Friday, August 20, 2010

By Special Request

Jacquie asked for some details on kindergarten. Her oldest is about to start kindergarten too.

Here, by special request, is the first two days of kindergarten in detail.


So, kindergarten. Well, where shall we begin? I think I should set the stage and the background.

At this time last year, Chuckles was enrolled in a 5 day/week day care center that offered a Pre-K curriculum. I did not care for the people in that room. I actually had thought about changing entire day care centers because I was just not comfortable with the situation. I then talked to someone who also had a 4 year old in that center, and she had her daughter moved into the accredited kindergarten classroom becaseu of some social issues. I absolutely LOVED one of the teachers in the kindergarten room.

I called the center director one day to talk about whether it was possible for Chuckles. She kind of tried to talk me out of it. She said that it was a rigorous program, there would be homework, and there would be no naps. I kind of laughed because Chuckles hadn’t reliably napped in years. Chuckles had been begging me to teach him to read. I don’t know how to teach a kid to read and I didn’t really have time to devote to it since Bobo was still small, still sick, and I was still nursing. In fact, I am pretty sure I made the call to the center director while Bobo had the chicken pox. I felt terrible that I didn’t have the time to give to Chuckles to help him learn to read (when he really wanted to, clearly would be able to, and was so motivated). I signed Chuckles up for kindergarten but I was a wreck (as I always am when I make a decision).

It turns out the homework was sent home on Monday and not due back until the following Monday. Sometimes we did it Sunday night and sometimes it was done by Tuesday. It just depended. It wasn’t bad at all. I found out later that only 2 kids in his class turned in every single homework packet that was given and there were only 4 or 5 out of 20 who returned any homework packets. They had popcorn words and spelling lessons, phonics, whole language, and after a few months, Chuckles could read with me. He started spotting words on billboards and at the grocery store. They did number lines and addition, subtraction, and greater than and less than. He can count by fives, by tens, by twos. He did some rudimentary multiplication and division. He started to tell time. They hatched butterflies from cocoons.

The decision to put him kindergarten at 4, could not have turned out any better. Mrs. Marie was his teacher.

Fast-forward through Bobo’s various illnesses and Chuckles is still chugging along with Mrs. Marie teaching him anything and everything he or she wanted. I think she taught specifically to him and his strengths since he paid attention and caught on quickly. We kept Chuckles in kindergarten until the graduation ceremony (the one during which Bobo spiked a fever) and a week after that too. It was a natural time for him to leave. He took it well (though the part where I went back to work after the month at home with Bobo was hard on him).

We had always planned on keeping both boys at our day care center because they offered before and after school care, fed the kids breakfast, and had a bus to drop them at school (plus would hold them on snow days and breaks). Mrs. Marie drove the bus. I had signed Chuckles up for all-day kindergarten at the public school as it was less expensive than full-day day care plus he was clearly ready for the academics of kindergarten. I was more worried about the social aspects (being responsible for his own potty, finding his classroom on his own, being independent, etc).

Once we had Mrs. Marie in place, though, we no longer needed all-day kindergarten. So, I fretted and ultimately switched him to half-day. I was not worried about separation for him at all. We’ve been apart a lot. I’m not worried about him getting the entire curriculum in kindergarten since he’s already gotten that and more. I still had concerns about his independence, but he’s a young 5 and coming along.

So, yesterday was his first day at Big School. Mrs. Marie, Bobo, and I walked Chuckles to his classroom. I took some photos. Mrs. Marie met the teacher. She left with Bobo and I stayed behind. Eventually, it was time for the parents to leave. It was a little after 10 am. I ran an errand, came home, made lunch for everyone (grumpily and so I would feel like I wsa doing something), and by then it was time to head back to the school. I watched Chuckles get on the bus, and then I took off running for home so I could greet the bus (all that running training has not been for naught), but I didn’t make it. I called Mrs. Marie and told her to head out and meet the bus. I ended up getting there just as the bus pulled up. I got some photos.

