As the first day of kindergarten approaches, you can do a few things to set your child on the path to school success.
Find out if the school that your child will attend has a registration deadline. Some schools have a limited number of slots for children. Start early to find out your school's policy and the procedures.
Learn as much as you can about the school your child will attend before the school year begins. Schools — even schools in the same district — can differ greatly. Don't rely only on information about kindergarten that you have received from other parents — their schools might have different requirements and expectations. You will want to find out the following:
- The principal's name;
- The name of your child's teacher;
- What forms you need to fill out;
- What immunizations are required before your child enters school;
- A description of the kindergarten program;
- The yearly calendar and daily schedule for kindergarten children;
- Procedures for transportation to and from school;
- Available food services; and
- How you can become involved in your child's education and in the school.
Some schools will send you this information. In addition, some schools will hold orientation meetings in the spring for parents who expect to enroll their children in kindergarten the following fall. If your school doesn't plan such a meeting, call the principal's office to ask for information and to arrange a visit.
Find out in advance what the school expects from new kindergarten students. If you know the school's expectations a year or two ahead of time, you will be in a better position to prepare your child. Sometimes parents and caregivers don't think the school's expectations are right for their children. For example, they may think that the school doesn't adequately provide for differences in children's learning and development or that its academic program is not strong enough. If you don't agree with your school's expectations for your child, you may want to meet with the principal or kindergarten teacher to talk about the expectations.
Visit the school with your child. Walk up and down the hallways to help her learn where different rooms-her classroom, the library, the gym, the cafeteria-are. Let your child observe other children and their classrooms.
Talk with your child about school. During your visit, make positive comments about the school-your good attitude will rub off! ("Look at all the boys and girls painting in this classroom. Doesn't that look like fun!") At home, show excitement about the big step in your child's life. Let him know that starting school is a very special event.
Talk with your child about the teachers she will have and how they will help her learn new things. Encourage your child to consider teachers to be wise friends to whom she should listen and show respect. Explain to your child how important it is to go to class each day. Explain how important and exciting the things that she will learn in school are-reading, writing, math, science, art and music.
Consider volunteering to help out in the school. Your child's teacher may appreciate having an extra adult to help do everything from passing out paper and pencils to supervising children on the playground. Volunteering is a good way to learn more about the school and to meet its staff and to meet other parents.
When the long-awaited first day of kindergarten arrives, go to school with your child (but don't stay too long). And be patient. Many young children are overwhelmed at first, because they haven't had much experience in dealing with new situations. They may not like school immediately. Your child may cry or cling to you when you say goodbye each morning, but with support from you and his teacher, this can change rapidly.
As your child leaves home for her first day of kindergarten, let her know how proud of her you are!