn’t get to know many parents. His teacher also went on maternity leave half way through. So this year now my youngest is one year, I am making sure I can volunteer every other week. I hated not knowing the way things are run in the school, not knowing if my son’s behavior was typical, and just not knowing many other parents. So I second the volunteer recommendation.Also, when issues did come up we got notes home. We also talked on the phone when needed. The teacher was always especially pleased to talk to us and hear that we supported her efforts to help our child. I recommend if you can’t get to the school at least call once in a while.

  10. @sueinithaca – keep fighting for adaptations! You are dead on when you say that it is not a “problem” – it is just who she is. Don’t be afraid to demand what is best for her.The system is slowly changing, hopefully your daughter will get well educated and eager teachers to adapt programs for her, rather than try to get her to learn the way they teach.

  11. I just want to send some public love out to Julie (Crowded Tub Julie, as I think of her) for her help last year with my introverted kid who got an over-the-top, exuberantly extroverted kindergarten teacher.Eventually, we all lived happily ever after, guided by her wise counsel. And everyone else’s too. But above all, Julie.

  12. If your school sells items of clothing with the school logo or name or colors on it, buy a few. They go a long way towards making your kid feel part of things.

  13. Slim, that is really, really nice of you to thank Julie like that! I think I remember that conversation happening here. I’m so glad to hear things worked out.

  14. My boys will start up part-time preschool in a couple of weeks (they are 4 1/2). We’ve had a nanny since they were little so I won’t experience the separate anxiety type feelings but I think what I am most concerned about (and kind of excited about at the same time) is how the boys will no longer be in their little cocoon of sorts. They’ve taken classes, but most they’ve been in since they were little so all the kids have accepted each other really well as a result.We’ve been more concerned with letting the boys be kids and not trying to rush them along so there are still times when we dress them, they still wear diapers for naps and bedtime, we let them paint their nails, etc. I just dread if they start getting picked on for seeming younger than the others or different, etc.

  15. I sent a K and 3rd grader off for the first day today, so this is great. My advice to others is to get all the information that you can immediately. If you’re not home, try to talk to your child before s/he gets busy with activities or homework. The events of the day will be fresher. Also, ask difficult questions that don’t get a yes/no/uh answer: “Who did you sit by at lunch?” (what did they talk about? who are his friends?) “What did you see that was silly today?” (is he having fun?) “Did anyone have bad behavior today?” (anything you should be watching out for?) “What will your class be doing tomorrow?” (anything I need to sign and return?).I start every morning by telling my boys to “Have fun, be good, and learn something!” and I use that at the end of the day to see if they can give me one thing in each of those categories that they did. I’m digging for stories that get them excited because that’s how I’ll learn about their days without me around.
    Now, Moxie, how about advice for the mom with the just-emptied nest who is feeling sad and lonely today?!

  16. I have to ditto the pointed questions routine. We’ve kind of slacked during the summer, but we always ask the boys pointed/detailed questions about their day to get a peek into their school day. and they always have to tell us one “best” thing about their day too.WHY do schools start so much earlier in the south?! In chicago (private school) ive got a first grader who starts Sept 2nd, and a preschooler Sept 8th. camp ends this week (6 year old already has)

  17. Mouse starts kindergarten in 2 weeks (unless we get into the private school we’ve been waitlisting, in which case it would be 4 weeks)…I’m pretty stoked–she is definitely getting bored, not with her preschool program but with not having older kids around. I know there’s going to be a transition and likely a different kind of boredom (no daily city field trips at any kindergarten we could find, alas) but she is ready to rock some academics and I am looking forward to having teachers who really know what they’re doing on that front, to help fill her appetite.I’m feeling a little empty of information–the school doesn’t send out the class assignments/afterschool program info/etc until one week before, which is a little out of sync with my planning-oriented self, but I’m trying to just ride along.
    (Ha, that sounds full of confidence–stay tuned for inevitable freakout later.)

