Max's 100th day of kindergarten was a couple of weeks ago, and I started this list while he was sticking 100 Angry Birds stickers on his plastic tablecloth cape. Kindergarten, and public school in general, is very different from a pay-to-attend preschool/day care.
And so, for myself and future kindergarten mamas and daddies, I thought I'd compile this list (shared in no particular order):
80 things I learned, and 20 tidbits from my friends.
- Packing lunch isn't the nightmare I was afraid it would be.
- Tortilla roll-ups are great when you're out of bread.
- Meat and cheese roll-ups are great when you're out of tortillas.
- Spend the extra $ on a good water bottle that seals well.
- The smell of banana peel that's been in a lunchbox all weekend is like a terrible whiff of nostalgia.
- A little snip of the end of a granola bar package makes it easier for Max to open by himself.
- It's awesome that afterschool care is willing to microwave stuff for Max.
- He'll eat cold quesadillas for lunch.
- Tis better to send too much food than not enough.
- A post-breakfast, pre-Late Bird start time snack is normal. Bananas FTW.
- If you want to help, you have to tell the teacher.
- Tell her several times, because she forgets, apparently.
- Don't expect systems that the kids understand to make sense to you.
- Class doesn't always end on time, so don't make plans immediately after school.
- Not all kindergarten teachers are cuddly like yours might have been.
- They do actual academics in kinder now. It's kind of overwhelming at times.
- If you can't volunteer during class hours, find out how you CAN help.
- Stuff child's pockets with kleenex during cold season, drill into their heads about wiping a sniffly nose, and washing their hands.
- Continuously remind them NOT to try on someone else's hat or headband. Because lice. (Eew!)
- If they have a fever, keep them home. Don't contaminate the whole class, please!
- Every day can be mismatched sock day.
- Jackets aren't allowed to be worn in class; long sleeves it is.
- Have a selection of long-sleeved undershirts to extend the life of tees that are suddenly too short in the belly.
- When in doubt, wear the rainboots.
- Names in everything. P-Touch works, Mabel's Labels are better.
- But it still doesn't keep them from bringing home some other kid's stuff by accident.
- Tiny knee holes aren't enough reason to get rid of pants, or else you'll never have enough pants.
- Plaid and stripes and checked totally go together.
- Clothing just isn't worth arguing over, as long as the important bits are covered and it's temperature appropriate.
- The sniff test can be a lifesaver.
- Figuring out five words that start with the short /u/ sound is HARD.
- As is coming up with five things around the house that are oval shaped.
- It's depressing when you need Google to help your 5 year old with their homework.
- If the assignment says, “Find 5 things around your house…” don't expect it to get done at after school care.
- Finding five of anything will become the bane of your existence.
- Reading out loud for 15 minutes every day can be excruciating.
- But it's worth it.
- Encourage choosing a variety of library books; when the whole library has about 5 Star Wars book to check out, they get old FAST.
- Let them read to you, even if it takes ages to finish a page.
- Don't let them see how ridiculous and pointless you think the homework assignments are.
- Max (so far) has pretty great taste in friends, when left to his own devices.
- It's nice finally meeting people who live in the neighborhood.
- Other moms in the classroom can (and will!) become your friends, if you're open to it.
- Make it a habit to ask about who your child played with; there's something to be said for knowing the names of other kids in the class.
- Unfortunately, the bullying can start earlier than you imagine. (Jess from Shuggilippo)
- Figure out a go-to birthday gift and stock up. Keep them on hand.
- If your school has a birthday “goodie bag” tradition (like ours does), don't feel like you have to top or match the other ones when your kid's day comes around.
- Don't be afraid to suggest after-school playdates once your kid has established friendships in class.
- Don't trust your child about how to spell a friend's name. There are some sneaky vowels out there in the world!
- It's entirely possible that child will come home one day with a boy- or girlfriend. Don't freak out.
- Parents will step on kids in an effort to get their kids into the gate first. Seriously.
- Make friends with the people in the office. They know lots of things.
- Buy out of the fundraisers if you can.
- The higher-ups in the PTA get gossipy when they're off-campus.
- They won't necessarily comb your kid's hair before they sit down for school photos.
- Things are decided at the last minute. Get used to it.
- The playground is so much smaller than you remember.
- Living .2 miles from the school means we walk every day. I'm terrified of the pickup/dropoff line.
- I'm also terrified of the crazy parents dropping their kids off near our house. Running stop signs so your kid isn't late is NOT cool, people!
- Try to meet the principal so he/she at least recognizes you as a parent at the school.
- Put stuff in Google calendar and sync with work calendar.
- This counts for playdates and dental appointments.
