By Joanna Martin | @cafedumartin
As I prepare to send my middle kiddo to kindergarten, I’m flooded with memories of sending my oldest child just two years ago. I had no idea what to expect and couldn’t picture how starting school would change our daily lives. What post-school afternoon routines would we develop??? What would my role in her education look like, and how could I help her be as successful as possible? I used to be a teacher! Why did figuring out kindergarten suddenly feel so new and difficult? All the while balancing uniform laundry, packing two snacks and a lunch each day, making sure she made it out the door with everything she needed and well rested with a good breakfast? I felt the world on my shoulders and wasn’t entirely sure what I really needed to know about sending my first kid into the world of full-time school.
This second time around I am applying the lessons I’ve learned from sending my oldest to school. I know our school and have learned its systems. I am more confident in my role as a support system, and I have had some time and space between kids to realize what really matters in launching a kid into their educational career. Let me share the small bits of wisdom I have gleaned thus far:
They WILL be tired
I remember as a teacher walking down the hall for carpool and seeing all the little kinder babies lined up with their backpacks. Blank stares and droopy eyelids, so obviously tired from a week of new routines and expectations and no naps. I saw this same tiredness in my own child when she was in kindergarten. She was cranky at the end of the day, resisting and rebelling against expectations at home, and on the weekends she needed a nap to rest and recharge.
Plan for no plans
That first week of school and weekend following, I highly suggest as few plans as possible. Like I said, they WILL be tired. It doesn’t matter if your child is used to full-time care, or this is their first time being away from you for a full day. A new place with new expectations, rules, authority figures, and friends is a lot to take in and process. I like to cut down on as few extra curricular activities as possible for the first month of school so we can all get adjusted to a new routine. This is a big change for your whole family, not just the kindergartener.
Practice makes independence
The week or two before school starts I like to think about what the morning routine, drop off, and the day will look like for my kids, and at what points during the day they will need to be fully independent. From carrying their own backpack to opening lunch containers independently, I like for my kids to practice putting things into backpacks, buckling belt buckles, bathroom independence, all of the things you will not be there for during their days at school.
Pack the night before
Try packing lunches and bags the night before for the first few weeks of school. Morning lunch packing is completely possible and sometimes preferable, but the focus of the first month of school is making transitions as easy as possible, which means prepping the night before to make those mornings smoother.
Tried and true school supplies
Members of The Mom Hour Listener Community on Facebook have been abuzz lately with talk of their favorite school products. From lunchboxes to labels and the best backpacks, this community has been a wealth of information to any mom getting their kid prepped and ready for school! If you are also on the hunt for kid-tested product recommendations, this group is a fantastic resource. Here are the most mentioned products:
School supplies vary from school to school. Personally, our school provides all necessary supplies used in the classroom and even some at-home supplies. I like to check with our teachers to make sure they have everything they need (extra dry erase markers, tissues, hand sanitizer). There is typically a grace period of gathering supplies during that first week of school. When I was a classroom teacher I would tell parents and students to buy what they could based on the school’s list and check in with the teacher to make sure everyone had what they need by the end of that first week.
I want to end on my biggest tip of all when it comes to launching your child into the world of school: Your child will benefit most from grace – both for them and for yourself as you make this transition. Remember, this isn’t just a transition for your child but for your whole family. Starting school is just that: a change, a transition, and a season. Before you know it, you will be celebrating the end of school as a seasoned kindergarten mama.
Joanna Martin | @cafedumartin
Joanna is a lifelong Dallas resident with a bearded husband, two spirited sisters, one sweet boy and a very needy dog inhabiting the walls of her home. She graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas with degrees in Child Learning and Development and Psychology before becoming a public school teacher. She is now a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in too many hobbies and activities to count, making life very full and very beautiful.