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Adjusting to Kindergarten
Published on October 8, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

Kindergarten is more of a boot camp for parents than kids.

I figured that with all the rules and requirements daycares have these days, I’d be beaten into shape and ready for my oldest to enter real school this fall.

Boy, was I wrong.

While daycares have silly rules about the lunch box going on one shelf while the sippy cup must be on another and the shots that have to be up to date and how, if they sneeze, they have to stay home for a week – well, all that’s different in kindergarten.

With 20 screaming, unruly five-year-olds in one room, who cares about sippy cups?

Instead, kindergarten can be a maze of confusion, for the kid and for you.

A red flag should go off when you forget one check mark on an online form and your kid is suddenly NOT enrolled. And you knew nothing about the grave importance of putting $10 on a lunch card so your kid can get a slushy on slushy day. Because believe me – if your kids DOES NOT have money for the slushy, THEY WILL take the slushy off his tray. And they don’t tolerate tears.

It’s like workplace boot camp. At five.

So how could you possibly ruin your kindergartner’s life by knowing nothing about sending cash for ice cream Fridays? Or have no idea your kid is the only one who hasn’t done one part of his reading folder yet?

Communication, plain and simple. When you have a kid enrolled in a huge elementary school like mine – with 20 kids in 18 kindergarten classes – it’s tough to talk directly to a teacher, and you even feel bad bothering her with an email like the one I sent the first week or two asking, “Now, where exactly am I supposed to sign my name acknowledging I saw his behavior report?”

But email really is a surprisingly great way to get in touch with the teacher. William’s teacher checks first thing in the morning and at lunch, and in some ways it's a better communication tool than leaving messages at the front desk to get to her third-hand.

Another trick is to show up for lunch with your kid. Sure, you want to see the rugrat you spent all weekend with and wrestle with every night. But that half-hour is a quick chance to get some face time with an otherwise swamped teacher, without looking or sounding like a helicopter parent, hovering from above. You also get to reinforce to your kid that you care and that you can show up at ANY time and see what he’s up to.

My last resort is to ask my 5-year-old what the deal is. He usually knows the drill and what homework he has (even if he doesn’t WANT to do it) and can guide you through it. In our case, William’s teacher is particular about handwriting and he is constantly erasing everything to start over, worried she’ll say something about it being sloppy. So we know what makes her tick through him, too.

Now that we’re a few weeks in, we’re feeling a lot more comfortable with this whole kindergarten thing. Still a little confused with what is expected, but the messages are becoming more regular and after weeks of nasty notes about William “talking, talking, talking” in the hallway, at lunch, at work time, William has learned when to keep his trap shut and is now starting to get green smiley faces WITH stars for eyes on a regular basis (trust me, that’s a good thing).

And I’m no longer feeling bewildered by the process. I’m now starting to see that William got paired up with a teacher who is structured, has high standards and appreciates energetic kids who love to learn. So maybe they’ll be a good match after all.

Cindy F. Crawford is the editor of a news publication in Birmingham, Ala., and the proud parent of two spirited young children.

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