  18. OK, I’m going to phrase this in such a way that I really hope I don’t (deserve to get) flamed. Bad opening, eh?CALM DOWN, FOLKS! Generally speaking: the teachers are professionals, they will communicate, you kids will be fine.
    I agree that the transition from preschool to K is tough since the level of communication with the teacher(s) goes from lots to basically none so fast. And, of course, you’re kid will come home and tell you nothing about what happened that day. But it’s okay. You’ll get to volunteer, the teacher will email, you’ll go to BTS nights, etc.
    Serenity now! We don’t need any more millenials running around who can’t function without mommy and daddy’s help.
    p.s. My son’s school has the ‘communication folder’ thing going and it rocks.

  19. @obabe – GA schools are started so we can get our 180 days of school in with the midpoint falling at the winter holidays. Personally, growing up in the midwest, I hated having projects and reports to do over xmas break, then exams in January. Kids here are done by then, so I put up with the schedule even tho mine are too young for it to matter yet. Plus, what else is there to do in this heat? Save vacation time for when the weather is nice!

  20. @anonfortoday, while I totally agree there’s no point in panicking in advance and generally things go fine – it doesn’t always, and I object to the idea that advocating for your child when she is 5 will lead to “more millenials running around who can’t function without mommy and daddy’s help.”5 is not, IMO the time to throw them to the wolves in the name of independance. There’s plenty of time to ease them into it.

  21. As a former elementary-school teacher (second grade), I want to share the philosophy I used with the parents of my students. I will believe 50% of what your child tells me about home if you believe 50% of what your child tells you about school. That said, I invited them to call or e-mail me with any questions or concerns about what their child was experiencing academically or socially in my classroom. It was my responsibility to ensure that every student learned and to ensure that every student felt included in our classroom community as well as our school community.Your child may come home and say things about his/her teacher or other students that upset you. Please PLEASE check in with your child’s teacher to find out more details before demanding to see the principal or the head of the preschool. Kids often talk about an incident and neglect to mention the resolution that took place afterward. It’s hard to be objective, because we love them so much. (My 2 1/2-year-old daughter is starting a two-day-a-week preschool with an emphasis on play and socialization next month, and I’m mainly excited that she will make new friends and have new experiences; but I’m also nervous that I won’t know everything that happened to her each day.)
    Sorry for the ramble. I guess my point is that you know your kid, but you also need to trust the teachers and ask questions. If you feel something isn’t right speak up.

  22. A little story about kids and teachers and personality conflicts. A had an older, established kindegarten teacher who was excellent but also no nonsense. By the end of the year he couldn’t wait to get out of there and away from “mean Ms. so and so”. After he gets comfy in first grade he starts going by his former kindergarten teacher’s classroom in the mornings and she let him “help” with the younger kids before class started and he loved her again. Same thing by the end of the year. His first grade techer was now mean Ms. so and so and he couldn’t wait to get out of there. Whose after school lego clinic does he sign up for? His former first grade teacher who became his new favorite person in the world.

  23. Help me here…how do you call an elementary school teacher? Aren’t they in class with the kids during the day?(My parents were way (possibly too) hands-off when I was a kid, so really, I have no idea.)

  24. Slim, you have made my day!!! Thank you so much. And also thanks for reminding me I need to update my credit card info with typepad so I can start blogging again. Lazy. And maybe a little cheap too.I’m glad I could help you. Big hugs to you and to all of you out there with kindergarten anxiety. To say it’s totally normal is not helpful in the least…..but it’s totally normal. It does not make you a helicopter mom. Just a mom (or dad) who wants the best kindergarten experience for your child.
    Sarcasticarrie – many schools have loose recommendations about how teachers should communicate with parents, and how often. Ask if your school has a communication policy. At my school it’s expected that we send some kind of communication home once a week – either via email, newsletter or blog. Just to give parents an idea of what happened during the past week, what’s coming up the next week, and also many newsletters have individual information about missed assignments, completed classwork, etc. for the older kids. Ask the office, or if you know some parents whose kids already attend, ask them what the norm is. Many teachers do a newsletter as a way to head off concerns that parents might have that occur when not enough information is coming home.
    Email is my preferred way for parents to communicate with me, because it allows me to gather my thoughts before responding, it allows me to respond more quickly (can’t talk on the phone during the school day, really, but can email during silent reading no problem), and it’s a way for me to document parent communication and what exactly was said by both parties. Ask your child’s teacher what his/her preferred method of communication is, then use it! I much prefer the parents who are visible and asking lots of questions than the ones who are invisible and never around – mostly because I am wondering what they are thinking and feeling and them BAM they have a problem that’s been stewing for a while that could have been solved with a simple question ages ago.
    Good luck to all and happy back to school!

