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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Some advice for those about to start kindergarten

August 12, 2009

Well, really this advice is for FAMILIES whose first-born child is about to start kindergarten. Two of my close friends fall into this category, and have been talking to me about their transitions. It's a big one! Some of the advice I've shared is below:

Kindergarten, at least at a public school, is not preschool. There will probably be more kids in the room, and at least at the beginning, the teacher will be really busy learning names and getting bus numbers committed to memory. Don't despair if you don't have tons of close contact with the teacher right away. He or she is incredibly busy helping kids get adjusted.

Second, there are LOADS of papers that come home the first day, really the whole first week. As a parent, take the time to sift through it all and return those that require returning. Your teacher will be keeping a checklist of papers returned — make sure all the papers get back! Most schools use a special folder or other system for important papers. Make a backpack check part of every day.

Third, although you're hoping for a full recounting of the first day (or week) of school, don't be surprised if your child doesn't blurt it all out right off the bus. Your child will surely be exhausted and overwhelmed from all the new "stuff." I've found that my girls talk more easily when they're distracted: by helping me prepare dinner, pull weeds, or fold the laundry. Those often become our closest moments of the day. Also, it helps when I remember to frame my questions in ways that can't be answered yes/no!

Fourth, plan to get involved. Your teacher may not want volunteers right away, but when things settle down, try to get in to volunteer. It's a great way to make sense of things you hear at home. "Oh! There's the beehive you told me about!" You can also meet your child's classmates and become a part of the school. If you're busy during the day, see if there are things you can do from home. Cutting out shapes and helping prepare big projects is hugely helpful.

Last, you know your child. If he or she has special learning needs, make sure your teacher knows about them right away. If your child seems really distraught or frightened about school, or comes home telling a story that makes you nervous, call your teacher. I wouldn't let anything linger that I wasn't comfortable with.

Sending your first-born off to kindergarten is an exciting and scary time. I'm sure other parents and teachers have good advice too. Anything you want to add to my list? Comment away!

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"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass