by Gloria Hill
A year ago, I was staring down the barrel of kindergarten. The first day of kindy was creeping up on me, and as the countdown drew nearer, the knots in my stomach grew tighter, and the lump in my throat grew bigger. I was nervous, and excited, and scared, and a little bit impatient, both wanting to start the journey, but at the same time not wanting to leave the comforts of home.
I wonder if my kindergartener son felt the same way?
Fast forward to a year later, and I am no longer nervous or scared. I am still excited, and now a little bit more impatient about school starting again, with my Big One entering Year 1 this year.
2016 was a huge year for all of us, with big changes to our family’s daily routine. Big One was starting school, Small One was starting day care, and I was returning to work after my final stint of maternity leave. The first few weeks of the new arrangements were chaotic to say the least – wrong lunches being packed, incorrect uniforms being worn, items being forgotten and school notes being lost. I had to learn to be organised, as I struggled with the pace of our new routine. Thankfully, with a bit of organisation, and a bit more practice, we were able to settle into the new routine about half way through Term 1.
Here’s what I did to get us organised.
School “Command Centre”
I found very early on that I needed all the school stuff to be in one spot so I set up a bookshelf to house the school bags, the hats, and various other bits and pieces. There’s a shelf for the school bag, a shelf with a box for the school notes and a hook for the school hats. On another shelf sits my pens and Post It Note pads for jotting down reminders or writing a quick note to the teacher, and permanent markers to write Big One’s name on everything. I also have a small magnetic whiteboard set up on the bookcase to write down upcoming events (and to pin the associated notes for attention).
Obviously label everything, that’s a given. But the important factor is to use labels that actually stay on so once that job is done, it doesn’t have to be done again. Bright Start Kids label pack is awesome as it can be personalised and can handle washing machines, dryers, dishwashers etc.
Every Sunday before bedtime, I set out the uniforms for the week ahead. We were given a timetable at the beginning of the year, noting the special activities planned for the week, such as sports, language classes, news / show and tell, school assemblies, library days, etc. I got an over-the-door hanger with 2 rows of hooks, and hung the uniforms on the lower 5 hooks and popped the balled up socks on to the upper 5 hooks.
I purchased ONE brand new set of uniform with the school logo from the New Uniform Shop, which was reserved for Big One to wear on assembly days.
I purchased extra school and sports uniforms and jumpers and jackets from the school’s Second Hand Uniform Shop. For a fraction of the cost, the pre-loved uniforms were in great condition, and ensured that we had a set of clothes for each day of the week.
Our school has 3 set times for eating – Crunch & Sip, Recess and Lunch. We learned quickly to not over-pack Big One’s lunch box, as there was not a lot of time for eating – about 10 minutes for each eating session. Big One’s ideal lunch box contains: a piece of fruit or veg for Crunch & Sip, a small amount of snack biscuits for Recess, and a sandwich for lunch. Anything more than that, and he would struggle to finish the food by the end of eating time.
Every night before bedtime, J Daddy and I made the boys’ lunches for the following day. We pre-packed all the snacks into the lunch boxes and put the pre-made sandwiches into the fridge, alongside the fruit and/or veg. In the morning, while the kids ate their breakfasts, it was easy to transfer the fridge items into the lunch boxes and then into their bags.
Notes and Letters from School
We experienced an avalanche of school notes last year. From permission notes for excursions, to notes from the P&C outlining their various fundraising activities, to communications from the teaching staff regarding various upcoming events, we received on average 4 notes a week. The shoebox in my “Command Centre” helped to keep everything together until I got a chance to file things away.
It became a habit to go through the school bag and retrieve the notes as soon as we got home from school. Our school uses a communications bag to hold all the notes (and homework readers), and J Daddy and I went through the communications bag before we sat down for homework. I found that dealing with the notes straight away ensured I didn’t miss the deadlines, as we very nearly did with a few things throughout the year.
The thought of homework at kindy can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be. We incorporated homework into our new routine, which set the scene for Big One as there will inevitably be more homework in the years to come. Last year, we received a small book every night, to help teach Big One how to read and recognise words. We always tried to do the homework before dinner every night, but on the nights when Big One was too tired, we would often try to complete it after breakfast the next day. Our kindy teacher did not set time limits on the homework – if Big One was too tired to do his homework, we were able to keep the book at home so he could try again the following night.
