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Surprising thoughts of an almost-kindergartener

My oldest grandson is just about to enter kindergarten. I look back on these 5+ years and time has just zoomed by.

My grandson (like his Dad before him) attended Montessori school since he was just 18 months. He knows his numbers and can read, write and sound out many words. So, it seems odd to me that there may be things about going to kindergarten that are really foreign to him. We have been talking to him about his new school and new routine and some very surprising ideas have come from those conversations.

Rounding up kindergarteners

Like many other schools, his offered a "Kindergarten Roundup." I envisioned this as some sort of "herding" of the prospective kindergarteners. Nope – it is actually a half-day where kids who will be kindergarteners in the fall get to experience kindergarten for themselves. I talked about this big event for months with my grandson. How cool it would be. How big he was.

He was terrified.

I did not expect that reaction. So, we started discussing the day-to-come just about every week.

The thoughts of an almost-kindergartener

Kindergarten minds and grandma minds often work similarly - but as we discussed what the day would be, he had some very surprising thoughts and observations: 

Peek around the school

He asked what he would do on that day, and I explained that he would be able to see the school from the inside (he has been on the playground outside for years).

This seemed to intrigue him and he began calling it the "Peek Around Day." A much more descriptive name than a 'roundup.' We talked about what he would see when he had the 'peek around.' He could see his new classroom. He could look at his new cubbie and the desks and chairs.

His mom and I had an "advanced peek around" evening where we, and other new kindergarten families, met the teachers, principal and saw the classrooms. This helped us describe what he would see much better.

Grandma advice: If you have the chance to "peek around" ahead of time, it will help you ease the fear of the unknown.

You are not alone

I knew he had joined new classrooms, gotten a new teacher and attended a new school before. I didn't understand how this was different and scarier until I made a casual comment that all the kindergarteners would be new.

None had met the teachers before. None had been in the same classroom together. No one had attended the school before. You could see his anxiety drop. He said "so I am not the only one who is new!"

Grandma advice: Make sure your kiddo knows that kindergarten is new for everyone. He won't be the only person who doesn't know the teacher. He won't be the only person who doesn't know where the bathroom is.

Shopping opportunity

Most schools post their school supply list well in advance of the first day of school. In the case of my grandson's school we could see the kindergarten supply list as early as January. He and I explored the list of things he would need to bring. He was excited to know he would need his own notebook and crayons. He was very intrigued that he would need to have not one – but two watercolor sets.

Since we first discovered the list he has asked me more than a half dozen times to pull it up online and go through it with him again. Once the school supply sales begin I want to keep him involved in purchasing his supplies.

Grandma advice: Resist the temptation to do the shopping yourself. Let your kindergartener "own" these supplies and be involved in their purchase. There is pride in accomplishing the task – and it makes these his.

Editor's note: Each summer KETV and Methodist Health System sponsor a back-to-school supply drive to ensure that every child is able attend school with new supplies. When you purchase supplies, consider buying extra and letting your kindergartener learn the joy of donating to others.

Debrief

I am not sure who was more excited to talk about the roundup day – me or my grandson. He told us how he met the 3 teachers (not knowing yet in whose classroom he would be placed) and how they helped. We learned about how he made a craft, wrote his name and played on the playground as a student (not just a neighbor). He talked about the desks and the rooms. The school was no longer a scary place.

Since that day I have asked him a few questions again about the day. He always lights up remembering it. One of our relatives recently said "so you will be going to kindergarten for the first time in the fall?" His surprising perspective: "I have already had my first day."

Grandma advice: Besides satisfying your natural curiosity about the school and routine, it is good to ask about the experience occasionally throughout the summer to reinforce the confidence your kindergartener now has.

Ready or not – here it comes

Our grade school offers a family evening a few nights before school starts. They encourage families to walk with their children to school to familiarize them with the route. At the event you are able to sign up for committees and events and create a lunch money account. You and your child get to actually meet the teacher and be in the new classroom together.

Grandma advice: The more things you can understand about this new place and experience – the easier you can answer those inevitable questions and help to ease first day fears.

This is actually harder on you than them

My baby - my first grandchild is no longer a baby - or a toddler - or even a preschooler. He is a school-aged kid. I am excited for him. He is ready. 

I know there will be lots of tears for me and his parents on that first day. I plan to be sure only we see those - all he sees is our big, proud smiles! 

My final piece of Grandma advice? Take lots of pictures – this day only happens once. 

Sue Klein

Sue is a mom of two, grandmother of four and daughter to her own mother. She blogs about all things 'grandma.' ...

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