While browsing about our town last weekend I stopped in an art gallery and saw a piece of art work entitled, "Off to Kindergarten" and had to smile: We were in that situation with our son 28 years ago, and now he will be in the same boat this coming fall when he gets ready to send his oldest child, "off to kindergarten."
I asked the young lady at the desk if she had a card that corresponded to that picture and she said, not yet, but she could envision one developing within a year, maybe.
In early April I had the opportunity to sit with a group of anxious parents at an open house in the school district where my granddaughter will be attending school in the fall. I had to smile when I listened to some of the questions: "Is it all right if I sit with my daughter/son for a while the first day of school?" "Can I help out in my child's classroom?" "What do I need to send with my child the first day of school?" "When will I know who my child's teacher will be?"
Did I sound like that 28 years ago? Probably.
The principal smiled as each question was asked and did his best to allay any fears that were beginning to simmer in the heads of young parents.
So, what are some things you need to know to get your child ready for kindergarten? You've heard over and over again that reading to them is extremely important. Getting your child excited about books and making visits to the public library a ritual-routine. Letting your child have their own library card and allowing them to write their own name on the form when they apply for the card. All of this is important.
There are many, many other things that are just as important: Making sure your child has a set bedtime, reading to them at bedtime, making sure your child has a good breakfast before heading off to school, making sure your child has a "good morning" so they won't be upset when they get to school, listening and talking to your child, asking them about their day when they get home - and not letting them get away with answering: "I did nothing at school today." (Adopt the adage: What you do each day counts).
I have a friend who asks her son each day: "Tell me one good thing that happened at school today," and "tell me one thing that didn't go well at school today." It's become a habit and he looks forward to sharing with her about his day.
You'd be surprised: Some of the things we may think are minute and not worth mentioning, to him they are worth mentioning.
We've heard over and over that parents are the child's first and most important teachers. So, parents, trust yourself. You do your best each day. This small person is the most important person in the world to you.
You are just as important to him or her. You are important in the schooling of that child. As teachers we honor your input. Become a partner in your child's education. Meet with your child's teacher early on. Become a visible person in the halls of the school and in your child's classroom. Remember, too, that teachers are people, too. We don't always have the answers and oftentimes we look to you for suggestions about your child. Offer suggestions. Take time with this important little human being. It'll be worth it. I know.
I'm witnessing my son and his wife preparing to send their oldest off to school. They are being open, flexible and loving. I know they are anxious too. It's natural.
Listen. Love. And above all else, parents, trust yourself.
Shirley Walkush has been in the Juneau School District for 15 years. She has taught primary grades and is teaching ESL/ELL at Gastineau School.