In just a few weeks, my oldest son will start Kindergarten, and I can’t avoid feeling anxious. I wonder what will happen, how he is going to feel, how I can support him, and so many other questions I have on my mind. I didn’t go to school in this country, so I have no reference, but I feel blessed to have some friends who are guiding me in this process and have answered some of my questions.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many moms in the same situation, sending their first-born to Kindergarten, might also be fearing this big step. That’s why I decided to share some of the answers I have gotten from my friends regarding my concerns.
Besides knowing how to write his/her name, numbers, and ABCs, what else should a child know before entering Kindergarten?
I frequently see on Pinterest checklists that outline the knowledge and abilities a child must demonstrate to be ready for Kindergarten. However, I know there are some things this type of checklist does not include and that we could be helping our kids learn beforehand. I asked my friends about this, and they all agreed that children should know how to open and close everything they take to school, including backpacks, lunch boxes, and containers. During lunchtime, it will be easier for them if they are familiar with how to open and close the container they have; however, it is also good to pack extra Ziplocks in case they need them after.
Children should also know how to dress themselves, which includes buttoning and unbuttoning without asking for help, as well as tying their shoes. Personally, I don’t think I will be buying my son tennis shoes with laces, as I don’t feel he is ready yet. Many kids develop the ability to tie their shoes between five and six years old.
Kids with allergies need to know what they should avoid and understand why they cannot share food with their friends, which is also prohibited in schools.
Lastly, one of my friends thinks it is really important that kids know the full name of their parents, as well as their address and, if possible, one phone number to contact. Even though the school has all of this information, they will be more prepared in case of an emergency.
How should parents communicate with teachers?
The communication between parents and teachers varies according to each school, but the first advice is to go to your child’s “Meet the Teacher” day, so your child’s teacher can meet you and recognize you in person. One of my friends didn’t have the chance to go to her child’s Meet the Teacher night, and she later realized how important it is to meet in person the teacher to whom we are trusting our kids.
Some schools have an app that facilitates communication and shows the child’s progress; however, most of the schools use email as their main form of communication with parents, which helps to keep a record of the feedback we get on our kids.
Other options friends suggested included writing a note inside your child’s take-home folder so the teacher can see it at school. Personally, in the short experience I had during summer school, I received an evaluation sheet every week and I followed up with an email to the teacher to find out more details.
How much homework will they have?
Homework gradually increases according to grade level, so they likely will not have a lot of assignments in Kindergarten. Many teachers give a take-home homework folder to students, but the frequency that the students must hand in their completed work depends on each school. Some teachers ask students to turn in assignments every week, while others request it every month. Assignments are given according to the child’s level and generally should not take them long to complete.
One of the best advice I received is to always keep reading to our kids. Schools and/or teachers often provide a list of suggested books for the child’s age, which helps to find some titles they will like.
Advice for lunch time: buy at the cafeteria or take lunch from home?
The answer really depends on the style of every family. Some may decide their kids will eat from the cafeteria every day for the sake of convenience; others prefer to pack lunch; and others give their child the option to purchase food from the cafeteria some days and pack their lunch other times.
According to my friends’ experiences, public schools send out a monthly menu for parents to know what they will be serving.
For those who decide to pack lunch, some of the basic things kids should have are lunch containers and a thermos for hot food. Some people also choose to purchase Bento boxes and accessories, from sandwich cutters to funny pick forks, to make lunches more fun.
Sometimes it may feel as though we don’t have many food options to pack, but depending on the school rules, we can include many things our kids like. With pride, my Hispanic friends told me they pack food from their country of origin and their kids like it. Other friends opt for quick and healthy lunches, such as these healthy school lunch ideas.
Lastly, I also asked my friends if they often go to school to have lunch with their kids, as this is something I’ve seen on social media. I realized the answer to this also depends on each family. Some moms and dads go every week; others go once a month; and some prefer not to go, choosing instead to reserve that time for their child to socialize with friends.
What should kids wear to schools that don’t require uniforms?
Wearing uniforms provides some convenience, even though many moms worry about having to make sure the uniform is always clean. The quantity of uniforms a child needs, depends on the frequency that a family does laundry at home.
On the other end, many moms value the convenience of choosing their children’s clothes, as this gives them the opportunity to send their kids to school with comfortable clothing that they can easily manipulate on their own (button, zippers, etc.). While there are schools that require closed-toe shoes on gym days, comfortable tennis shoes are usually the best option. One of my friends remembered that, at the Kindergarten age, her child went through a pair of tennis shoes every four months.
What should they have in their backpacks, even though if it is not requested?
A spare outfit with a spare change of underwear are recommended. Also, because we don’t know how the weather is going to be in San Antonio, packing a small sweater is a good idea. Pack a reusable water bottle in your children’s backpack to keep them hydrated, as well as a snack in case they don’t have their lunch packs.
Listening to what our children have to say
The last piece of advice that I received and that I would like to point out in this blog, is to use the time in the car to try to have a conversation with our kids. We need to give our children the confidence to tell us anything, good or bad: their fears, their concerns, and things that make them happy.
As we approach the beginning of the school year, I’m taking a deep breath and telling myself that I can’t control everything, but I can listen to what my children have to say and try to answer together the questions they may have.
Note: Thank you to all my friends who listened to me and opened up their experiences to ease my concerns. I’m certain this will also help other moms.