Bye-Bye, Mom. I’m Off To School
by Lois Rubin Gross
It’s a lifetime rite of passage: the walk up to the big front door of the school house, the clutched hand, the tearful goodbye. And that’s often just you! Your child is probably a lot less apprehensive about starting school than you are about sending him or her off to a big building with lots of kids and different authority figures. Am I ready for this? you may ask.
You may not be ready for school to start. And in reality, your child may not be ready either.
Make no mistake: children today are expected to know more going into school than you and I were expected to know when we started school. When I began school, in the age of the dinosaurs, I got in trouble because I already knew how to read and the last thing the teacher wanted was a bored child on her hands. Now children are actually learning academics in kindergarten.
To ensure readiness for both you and your child, here are some things you might want to work on during the next few weeks.
- Prepare your child to say good-bye. There are many, many books to prepare your child for the school experience, but an especially good one is The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, a classic that reassures children that mom is just a kiss away, all day long.
- Make sure your child knows his or her ABCs. Being able to sing the alphabet song is not the only thing a child needs to know. Face it, many of us started school thinking that “lmnop” was one word. Your child should be able to recite the alphabet as separate letters. It’s better still if they can recognize the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case. LMNO Peas, by Keith Baker, capitalizes on the tricky, run-together section of the alphabet with a cast of peas identifying all of the letters.
- Children should be able to count. Knowing numbers one through ten is the bare minimum. Most teachers would prefer your child know numbers to thirty. Make this a meaningful exercise by counting things, and a great way to do this is cooking. Make a batch of chocolate cookies and have your child count out ten chocolate chips to throw in the batter. The Everything Kids’ Cookbook,by Sandra Nissenberg, is a good place to start. Remember that cooking with you is the ultimate learning activity: reading, sequencing, measuring, following rules, and having fun are all part of the experience.
- Make sure your child is culturally literate. No, they don’t have to know all the people on Real Housewives, but you want them to have a working knowledge of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and well-known literary characters. Make a trip to the library, today, and get some Seuss, some Mother Goose, and a big helping of the real Cinderella (not the Disney version). While you’re at the library, get your child his or her own library card, if local library rules permit. This is a big step up your child’s learning ladder and September is “Library Card sign-up Month” in most libraries.
- Make sure your child is playground literate. This may be treacherous territory, but I’m going to suggest that your child may be at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with at least some popular film and TV characters and familiar licensed faces. I don’t think TV should be a babysitter, by any means, but kids need common ground on the playground and, like it or not, TV is it.
- Prepare your child to be a good school citizen. Manners in the classroom and on the playground will make life a lot easier for your child’s school career. Both teachers and classmates need to be acknowledged in an appropriate manner. As for the playground, you don’t want your child to be bullied or to be the bully. Check out The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill and Laura Hurlish Beith as an example of what happens to a rough-and-tumble little girl who is one-upped by the new kid on the playground.
This is the beginning of a long and important journey in your child’s life but, oh, how exciting to see your little one become a “big kid!” If you’re all well-prepared for the first day in the classroom, school will be an exciting adventure for both of you.
Lois Rubin Gross has an MS in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She is currently Senior Children’s Librarian at the Hoboken (NJ) Public Library. She has also worked as a librarian for children with special needs. She is a book reviewer for Children’s Literature and a blogger for After Fifty Living and Wise Women Now. Join her Facebook book community Lois Storylady.