A Guest Post from: Lychelle Hollback
I know, I know….for most people, school is winding down and the last thing you are likely thinking about is heading BACK to school, but this post is a reflection of what I have learned from my oldest’s first year in school, what I wish I knew and what I think may help you as you prepare to tackle the beginning of a new chapter. So, take a little read, relax, enjoy these final lazy days of Summer and feel free to whip this back out in August as a refresher.
Our family dynamic is ever-changing. We like to think we go with the flow on most days, but sometimes big moments, like your first born starting kindergarten, can make for a bit of a challenge. However, with the right attitude and a little bit of preparation it can be a magical and exciting time for all of us.
I honestly didn’t think kindergarten would affect anyone other than our kindergartener.
Now that we’ve wound down, I can see this experience has had an impact on our whole family….one I would consider a positive one. But there are a few things I wish I had known way back at the start of the school year.
7 Tips to Make Kindergarten Easier for the Whole Family
#1 Prepare to spend more quality time with your younger children.
As I previously mentioned, it never occurred to me that my 5-year-old heading off to school for the first time would impact anyone other than him (or, well, me….oh the mom-tears as I watched my big boy go!) but you know who missed him the most? His little brother. It wasn’t until the bus pulled away on the first day of school that I realized how much my older son entertains my two year old throughout the day. While I obviously love spending time with my little guy, the day-to-day tasks with an adorable tiny shadow in tow were a little more difficult. Of all the adjustments I’ve had to make this year, spending more quality time with my quickly changing toddler has definitely been my favorite. I have come to treasure our time together and I’m sure you will too. You may even find your toddler might start to learn to play by themselves – a good thing for him or her in the long run.
#2 Hold off on sports until the 2nd semester.
While this may not be the right fit for every family, it was definitely the right decision for us. Turning five is a big deal and it opens a lot of doors for new opportunities. Not only is your child old enough to start school but now they are also old enough to start participating in most sports leagues. There are few things more adorable than little boys and girls in baseball pants or soccer cleats all chasing the same ball. So adorable, in fact, that I was tempted to sign my son up for just about everything the day after his birthday. I have heard conflicting opinions from other parents about starting kindergarten and sports at the same time. Some kids might be able to handle it if they’re used to going to school or daycare every day. However, if your new kindergartener, like mine, never attended preschool or daycare, starting a new schedule of getting up for school every day and adding a sport can be a little difficult.
We decided to wait to sign up for sports until the Spring and I am so glad we did. Many evenings my son was asleep on the couch even before dinner. There was no way he would have been able to enjoy participating in anything physical. Obviously, every kid is different but once your child has adjusted to their new routine, sports are a great idea. It’s a great way to boost their confidence and teach them about teamwork, commitment and time management.
#3 Have a system in place to organize the ridiculous amount of worksheets your child will bring home.
I promise that I am not over-exaggerating when I use the word “ridiculous”. My son brought home at least two pieces of paper a day, sometimes as many as five. Don’t get me wrong, I always looked forward to seeing what he had learned or mastered that day, but a system is mandatory. In the beginning, I kept every single piece of paper because I felt guilty throwing anything out. Unfortunately, I did not have any kind of organizational system for all of those worksheets and cute art projects and they quickly began to overrun my dining room and office area. Having papers just about everywhere really started to stress me out. Eventually, I ended up taking a couple hours to sort through everything and decide what to keep and what to throw out. I admit to feeling guilty about parting with any of my tiny Picasso’s work, but I know there is more to come.
Here are a few suggestions from my ‘more experienced’ mom friends:
Keeps all the art projects, but only one worksheet a week is displayed on the refrigerator.
Keeps everything in a box until the end of the quarter and then allow your kindergartner to At the end of decide what he wants to keep. Store the favorites, in a labeled manila envelope for safe keeping.
And finally, if you have the storage space and are willing to spend a little extra money – there are companies that will scan all of the worksheets and projects and make a book to display your little student’s hard work. I am considering doing this at the end of the year with a few pieces from every quarter.
I’m sure there are a million more ways to combat those mountains of masterpieces. Once you find the one for you, I suggest getting your system in place in advance and sticking to it, you’ll be glad you did.
#4 & #5 Stay consistent with homework & use homework time as learning time for younger siblings.
Although some parents might think kindergarten homework isn’t “that big of a deal”, I assure you, it is! I am a firm believer that teaching your child to take homework seriously from the first day will benefit them in the future. You can help your child by making doing homework a regular part of every school day. Habits learned early will stick around.
In our home, my son does his homework right after dinner. He helps to clear the table and then starts on his homework. I noticed that my toddler became quite curious anytime we were working on homework. Sometimes he was just downright jealous because I was paying attention to my kindergartener and not him. For shame! So instead of trying to get my little guy to go play on his own I decided to take advantage of his new found curiosity. Now, when my son is doing his homework, the little one sits up at the table with us and has his own learning time. Since he’s two, this consists mostly of coloring, playing with play-dough or looking through books and flash cards. I’ve also noticed that he has picked up a lot just by repeating after us when we’re sounding out words and counting. It has become a really beneficial time for all of us.
#6 Have a realistic morning schedule.
This may seem like another ‘no brainer’ but the word “realistic” is the key. Sometimes we tend to expect just a bit too much from our kiddos. I have discovered that a simple morning routine is really all you need to keep things running smoothly. As adults, we all know how stressful a rushed morning can be and how detrimental it can be to our entire day, not to mention our households. I, for one, do not wish to put that stress on my child. I prefer for him to be able to focus on going to school and trying his best. Therefore, apart from making his bed and feeding the dog, his other chores can wait until after school.
Every morning my kindergartener wakes up and takes a shower while I snuggle with his brother or make coffee. After he’s dressed, we all eat breakfast and then brush teeth. Once he is ready for school, he does his two morning chores and then the boys play while I make his lunch and get his backpack ready. Finally, we’re off to the bus stop. If I’m feeling ambitious, I try to set out the week’s clothes on Sunday, but it doesn’t always happen. If I do, and the weather cooperates, my little guy can get dressed on his own which he loves, and his outfits always match, which I love.
#7 Encourage and enjoy!
If your child is anything like mine, they may feel discouraged from time to time. Try to remember they are taking in so much information. Fortunately, their little brains soak most it up quickly. There will come a time when your child finds a subject or concept that doesn’t come so easily to them. If my little guy gets frustrated, I am quick to remind him that making mistakes is part of learning. I tell him at least once a day, “as long as you’re doing your best, that is all that matters”.
If he isn’t trying his best, I choose my words carefully. I do my best to be firm with him in an encouraging way. I’ll say things like, “I have seen you write much neater than that so I know you can do better, try again.”
I know that helping your child with homework or projects can be frustrating from time to time but I want to encourage you to encourage them. Build them up, cheer them on and be their positive inner voice.
Most importantly, enjoy this time! Sit back and watch in amazement as your child flourishes into an amazing, book reading, big word spelling, mathematician.
It is a truly beautiful thing to witness. Enjoy!
Lychelle Hollback is a military wife and stay at home mom to two wonderful boys, ages 2 and 5. She was born and raised in Wisconsin but now resides in South Eastern Virginia, where her husband is stationed with the Navy. Along with writing, she is passionate about music, singing specifically. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, attending play dates and field trips for her boys and writing about what she knows best; being a mom and a wife.