My 4-year-old was just starting to loosen her grip on me when I dropped her off at Pre-K, and I was finally feeling less guilty about leaving a teary child every morning, when it was time to think about kindergarten. That step was daunting; there were so many options and so much work that went into investigating which school was the "right" one. Still, I couldn’t be lazy about my child’s education. There are just some things every grown-ass mom does when applying to send her kid to kindergarten, and I wasn’t about to have my kid lose out on the opportunity to attend a great school.
When I was a kid, kindergarten was three hours every day and it felt more like a rehearsal for school than actual school. We learned how to line up, how to call our teacher’s by their last names, and I vaguely remember some instruction involving letters. Milk got passed around, and then it was dismissal time. But now? Well, now kindergarten now might as well be first grade. My kids learned to read, add, and write “small-moment stories,” which were barely legible because they were, you know, 5-year-old kids. Personally, I think it's a bit much. My kids seemed to handle it, though. They were able to rise to the expectations of their teachers, even if their mother wasn’t totally prepared for what kindergarten would bring. It taught me that they were growing up, and capable of more than I had given them credit for.
So as exciting as it was to think about school supply shopping (just me?), preparing to send my children to school with kids much bigger than them (some fifth graders are taller than me) can be scary. I had to suck it up, and do the things every grown-ass mom does when applying to send her kid to kindergarten.
She Does Her Homework
Where we live, in New York City, there is an abundant of choices when it comes to education. For parents who are entertaining both private and public school options, I seriously don’t know how they deal with all the application hurdles. A lot of private schools require letters of recommendation, in-person interviews (of the kid and the parents) and possibly testing. Some public school programs require testing, if you’re trying to get your kid placed in an academically gifted program, where the demand hugely outweighs the supply.
Even if your area has one or two options for kindergarten, you have to be extremely proactive about getting information. Talk to parents, talk to other kids. I was really taken by surprise at how little information there is easily available on the whole kindergarten application process. Researching and hunting down info became my second job for a while.
She Refuses To Position Kindergarten As A "Big Deal" To Her Kid...
My younger kid couldn’t wait to go to“big kid” school. He was only in preschool when he was saying he couldn't wait to start kindergarten and do cool stuff, like take spelling tests, like his older sister. However, he might be an exception to the rule. Kindergarten can be scary to kids, just like anything new can be intimidating to any of us. It’s instinctual to fear the unknown.
When my older daughter started kindergarten, we kind of downplayed it. We framed it as the “next grade,” and she had to move on to make room for new little kids who would be filling her vacated Pre-K classroom. We didn’t build it up to be something she had to worry about “winning” at.
...But She Doesn't Downplay Kindergarten Either
We didn’t want our kids to be afraid of kindergarten, but we wanted them to recognize its significance. Just like their parents had jobs, school was their job. So while we didn’t stress academic performance, we definitively emphasized the fact that we all had to be contributing members of society. It’s just that the kids got to sing songs and color more often than the adults did. Lucky.
She Learns About The School’s Homework Policy
A handful of studies and an endless supply of opinions are out there when it comes to homework. While I personally don't think my kids needed homework in kindergarten, I didn’t mind them having simple, 10-minute assignments. I feel it got them used to the idea of having to practice something a little each day. We were lucky in that our kids’ school didn’t exceed that amount of homework, and didn’t assign any over weekends or breaks.
But figure out how you feel about it. Some schools assign more, some assign none.There is no universal policy we’ve adopted in this country about education, so you kind of need to know your kid, and your own feelings about homework, to make an informed decision on a school being a good fit.
She Asks About Class Size
Most of the classes in my kids’ public school are at capacity. There are 25 kids in kindergarten, and 31 kids in first grade. I would love for my kids — especially my younger, more feisty child — to be in a smaller class, where the teacher’s attention wasn’t spread so thinly and children weren’t given an opportunity to goof around while another student was working with the instructor. But private school, with its small class size, is crazy expensive.
Not all public schools have classes that big, though. So definitely look around, and figure out if your kid is the type who could handle himself with that many other students, or if that scenario is just setting him up to fail.
She Picks A Commut That Works For The Entire Family
My kids’ commute sucks. Instead of going to the local school two blocks away, they are bused to a different school, 20 minutes away. We struggled with this choice; the neighborhood school, which housed Pre-K through fifth grades, was good, but the public one further from us offered a quality program that went through middle school. I knew we wouldn’t be moving out of our neighborhood by the time our firstborn was in middle school and I just felt that, in the long run, the school further away was going to benefit our kids more.
In hindsight, I don’t know if I made the right choice. It’s a pain to get to school events, since they’re not close to us, and most of my children’s friends live two neighborhoods away. However, on the flip side, they like school, are doing fine, and they don’t even know what it would have been like to stay local. So while our mornings are a bit chaotic and usually involve me yelling at one (or both) of the kids about being late for the bus, it’s what we’re choosing. For now.
She Has 8 Million Copies Of 8 Million Proofs Of Residence
Applying for and enrolling a kid in anything requires an absurd amount of paperwork. (Yes, they still use paper). Some schools may have evolved to mostly digital interfaces, but you still need copies of gas bills and birth certificates and pay stubs. The college application process will feel like a damn cake walk by the time we get to that point.
She Makes Sure Her Kid Is Vaccinated
If you haven’t already done so, to gain admission to Pre-K programs you have to make sure your kid’s immunizations are up to date. Not vaccinating your kid? Then expect to hear from parents like me, who are all for staggering the shots, but who only see harm being done when parents refuse to protect their kids, and my kids, from deadly diseases that no one has to suffer from any more.
She Brings Her Kid To The Open House
The more we exposed our kids to the environment of elementary school, the more they got used to the idea of going to one. Their church basement preschool was cozy and cute, but it was going to be quite a shock if the first time they were inside a big red brick building was their actual first day of kindergarten.
She Tells Herself She Can Handle It…
As big a step as it was for my kids to move up to kindergarten, it was just as huge a leap for their dad and me. They were still babies, still asking for their butts to be wiped (even though they were perfectly capable of doing that themselves). I was afraid they would hate school. Thankfully, I remembered that, at times, I hated school, too. Still, for the most part I was a fan. There were bullies, but there were also friends. Every year, millions of parents see their kids off to this huge milestone of a day. I could do it too.
…But Gives Herself Permission To Cry
Just because I can let go of my baby as he steps inside his classroom with 24 other kids, doesn’t mean I won’t dissolve into an emotional puddle. I mean, I made him. With each monumental step he takes, my youngest child destroys me, because saying goodbye on that first morning of kindergarten felt like saying goodbye to my baby.