Some of you will be waving goodbye this year to a little one going to kindergarten – and whether it’s the first one or the last one, it’s awfully hard to see them go out into the real world, toting a backpack and carrying a lunchbox. I could never stand to take mine to school the first day of kindergarten – and I worked there!
What does the kindergarten teacher really hope for when the children come through the door on the first day of school? If you listen to the media, you would think that children have to come to kindergarten knowing the alphabet and the letter sounds, recognizing words, recognizing numbers, counting to 100, writing all 52 letters, and writing their name. All those skills are great, but they are part of the kindergarten curriculum – those skills are still taught in school.
The only entrance requirement for kindergarten is that your child is old enough to be eligible to enter public school – that your child turns 5 years old before the state cut-off date.
The first thing the teacher hopes for as the school year begins is that the children know how to behave in a group. Children have to wait their turn, share materials, and respect the rights of others. Children have to respect authority, and follow teacher directions without arguing or tantrums. Children need to settle differences without physical aggression, and know how to make friends. These are very difficult skills for some children, but behaving well in a group is necessary for school success – and life success. Even when children have attended preschool, the class sizes in kindergarten are probably larger than anything they’ve experienced before and the rules are different. In most preschools, children do not have to complete every planned activity. That’s not true in kindergarten!
The second hope is that the children have age-appropriate self-care skills so they are able to function independently in the classroom. Kindergarten teachers expect to help tie shoes, open milk cartons, and help with bathroom accidents. But they want their students to be able to use the bathroom independently, pull up and fasten clothing after going to the bathroom, take care of coats and lunch boxes, wash hands, use a backpack, and follow a routine. Please send your child to school with clothes, a lunch box, and a backpack that he can handle himself. The teacher will bless you for it!
And last, the teacher hopes that the children have age-appropriate language skills – that they can listen, follow directions, express their thoughts and ideas, and understand basic vocabulary and concepts (e.g. sizes, shapes, colors). Everything in school begins with language skills – school is a language-based environment. Reading and writing are high-level language skills, and children who excel are coming from a strong base of spoken language skills.
If your child has difficulties in any of these areas, or if your child has a disability, the teacher will help. But the teacher will count on you to work with her. What can you do to help?
Set up your child to be independent in school. Dress your child in clothes that he can handle, send lunch box foods that he can manage (for example, most kindergarten kids can’t peel an orange), and choose fasteners for clothing and jackets that he can use independently.
Practice toileting if your child has not been independent with all the necessary skills, including wiping and flushing.
Make sure the teacher has the information and supplies necessary to keep your child happy and safe. Teachers need up-to-date contact information for you and other family members. Most kindergarten children occasionally need a change of clothes. Teach your child her address, phone number, and parents’ names before she starts school.
Read to your child every day, and discuss what you’re reading. Ask questions, explain vocabulary and concepts. Play with rhymes.
Talk to your child about school rules and behavior. Practice raising hands and waiting for a turn. Tell your child that he has to obey the teacher and follow the rules.
Get excited about kindergarten!
It’s going to be a great year!