- Set a phone reminder for pick-up, so you aren't late. (Even more important if you don't do pick-up every day!)
- Remember to keep some flexibility… our school only does assemblies first thing in the morning, so if Max wants to attend, he has to be an Early Bird for that day.
- A day of kindergarten exhausts my child more than a marathon would. Because of that, he turned into a kinder devil each night at home for the first 5 months of school. (From my friend Ali)
- I'm guilty of overscheduling evenings, and I really need to try to cut back.
- Weekends are not for sleeping in; it screws them up for Monday morning.
- Work on bits of the homework packet every night, don't leave it all until Thursday, when it's due on Friday.
- We've had to eliminate Monday-Friday screen time entirely. There is no middle ground with Max.
- Keep kiddo in the loop about the day's plan. Max and I review in the morning while we walk to school. Tee ball practice, dinner plans, whatever we have going on. Letting him know helps him feel a sense of control.
- Get in the habit early on of going through your Kindergarteners back pack near the recycle bin. You would not believe the amount of paper that will come home. I learned to go through it all while hovering over the recycle bin. (From Wendy at Qwendy Kay)
- Try to get at least one other parent's number, so you have someone to text those quick questions that pop up.
- Save the teacher's email address as soon as you get it, so you can get a hold of him/her when needed.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions if you aren't sure what's going on, or what's expected of you.
- Have a specific place where they can put all of the papers they want to keep. Sneak in and purge them every so often.
- Don't keep every piece of paper that comes in.
- Mark the things you want to keep with a date. You think you'll remember, but you won't.
- Kids tell their teachers everything and I mean everything. Might I suggest locking the bedroom door, so there is no discussion about why “Daddy was attacking Mommy with the light saber attached to his tummy.” (This came from my friend Lisa and I had to share it, because OMG)
- Ask specific questions to find out about their day. Yes or no questions aren't going to get you anywhere!
- Email comes in handy for keeping a trail of communication, especially when an issue comes up.
Assorted Wisdom from Friends
- Kindergarten teachers are angels. (From Cristi of Motherhood Unadorned)
- Create a ritual of nightly going through the backpack. I found a penicillin tangerine one year. (Alexandra of Good Day, Regular People)
- My kids being proud of their idea and their own work was much more gratifying than having the most over the top project displayed. (Leila from Don't Speak Whinese)
- The rules about Halloween costumes, the changing of holiday names so as not to offend, etc. I don't necessarily disagree with some of the choices, but was confused about a lot of things! (Amanda from The Befuddled Stepmonster)
- Making sharable snacks for the entire class is a pain. (Annie from Mama Dweeb)
- Naptime was an excuse to pretend his was working on covert operations in hostile territory. (Lisa from A Daily Pinch)
- I am WAYYY less strict than I thought I was. I let these kids get away with murder compared to the other parents. (Jill from Yeah. Good Times.)
- Homework still sucks. (Kelby from Type A Parent)
- Homework sucks, but kids will do it if m&ms are involved. (My friend Heather, who doesn't have a blog, even though she should)
- My daughter wishes her teacher lived with us. And she's pretty unaffected by the necessary yelling that has to happen now and then in the classroom. And kindergarten is totally awesome. (Casey from Life with Roozle)
- It wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be (My friend Julie)
- Some parents will pick up their child at the classroom door every day after school. And that this will continue through 6th grade, maybe even longer. If you make your kid carry her/his own backpack and walk to the front of the school to get picked up IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD LESS (Stefania, aka @CityMama)
- When you volunteer in the classroom you will be astounded at the range of reading levels from the kids who are reading chapter books to kids who can't recognize any letters of the alphabet. (Jill from Musings from Me)
- Kindergarten teachers are extraordinary human beings. With magic powers. (According to my friend April)
- If you have a good relationship with your kids' teachers, invite them over for dinner. The kids get a huge kick out of it and the teachers love it, too. My youngest's kindergarten teacher has since become one of my dearest friends. (Jill from Life of Jill)
- My dream of coming home and going back to bed after the kiddos are dropped off at school never seems to happen, and 5 hours go by way faster than they used to (Teri of Harmony Doula)
- That if your child won't clean up at home, just ask if Mrs. (insert teachers name) would allow that…when they say no, tell them to pretend Mrs. (teachers name) told them to clean up! (My super-sneaky friend Laurie)
- Putting an alarm clock in her room was GOLDEN. She could set it for the time based on how long she took to get ready… (My old friend Erin)
- Mine like to tell me EVERYTHING that happened in their day in the car on the way home. And whatever happened in the last 20 minutes made the most impact, good or bad. (More from Erin)
- All the cliches are true: it goes by FAST. (Jill, again)
So tell me, what would you add to this list?