parenting a kindergartener
Sending Rooney (our firstborn) off to kindergarten last fall felt like we entered the "next level" of parenting. It's a big milestone for kids and parents alike, which can sometimes feel like foreign territory! I would have loved to read a blog post about sending a kid to kindergarten, so I decided to write the post I wanted to read last summer.
all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten
My biggest fears going into the school year were school bus incidents (her innocent 5-year-old mind would surely be exposed to "older kid" things) and lice. Oh man, lice terrified me for the first few months. I signed up for "health updates" from her school district and it was basically just a daily lice report...it makes my head itch just thinking about it. If you have a daughter, putting her hair in braids is a good way to keep it at bay. We also use this rosemary detangler spray on her hair each day. Luckily we have avoided it thus far (fingers crossed!).
But back to the bus. I was not a bus kid growing up — we lived close enough to walk, or I would get a ride from my parents. Eric rode the bus (his junior high was in an entirely other town), and was firm in his belief that she should ride the bus considering our work schedules. In the end, as a parent, I absolutely loved the convenience of it. It picks her up on our street (just a couple houses away) and is completely FREE. She's only on the bus for 10-15 minutes each way and it saves me a lot of time. Score!
In the end, the things I worried about weren't a big deal, but there were other things I hadn't thought of that were challenging. Keep reading ;)
The first two to three months were a huge adjustment for her. I thought since she was already going to preschool/daycare four-and-a-half days, it really would not be that different. Boy, was I wrong! I had been warned by a few mom friends that she would be exhausted, which might show up in her behavior through bed wetting, tears, outbursts, etc. I greatly appreciated the heads-up and figured it would last two to three weeks. To be honest, it lasted for about three months (and still reared its head occasionally through May). Empathy is not my strongest suit, but I tried to remember how new this all was to her, how much she was learning each day, and how hard her little body and brain were working! She was also super hungry at night!
Physically she also grew a ton in her strength (and bravery) at the playground, specifically the monkey bars, which she says was her favorite part of kindergarten! We were shocked one night at the park at how far she had come. I guess 180 days of practice will add up! She loves going back to her school playground in the evenings to play when there are not a hundred other kids there :)
I didn't see it coming, but Rooney also started to establish her own social life with play dates with new friends where I am not present. She made a new friend on the bus and they liked to plan spontaneous play dates almost daily. And once spring rolled around, there was an abundance of birthday parties where all the kids in her class were invited. It seemed like everyone had spring birthdays!
Probably the most unexpected thing we dealt with was her best friend moving away over Christmas break. Rooney started the year not knowing anyone in her class, and became fast friends with a sweet little girl. She would come home from school and basically only talk about this one friend. Sadly, after a few months she had to say goodbye to her best friend as she moved a couple hours away. It was really heartbreaking! She still talks about her weekly.
Rooney grew a ton in her education, of course. Learning to read, spelling by sounding out words, learning new songs ... she loves schoolwork so she was never sad about having to go to school.
Kindergarten also meant being exposed to new germs. Before kindergarten, Rooney had never been on an antibiotic. This past winter was brutal — she had strep throat twice, a double ear infection, influenza B, the stomach bug, etc. March was a rough month!
Eric and I both changed our work schedules slightly to avoid paying for before- and after-school care (not that there is anything wrong with those programs at all!).
Eric walked her to the bus most days and I would be home when she got off. For me, being home from work at 4:00 pm rather than 5:30 pm meant I finally was able to make meal planning a priority, which was possibly my favorite unexpected result of her starting school.
Obviously as parents we want to be involved in her education, but I was very pleased that her school required very little of us throughout the year (limited homework, everything was very kindergarten-age appropriate, and we didn't have to do a lot of extra projects or be creative with endless dress-up days).
For those of you who, like us, are budget-conscious, you might be wondering how much kindergarten will cost. Obviously, it will be different for each child and school. There were quite a few things that popped up throughout the year — book fairs, book orders, fundraisers, apparel sales, carnivals, yearbooks, etc. It was a little overwhelming at times. Many (if not all) of these things are optional and we by no means said "yes" every time, but over the course of the year we spent about $500 on school lunches and $425 on other items. Compared to daycare, public school is a relief when it comes to finances.
Overall we had a really wonderful experience — Rooney loves school and I am so thankful that our neighborhood has such a great one with amazing teachers and staff. I can't believe the school year is already over and she's technically a first-grader now! I asked if she was excited or sad that it's summer break and she said she is excited to be in first grade! :) So now I'd love to know from you what to expect as we go into first grade!