  25. @SarcastiCarrie – our teachers have individual phone numbers that go to their classroom/voicemail. However, in the monkey’s high school the teachers mostly all prefer email.La was in kindergarten last year – there was a chart that went back and forth in the take home/homework folder with a blue/green/yellow/red/orange system for how your child’s day went and a space for comments/questions. Also, the teacher put out a monthly newsletter and the school put out a monthly newsletter.

  26. We are STILL torn about homeschooling vs public school. PS is a very sweet, small little country school, and if there is any ps that is a good fit for my little guy, this is it. And I could see him loving it, loving the friendships. So we are leaning toward trying it.But I can also see him being bored and losing his love of learning–he’s ahead but not dramatically ahead (reading sentences, adding, subtracting). And I worry about him being lost in the shuffle. And I know that the social time is useful and all, but I am hesitant to send him if he’s not learning much, when I know he would be happy and learning lots at his level and playing with friends some too if i school him at home.
    (And I know I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have this as a choice, to be home and have support.)
    What’s realistic to expect as far as learning in kindergarten??? What kind of attention can I expect him to get? 30 kids, some ESL, one teacher.

  27. There are 30 kids in a kindergarten? Now, you do have me scared. Everything else was just logistical.I did visit our local elementary school website last week so I could get some ideas. It had the school’s report card (as judged by the state and standardized testing). It had the school phone number, school hours, residency info, and pretty much nothing else that would actually be useful. Although I found the school hours interesting (9:00-3:30 with no info on kindergarten hours, full versus half-day, etc).
    This is something I’ve been stewing for a while….my parents were uninvolved in my life to an extent which I don’t think now, as an adult, was normal. I guess I didn’t realize it at the time because I figured everyone’s family was the same. So, I am trying to figure out how much parental involvement is good, healthy, helpful, etc. I almost need someone next to me saying, “Know more, ask more, you have a duty to know that, nope that’s too much.” Right now, I would say I am very middle-of-the-road in terms of contact with the Pre-K teachers. I would like more communication from them (and I’d like it spelled correctly), but I am not pushing too hard. I only call during “naptime” once a month or so, when I have a specific question. I ask the pointed questions of my kid like what did you eat for lunch and who sat where, did you paint or use crayons, but I save my teacher questions for drop-off/pick-up.

  28. @SarcastiCarrie: here in GA we have a limit of 20 kindergarteners, and they attend full days. 30 might work if there are two or more adults in the room. Just call the school and ask for a tour/visit before summer ends for you. They’re used to nervous parents of the little ones. They have a First Day of School every year.Our teachers have a daily behavior/comment paper that goes home to be initialed daily. There is room there for a quick note. On our visitation date, the teacher gave us her email and said it was her preferred method of communication. Any notes or money going to school are attached to the exterior of the bookbags. He came home today with a nametag on which read, in addition to his name, his method of lunch (buy/box) and his pickup method (car/daycare/bus/walk).She’s got it all organized and ready to go, and she’s only been teaching 3 years.
    I can’t tell you not to worry, but I hope you can alleviate your anxiety before the first day. I was anxious today, but it wasn’t that my child would be lost or anything. I worried about…hm… what I’d do without him.

  29. @SarcastiCarrie- I just have to say that I think I’m going to be just like you when our turn comes (in about 3 years).Don’t feel bad about worrying/planning! I think its OK for these transitions to be hard on the parents. And if you’re a planner by nature, how could you not want to plan for this event?
    I’ve already experienced several little meltdowns associated with day care milestones and the decrease in detail on the daily reports as Pumpkin moves up through the rooms. Hubby teases me about how they are weaning me of my daily reports in preparation for school. He may be right.