There is a little boy in his classroom who has some physical limitations. There is a paraprofessional working with him. That means there is an extra set of adult eyes and hands in the classroom. If there ever needs to be a sub, at least someone will know the routine.

Chuckles had a fine first day. They sang the R-E-D red song. They did not say the Pledge of Allegiance. He had art class in the art room and they walked single file there. They heard a story at circle time. It was someone’s birthday (and he didn’t know whether the girl was turning 5 or 6), so they had cookies (with nuts as it’s not a nut-free school, which is OK since no one in the class has a nut allergy and the cafeteria will give you PB&J if you forget your lunch or money). They colored a sheet and it was time to come home. Chuckles thinks they need to play more while at school. They have toys, and he wants to use them.

Because he’s half-day, there is no recess (but it’s less than 3 hours) and there isn’t as much time for play as there would be in the all-day program (but he can play all afternoon at home). The half-day kids get weekly homework packets. The state-mandated curriculum is the same for half-day and all-day students, so they have to cram the same amount of learning into a shorter time frame. I think that will help him because transitions aren’t his best suit (although I think it’s because he has a long attention span and isn’t ready to move on in 10 minutes). I talked to the teacher about play time, and she devised some ways to do the reading groups so that two groups of kids are playing in the areas while the third group is doing their reading lessons. Ingenious.

Today was good too. Mrs. Marie put him on the bus, then drove up to the school to make sure he got into his classroom OK (he did). Then she came home to wait for the bus. He got off happily and told her all about it (and me too…they called me). He had gym class. His jumping jacks were crooked. He forgot to change his shoes before gym class. He played with little legos and put bad guys on the legos and found a boat and put the bad guys on the boat. Today was bring-your-own-snack day so I sent a baggie of grapes and a juice box. When we talked on the phone, he begged me to come home right then. But I know he was having a nice time with Mrs. Marie, but he just loves me so much (it’s exhausting).

The morning bus is K-5 on the bus. He won’t take that all the time. But the after-school bus is just the one room of half-day kindergarteners. There are 15 kids in his class and only 7 of them take the bus. We’re the closest house to the school, so his own private charter basically just dropped him home. School lets out at 11:45 and he was home on the bus about 11:50 today (yesterday was closer to noon). I have no qualms about the noon-time bus. They open the door to the K classroom right to the bus and escort them and do name-to-face to check them out of class and onto the bus. I’m not as keen on the morning bus, but on Speech Therapy days it’s going to be necessary.

So, my panic is over (but I lost my Power Parent Portal Password, so I need to call and get it back). School has started. Yesterday was the first day of the rest of his life. Mrs. Marie and I both shed a couple of tears, but I wasn’t nearly as bad as I could’ve been (like if they’d read The Kissing Hand while I was present).

Oh, his teacher sent home a questionnaire asking about strengths and weaknesses and what we hoped to get out of kinergarten. I couldn't really think of anything other than independence and getting used to the school for 1st grade. I have very low expectations for what I want him to learn in kindergarten (though, truthfully, he went through kindergarten last year and learned a ton so he doesn't need much with respect to that).

Oh and he'd normally be considered a young 5 in kindergarten (with a May birthday and a mid-0summer cut-off), but there are at least 2 kids younger than he is, so I think he's just fine.

1 comment:

  1. I read this post on my phone last Friday when I was still at the hospital with tonsil girl, and I meant to respond then, but it totally got away from me....UNTIL NOW!

    Thanks for this. My son will be a young five in his class (having been 5 for only 4 days before starting kindergarten). I'm sort of torn between wishing there was a half-day option available and relieved that there isn't because I do think that, once he (and I) get used to, the full day will be good for him, but man, it's a lot to process....

    We were at his school today dropping off a late health form and we got to peek inside his classroom and meet one of the teachers (not his teacher but a Real Life Kindergarten Teacher).

    How was Chuckles this week?