Let’s face it. The transition from pre-K to public school kindergarten can be frightening, overwhelming, and scary. And the kids may have some jitters, too. Getting your child from the familiar and quiet routines of pre-K–whether they stayed home, went to a private pre-K, or attended mom’s day out a few days a week–into the well oiled public school machine is one of the largest challenges you might have faced yet. Do not panic. Here are some hacks for making the transition easier for you (and your kid who is probably so excited they are already sleeping in their kindergarten shirt with their backpack).
To Bus or Not to Bus?
That is a huge question. It can be frightening to think of your little one–and they are still little–climbing those impossibly high steps onto the great big yellow bus and then being whisked away by someone other than you for the first time in their entire lives. The child themselves might be somewhat apprehensive about the bus especially if they do not know anyone else on it.
Before you make a final decision, though, find out where the bus stop is and what time the elementary school bus picks up. Since kindergartners do not start until a week later in St. Tammany, go to the bus stop a few days ahead of time and see who is there. Chances are you will know at least one child from the neighborhood who rides the bus and can be a familiar face.
If your child does ride the bus, it’s also helpful to write their bus number on their hand before school so that even if they forget the number (which they will) a teacher or administrator can easily send them to the right one. Myself, I love the Big Yellow Taxi. My oldest was on the bus the first day of kindergarten and is now a seasoned rider, and my youngest who went into kindergarten last year confidently and fiercely marched up those steps and did. not. look. back. I think you too will come to love the Big Yellow Taxi.
Go to Orientation
Other than registration, there are not a lot of times for you to meet with the administration and your child’s teacher all in one go. Orientation is an excellent opportunity to get the lay of the school, meet your child’s teacher, identify other parents who you may know and get their information, and find out the plan for the semester. Remember, this is probably not your child’s teacher’s first rodeo and they expect you to be a basket case with lots of questions. They are well trained to help reassure you that your child will do fine and so will you.
Get Used to the Unknown
I will not lie. I had a really hard time getting used to the smaller amount of information that was coming home with my kindergartner. I rarely saw his teacher and he wasn’t exactly a good provider of detail about his day. In hindsight, I should have taken her up on the option of a phone call every now and then to get an overall idea of how he was doing. I did know, though, that she would call if something was not right (which she did). Also, it is a lot harder to get in touch with other parents since again, you hardly ever see them. If you have lots of questions don’t be afraid to work that teacher email as hard as you can. Most respond very quickly to emails since they are checking it throughout the day for school business.
Don’t Forget the Lunch
We had a real conundrum in our household when my oldest started kindergarten and we had to pack a lunch for him. The key is to keep it simple. Lunch may be only 20 to 30 minutes which means pack foods that do not require a lot of effort to open and that are easy to eat. Also consider that your child’s school may be completely peanut free. Also, you might want to consider letting them eat lunch at school. It can be a great place to expand your child’s palate and there’s the added bonus of peer pressure if they kids around them eating things they think are “yucky.”
Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
My kids’ school pools supplies so that even though individual students each bring supplies, they are all put into a community pot. This may very well be the case at your kid’s school so there is no need to bother with labeling supplies or even trying to personalize them. Other supplies to remember include those khaki shorts, skorts, skirts, and pants. Shirts are easy to come by through the school, but khaki bottoms are not usually in most kid’s closets. Old Navy and Walmart are good options for these but thrift stores are often full of them as well. If you have boys my personal favorite for pants and shorts is CLASSROOM brand available through Amazon. They are a little more expensive (shorts are around ten dollars), but they are absolutely indestructible. I have no idea what the material is–maybe Teflon? But they make it through the school year and still look okay.
You Set the Tone
Kindergarten is a ginormous adventure to a five year old and should be treated that way. If you are worried or nervous about their transition, try not to let them see it. Or, focus that energy into getting them as ready as possible with school uniforms, shoes, and school supplies. If your child is worried or nervous about the transition, talk with them about their concerns, but reinforce that they are going and it is going to be okay.
Most of all, you are going to be okay. It is impossible to put into words the combination of angst and pride that you feel when your baby is all of a sudden a big kid and starting on their formal education road. Focus on the pride, but acknowledge the angst.