Our son started Kindergarten this week, officially starting his journey through the public school system. This is definitely one of the most prominent of the well-known moments of mixed emotions experienced by parents. I am immensely proud of the smart and very personable kid and thoroughly enjoy the experience of seeing him grow and mature. At the same time, I miss the baby that he was and the ability for my wife and/or me to be there for every part of his life. Even as I write this, I know that this whole dilemma sounds kind of clichéd, but it also is unquestionably real.
I’m sure it is normal for us as parents to have quite a bit of apprehension and uncertainty as our son starts school. We have a lot of awareness of both his strengths and weaknesses and can’t help but wonder how each will affect his experience. We do know that our son is quite smart, even already having some pretty decent reading skills. He has known basics like his alphabet and counting since not too long after he learned to talk and he has even learned some simple math.
On the other hand, he also has some definite problems with listening and following directions, which are going to take some work to overcome. After his very first day of school, the teacher already noted that he wasn’t listening as well as he should and moved him to a desk closer to the front of the room. We’ve also recently learned that his eyesight is not very good. While he got his first set of eyeglasses yesterday, he is still nearly blind in one eye even with the lenses. Obviously, that is going to be a bit of a challenge to overcome and probably also explains why his motor skills haven’t been as strong as his intellectual talents.
Our son has been through 2 years of pre-school as well as a few months at a drop-off school-skills class, so we didn’t experience as much separation anxiety as some families do. Even when he first started pre-school, there really wasn’t any major problem when my wife left him for the first time, something that surprised us a bit since he had always had a really difficult time with babysitters. My wife, who is a stay-at-home mom, has probably had more of a difficult time with the adjustment than my son has.
The shift from pre-school to Kindergarten is still a big adjustment. His pre-school was only 4 days a week, 3-hours per day. The elementary school he is going to has a full day Kindergarten, which means 5 days a week, 6 1/2 hours per day. This includes lunch at school, which is also a pretty big change. The pre-school was a cooperative type, which meant that my wife stayed to assist with the class one day a week. It also had pretty much an open-door policy where parents were pretty free to stick around if there was something going on that they wanted to observe. Not surprisingly, Kindergarten has much more of a closed atmosphere.
We definitely do still intend to be very involved in our son’s school experience wherever we can. My wife has already made certain that the teacher and the parent’s organization are aware that she is available to volunteer as needed and we expect that there will be many opportunities. The class has 24 students and there are no teaching assistants, so the teacher did indicate that parents should have opportunities to stick around and assist in the classroom periodically.
While my work schedule limits my availability, I certainly hope to be able to take part whenever I can as well. I did take the day off of work this week so that I could go along to the parent orientation on Tuesday, which gave me the opportunity to meet his teacher and see the classroom. I expect to attend parent activities and meetings whenever my schedule allows. I also definitely plan to continue to spend lots of time working with my son directly to help reinforce and practice the lessons he is learning in school.
I was impressed by the teacher and the classroom during the orientation on Tuesday. The classroom immediately made a very good first impression due to the teacher’s decision to heavily feature “The Cat in the Hat” as a central theme to the decoration. That was one of the very first books that we bought for my son and we have read it (and its sequels) together numerous times over the years. My son’s reading skills have been improving rapidly and, just last weekend, I helped to guide my son through his first time reading “The Cat in the Hat” himself.
The teacher herself definitely seemed very kind and skilled to me, based on my first impression. She has quite a bit of teaching experience and seemed to have a good handle on how to work with kids this age. After the first 2 days, my son’s impression of her is very positive and he still seems excited about going back again tomorrow.
While it is not always easy to watch my child gain independence and move forward, he is also my greatest pride and the most important part of my wife’s and my lives. I look forward to continuing to share this adventure with my family!