Gina, who blogs at Brown's Sugar and Spice, was another blogger friend who I've met online. Although she doesn't hail from Minnesota, I got to meet her when she came up to support her friends and the Liz Logelin Foundation at the 5k last September, the 5k I completed. So she's had the privledge of getting a sweaty hug from me. She guest post about Kindergarten, which I read with great interest as it suddenly seems much closer for little goat that I ever anticipated!
I knew what to expect when I was pregnant, during baby’s first year and throughout the toddler years. We’ve all heard of those books and I read them. But no one ever told me what to expect when it came to Kindergarten. You might be on the verge of having a school-age kid, or maybe you are bouncing your brand new baby and Kindergarten feels light years away. Whatever the case may be I hope you learn something from my experiences.
# 1 Pull out your pocket book. I had the idea that once our daughter started Kindergarten our expenses would go down. My one track mind was thinking, school=no more daycare. The reality of our situation is that we need before and after school care, school lunches, and, oh yeah, 100 other items. The school supply list came and I had a slight heart attack. I had envisioned a lunch box, backpack, pencils, paper, crayons and markers. We had to buy all of the expected items plus, 2 reams of copy paper, 3 boxes Kleenex, Ziploc bags, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer etc. My advice to you, get the supply list from your school this spring and buy a few items each time you grocery shop. It made what would have cost us close to a $100.00 feel a lot less hefty. You also have to be aware that you’ll be forking over dough for things like new PE sneakers, replacement supplies, school fundraisers, field trips and programs. If you have two kids in daycare you lose the second child discount, making the bill go up for one kid. All in all we spent about $150.00 more in the last year, which is not horrible but it was a shock when I envisioned more money for fancy vacations and designer jeans in our everyday budget.
# 2 Exposure. I hadn’t really thought about all the things my daughter would be exposed to when attending Kindergarten. Up to this point I’ve had a hand in who she played with and what they exposed her to etc. In a matter of weeks my daughter was discussing divorce, custody, prison, and death of parents. Things we had never discussed as a family quickly came to the dinner table as her friends had shared bits and pieces of their lives with her. I love that she is able to talk to her friends and also that she talked to me about it. My advice - be prepared for topics coming out of nowhere. I didn’t really know the facts before having to discuss things like “do only bad daddies go to jail” or “will my daddy go too?” or one of my favorites, “J says I can be his first wife and A will be his second, is daddy your first or second husband, mom?”
There is also the germ exposure. It sure ruined plans for the weekends - after about 4 weeks we caught everything going around the school. In a matter of 3 weeks she had Strep Throat, Pink Eye, a cold and some random fever. I always think it would be easier if I could plan ahead for illnesses and now I have my chance - after sitting in the same class with the same kids for a few weeks your child will be exposed to lots of new germs!
#3 Get Involved. At the beginning of the year I was leaving my daughter in the hands of complete strangers every day. I made it a point to join the PTA solely for two reasons. One, I cannot say no, ever, and two, it would give me a chance to get to know the people in charge at her school. Our meetings are for an hour once a month and the time commitment I put into it has paid itself back times 1000. I’ve gotten to know her teacher which means I am in the know on the small things that happen in my daughter’s day to day life. We communicate through email and texts and it makes a world of difference. It has also given me a chance to get to know the other people who work with my child. I know all of the first grade teachers and will be prepared for what is to come in the future with a much greater ease then I was last spring.
#4 Make it fun. Some kids have anxiety about going to school; mine had a little but she called her older friends and cousins and asked them about the first day of school. We wrote a letter to my daughter’s teacher and told her what we thought she should know about her. It was quite a cute project - here is what she had me write. Dear Mrs. C, I will be in your class next year. I want you to know I like the Iowa Hawkeyes. If you’re a Cyclone fan please don’t tell me. Love, your new kindergartener. I also wrote the teacher a quick note. I think this is a great idea if there is something about your child you want her to know. After all, you know your child best. I let her teacher know she was a preemie, but had no lasting health effects and was pretty close to needing glasses at her last eye appointment. If the teacher noticed anything, she already had some information to help her identify the problem! A note is a great idea because the first day of school is chaotic to say the least, I am sure 100 things that were said to the teacher didn’t quite sink in. I felt comfort in knowing our teacher had what I wanted her to know in writing! Treat the first day like a little holiday, take off work if you can and bake your child a cake or make a special dinner.
The biggest advice I have is to enjoy this time, it is always sad to see your children grow but it is also just as wonderful to watch then change and mature!