  30. My daughter was in second grade last year, and we had some problems with her teacher. For example, the teacher gave candy to kids for getting 100% on spelling tests. I don’t agree with using candy as a reward in general, plus we ended up spending a disportionate amount of time on studying spelling because it was so humilating not to get candy week after week. And, still my daughter only got candy once. The teacher kept students in from recess, P.E. and art to finish work. So much for picking a school with specialists. The teacher told my daughter that if she didn’t get better at math she’d have to repeat second grade, and she told her this in October, which is pretty early to be making those threats (she caught up fine). We took all of these reports with a grain of salt until we’d spent time with the teacher. Then, they seemed completely plausible.Sounds bad, right? We did really think the teacher had some issues. But, there were really good things about her too. She ran a tight ship, she pushed the kids hard academically, and she had tons of energy and did all kinds of interesting things with them. It was good for me to realize that it is not black and white. There are good things and bad things about most people, and the important thing was that our daughter could talk to us, and sometimes we talked to the teacher, and even if that didn’t fix things, our daughter was heard.
    The other thing that helped was working to stay non-reactive with the teacher. For instance, at one point the teacher sent me an angry, poorly-written email in response to one that I had carefully written. She had told some of the students that they couldn’t go on a field trip unless they finished some amount of work. I think she must have been getting pushback from several parents, and was already angry when she got my email. I wrote back a reply as if she had sent me a perfectly polite email. Her next email was much calmer, and our daughter finished the work and was able to go on the field trip.