Before And After School Care
With both parents working full time, Big One was booked to attend both Before and After School Care. Our school has a wonderful service provider with its base of operations on the school grounds, and Big One enjoys his time with the educators and his school friends. We booked everything well in advance, especially the Vacation Care Program, and took the time to get to know the centre director and the program coordinator.
With so many dates to remember, I invested in a whiteboard which has a pride of place in our lounge room. At a glance, I can see all the events for the month, and note any potential clashes as the notes and dates roll in. J Daddy and I both have iPhones, and we use a Shared Calendar to record all of our appointments and commitments. I learned to be very vigilant with putting all the events in the calendars, including all school activities and all birthday party invitations – and boy, were there a few of those throughout the year. The motto is: if it’s not in the diary, it’s not happening!
There are so many ways to get involved with the school. Become the class parent, or volunteer to help in the canteen, the school library, and the second hand uniform shop. Volunteer to be a chaperone on class excursions. Attend the monthly P&C Meetings to learn about the “behind-the-scenes” planning.
I spent many Friday mornings and afternoons helping in the second hand uniform shop. I answered the call for assistance from the P&C and became the Secretary, and got to meet parents with kids in older grades. By joining the school community, I got to meet lots of new people and made lots of new friends, who have been a tremendous help in guiding me through the first year of school.
Make New Friends
I was very fortunate to have made friends with one family whose son was in Big One’s class prior to the start of kindy. It was great to be able to bounce ideas and questions off each other as we navigated through the first weeks of school.
As I became more involved with the school community, I widened my network to include parents from the other classes and in the older year groups, who were able to provide guidance and insights from their experience with the school.
Most schools host a morning tea to welcome the new kindy families on the first day of Kindergarten. This is the perfect opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
Teachers Are Our Friends Too
Big One had an amazing teacher, and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to his formal education. At the beginning, we were reluctant to hound and hassle the teacher with questions, but we soon found that the teacher was more than happy to address our concerns as soon as they were raised. We developed a great working relationship with the teacher, as well as other teaching staff at the school. Similarly, we got to know all the staff at the Before and After School Care service, who helped to address and resolve our queries throughout the year.
We’re All Winners
We all have such high expectations of ourselves, and we teach our kids to aim for the stars. I find myself guiding my boys down a path which I hope will lead to success, and have been known to compare their milestones and achievements with their peers. School is no different, but I have spent the better part of last year trying NOT to push Big One to compete against his classmates. At this age, school is not a competition. Some kids are better at recognising the alphabet and words. Some kids are better at adding up. And some kids just want to play, all the time. I wanted Big One to like school, learn new things, get along with his classmates, remember to use the facilities when nature calls, be respectful to the teachers, and be kind to everyone. Big One’s academic achievements and merit awards last year were the added bonus to a great first year of school, and we all felt like winners at the end of the year.
The first day of kindy will be an emotional one, both for you and your child. For me, the torrents of tears threatened to spill from the moment I woke up, to the moment when J Daddy and I were told to leave the school. I held it all in for as long as I could, but the dam burst the second I was off the school grounds. Note to self: bring tissues.
We wanted to document this special day with lots of photos and fond memories, so we all woke up a bit earlier than usual, had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, followed by a lot of happy snaps and selfies, before we left home for school. Note to self: give yourself plenty of time to get to school so you’re not rushed trying to find a parking spot.
We naively thought the first day registration process would be smooth and easy, but it was confusing and chaotic. Our school had 120 new kindy kids last year, and the class lists didn’t quite match up with the printed name tags. The much-touted Big Buddy Little Buddy program wasn’t well organised either, with some kindy kids not being assigned to a Big Buddy to help them through the first day nerves. Note to self: be prepared for the registration process to be a bit of a mess. Stuff like this happens, so take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and smile.
It was really hard to let go of my Big One, who had been my little shadow for the better part of 5 years. But as I watched my brave boy march into his classroom, I felt an enormous sense of pride soaring on a wave of hope, and trusted that when I saw him again in 6 short hours, he would be beaming from ear to ear, excited and happy after a fun first day, and raring to go back and do it all again the next day. Which he did, and has, every school day since.