  31. Our school (for the older kids, so far) is very good about publishing the email address (school email) for the teachers. Email has been a HUGE HUGE HUGE important way of keeping up with what is going on. The teachers also use School Notes (.com?), which gives a weekly update on the classroom, schedule, special events, upcoming activities, and projects due (!!!). So I can check that, and then know what to ask about at dinner. Or ep can. But email is crucial. Email is what kept Mr G from failing Latin (which he’s good at, but after being out sick for a week, there were some misfires in delivery of projects and homework, and the team project suffered and… and email was the solution).But, for that, the biggest part was to assume that the teacher was absolutely on our side. That she (or he) wants my kid to succeed, and is just not always able to give that her full attention. We work from a strategy and skills-building perspective, and are willing to let our kids take the ‘grade lumps’ if that’s the outcome. I’m not as concerned with what score they get, as I am with whether they learn HOW to do their homework, HOW to problem-solve a situation in the classroom, HOW to make up for messing up. For example, Mr G had no clue that it was even possible to go to his teacher, say ‘I totally messed up, I had the assignment done, I forgot it two days in a row, and I didn’t even tell you. I know I can’t get a full grade on that. I know it is my fault. Is there anything I can do to help me get my grade to reflect my abilities, at this point? I’m willing to do extra work to prove I understand the topic.’ He was absolutely sure that a zero score was a zero score, period and forever. And to some degree, it is. But his teachers were always willing to reward character, honesty, and willingness to make amends. Email was our way of handling that – not that we’d say it all for him, but we’d say ‘he messed up, and we dropped the ball on backing him up. He is going to come in and talk to you about what he can do. We’ve discussed situation X, and some options he can present, but it is up to him to work it out with you. Whatever your solution is will be fine with us, we just need him to develop the skill.’
    I can’t count the number of teachers who have said ‘wow, it is so RARE to have parents say it is about the skills and not about the GRADE!’
    So, email.
    Volunteering is a limited thing for us, since my job is crazy full-time-plus, and ep is starting a business – that’s even worse for hours, even if it is ‘technically’ more flexible. But anything we can do to support the school, we try to find a way to do. We also have relatives who support the school (through donations), and we hand-deliver those checks to keep ourselves visible. Face to go with name and action.
    For ‘cool factor’, our school has uniforms, which means that there’s little option for ‘cool clothes’. And my kids, unfortunately, are not ‘cool’ – at least, not yet. Mr G is way too weird to be really cool to anyone but geeks, and only tangentially to them. Add in the introversion, and the tendency to utterly ignore peer pressure (that is, he won’t stop doing things the other kids don’t ‘get’)… well, not cool. The teachers and administration think he rocks, but the other kids? He’s okay. He has friends, but his friends don’t even understand him (and say so). Mr B has a better shot – his peers see his big brother from a distance, and he looks cool, and then Mr B is much more socially engaged and extroverted, so he’s more likely to fall in the ‘cool’ zone. Shoes, jewelry, and hair are it for things you can buy that are style-oriented, and he won’t play by the rules on those, either (he’s a boy who has been wearing jewelry – masculine, but rings and necklaces – since first grade… that’ll be cool when he’s 16, maybe; his haircut is, er, different; he wears beat up sneaks and boots… uh. Ah, well.). Cool will have to wait. In the meantime, we talk about sense of self, and style, and identity. Plus we talk about the skills and abilities of his peers, and what they’ll wish they were confident of when they’re 16. Like, oh, how to talk to girls, and how to give a genuine compliment without getting flustered, and how to manage your money, and how to coordinate an outfit for impact, and all the stuff that he’s learning now, just starting sixth grade… he’s aware that it’s odd now, and it may be odd later, too – but at least later he’ll be ahead of the game that everyone is playing instead of playing entirely in a different league, not to mention sport.
    Backpacks and lunch boxes are the other ‘cool factor’ things, and there’s a split between the quality peers and the trendy peers. Quality has won at our house. So they get good backpacks and lunch boxes, but not flashy ones. Lands End or ll bean, that sort. They last a few years, too.
    The younger students (K, 1st) have a card that they wear for the first week or so that says their name, their teacher, their bus route (in and out), and so forth. That’s a big stress reducer for the kids, IMHO. Fabo idea. Less stress for them is less for me (I’m not so much worried that they’ll get lost, but I don’t want them to be stressing out over how to get un-lost… hmm, personal history thing, there, I guess – didn’t know which bus to take home the first day of school, had no idea that there would be 20 busses! AHHH! Brain locked up, couldn’t remember the number…)
    Uh, anyway.
    For the general anxiety of how much to be involved… I don’t know that we’ve got it right, ourselves. We tend to try to be quite on top of stuff, but then last year I was blindsided by the fact that they don’t DO parent-teacher conferences in 5th grade, or not unless your child has an issue that needs to be addressed in person with the parents… uh, but, wait, how do we know… what if… and there are SO MANY teachers now. One for each class, and he’s moving around classes all day and…
    And then I remind myself that my mom coped with the same degree of disconnect, and she didn’t even have email. Granted, she should have paid a little more attention, too – I got talked to about school at report card time, and not much else. We are more ‘sit with them and help them attend to their homework (Mr G, I know you like that tune, but you need to finish that page of work…). We don’t do for them, and don’t even check beyond ‘did you understand the assignment instructions?’ and ‘what is coming up next in your agenda’ and ‘did you actually do everything assigned?’ – HOW they do on the homework is theirs. Learning scheduling, sticktuitiveness, and thoroghness are more skills we’re teaching. But doing that much keeps us in the process pretty deeply, I think.
    Oh, and I love the weekly folder home, too. Such a good idea.
    CAVEAT: We love love love love love the school. They (administrators, teachers) like us, and make that known. They like and respect and admire our kids. There are no ongoing issues, conflicts, disciplinary issues (none ongoing anyway), or misconmmunications. The school is well rated (top of the state). The teachers are engaged (no tenure, one year contracts only, period, for everyone including the head of school) – the younger ones are pretty nervous, actually. But they settle in a little with time. The school invests in teacher training. We like the curriculum (Core Knowledge). Etc. There’s very little not to like. (A little, but not much.) It would be a very different scenario for us if we didn’t like and trust the school so much. And yes, we know we seriously lucked out (random lottery to get in, so when I say luck, I mean LUCK).
    @slim, I’m glad that worked out – I thought about that a while back, and then couldn’t figure out who it was, when, or whether I’d missed a followup. Since I have a couple of introvert kids in my set, being on watch for that discrepancy of personality is on my hot list, at least for the first few years (the major introvert won’t start K for another year, though… phew!).

  32. @SarcastiCarrie I had similar parents – I understand now that their level of involvement was, well, pretty nil, and that that’s unhealthy and abnormal. What is normal and healthy though? I have no idea. If you want to email me about it, I’d love to chat about these questions… maria AT davidgrover DOT comWe’re starting Kindergarten this year, and we’re homeschooling, with the addition of a 3-morning a week program so that my daughter can feel like she’s “going to school” and so I can do some stuff like, oh I don’t know, try to make some money and go to school and not lose my sanity entirely (yeah right!).
    We got our box of supplies from the curriculum place and we are SO EXCITED. All that potential in the clean white notebooks and untouched craft supplies!
    I’m excited – and scared about whether I can handle it, whether she’ll tolerate having me teach her, whether I’ll be able to establish and maintain the routine that we’re going to need. Oh yeah, and whether I can afford it. That’s the biggest one.
    Mostly I’m hoping if I can keep her excited and engaged we’ll be ok. Which means keeping me excited and engaged. Let’s go team!

  33. @Cloud: “Hubby teases me about how they are weaning me of my daily reports in preparation for school.” Oh yeah. That’s so going to be me too. I am BIG, BIG, BIG on lots of info & communication with daycare, even though DS’ primary caregiver is usually gone by the time I show up for pick-up. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be less info as DS moves up in the older rooms. Eek! We are so researching the schools now even though DS is only 14 mos. Don’t want any surprises by the time he gets to Kindergarten. And I’m thinking (hoping?) we’ll have more luck in the school search than in the daycare search. At least our neighbourhood school is supposed to be pretty good.

  34. I’m four years away from sending our daughter to kindergarten, but I am an elementary public school teacher (in NYC) so my comments come from that perspective. I haven’t carefully read all the previous comments, so some of this is sure to be repetitive.Try to find another parent in the class that knows the school already – someone with a child in a higher grade. They can tell you how communication actually works in the school. For instance, in my school the parent coordinator is amazing and is a great source of information and will get messages to teachers. In other schools, not so much. Same goes for the PTA. Also ask your child’s teacher how he/she prefers to communicate and tell him/her the same for you (cell phone, email, etc…). Definitely ask about the school/home folder. I do this with my fifth graders and constantly see it unopened in their backpacks day after day.
    I have often used a daily or weekly log that goes back and forth from school to home with students that have particular challenges/needs/issues. This has worked well – both for parents and for students. I always come up with specific goals with the child (and sometimes the parents) and then we devise a way to measure them on a daily basis. It gets sent home either daily or weekly for parents to review.
    As other folks have said, you’ll need to find the balance between being an advocate and trusting that the teacher is doing what’s best not just for your child but for the class as a whole. But DO be in touch with the teacher from the beginning, not only when there is a problem. Ask if they need anything, volunteering, a question about the curriculu, anything… just to get that communication going.
    Kindergarten – eek! Will I really be sending off my little just-turned-one-year-old there in 4 short years??!!

  35. All this anxiety I’m reading about makes my stomach hurt. So glad we are homeschooling. But, we will have our own kind of transition as we are starting Kindergarten work this fall. PreK has been very casual and unstructured. I need to add structure and a schedule to our days for her sake as well as mine.This raising kids thing… always something new!

  36. @SarcastiCarrieOur district has communications folders. The teachers my daughter had from Pre-K to 1st grade sent home weekly memos which detailed what they were studying in each subject, and anything they were working on that the teacher wanted reinforced at home.
    Although all the teachers at the school have phones in the classrooms and email addresses, I had to have a sense of the teacher to know which was the most effective way to communicate. Lo’s 1st grade teacher preferred email, and answered them during her school breaks. Her K teacher preferred handwritten notes.
    In our district, Back To School Night is at the end of September. A lot of parents feel like that’s pretty late. In our district, a parent can request a conference at any time. A friend of mine regularly does that about a week or so into the year, and a few weeks from the end of the year to discuss assignments for the following year.
    We have full day K in our district. I wish I’d understood JUST HOW HARD that transition would be for Lo. We had to restrict our extracurricular activities and things like overnight stays at Grandma’s until she’d been in a few weeks. It was NOT popular with the grandparents, but it really helped Lo adjust.
    Hope this helps!

  37. All sentences are about a little something or another person. The a little something or anyone that the sentence is about is called the topic on the sentence. From your blog, I see that, and study a thing I’d like. Thanks for sharing.

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