Tag Archives: kindergarten

Dear Moms, It Will All Be Okay

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Over the past week, kids have gone back to school.  If you lucked out and have a child with an easy-going temperament, this transition may have barely caused a ripple in the pool of your life.  If you have a- shall we say- more sensitive child, this transition back to school may cause some angst for both your child and for yourself.

Our seven year old son, Jack, falls into the latter category.  He just started second grade.  While Jack is exceptionally bright, and gets stellar grades, he tends to be emotionally immature, and gets amped up over transitions big and small.  Sometimes just asking him to turn off the TV or come to supper can trigger a meltdown. So, we knew going back to school after a long, lazy summer would not be a picnic.

About a year an a half ago, I wrote a post reflecting on Jack’s year in kindergarten.  It was a strongly worded rant about how difficult it was to watch my small son grapple with the big world of education.  Although he had been in daycare since he was an infant, and he attended a stellar preschool, going to a full-day-every-day-academic-program was grueling.

Jack would return home at the end of the day like a ticking time bomb.  He was exhausted and agitated at the same time.  We struggled to get him to focus on homework after he had already sat still for so many hours in school.  He would hold himself together emotionally and behaviorally all day at school, and then let lose a barrage of anger and anxiety once he got home.

My post about Jack’s experience in kindergarten has been one of the most read, shared,  and commented-on posts here at Momaste.  I’ve heard from many moms who shared a similar and heart-wrenching experience as mine and Jack’s.

I still believe our education system is, in many ways, flawed.  You will never convince me that giving five and six year olds homework, or keeping them still for six hours at a time is developmentally appropriate.  I believe there should be way more opportunities for physical activities during the school day, and that children should be offered other methods of learning through play and exploration.

Despite this, I also believe teachers do their best working in the constraints of this system.  For the most part, teachers are amazing, helping friends who want our children to succeed.  They work way harder than I would ever want to, know way more about academically educating my child then I do, and do a much better job than I could ever dream of.  This is one reason why I continue to send my child to school, and have faith in our system, however flawed it may be.

It is really hard to keep perspective on things when our children are involved.  With the benefit of a year and a half of hindsight, I would like to take a moment to write couple of things.

First off, it is all going to be okay.  Your child will adjust.  Please take heart.

It is hard to watch our little people struggle with transitions, but have faith in your child’s ability to conquer challenges.  Jack is almost always capable of way more than I give him credit for.  Trying times pale in comparison to watching a child discover inherent joy in reading or science.

Second, I’ve learned that kindergarten is a year of major adjustments.  So is first grade.  And second.  Every year represents new and different developmental milestones for your child.  While it feels like our hearts are shredded when our kids come home dragging their back packs behind them, flattened by fatigue, frustrated by social challenges, or demoralized by a bad grade, we can not rob them of these precious learning opportunities.

It goes against everything in our nature to see our babies uncomfortable, but we need to accept we can not make every second of life comfortable for them.

This is not to say we should ignore it if they are truly struggling or having a hard time.  Making your maternal presence known as your child’s advocate is important.  Every child has special needs and needs to have a pleasant and rational spokesperson speak up for them while they learn to do so for themselves.  Most teachers and school administrators will be open and sensitive to your thoughts and concerns.

Finding ways to ease your parental anxiety about school can also help decrease your child’s difficulties going to school.  Volunteering to chaperone a field trip, read to the class, bring in a special snack, or help out with the school dance are great ways to get involved and feel more comfortable in the school where your child spends so much time.  It can also be fun to see your child interact with their peers and teachers in this environment which is so often another world to us as parents.

Finding positive outlets for your child is important.  We put Jack in karate, where he has flourished.  It is great to have a place for him that is not only socially safe, but where he also develops confidence and self esteem.  Additionally, it is a way for him to work out some of his frustration and energy at the end of the day.

While I believe karate has been beneficial for Jack, I also make sure his schedule is balanced with plenty of “down time” on the weekends.  The schedule really depends on the child.  Some kids do much better with every second of their day scheduled and structured, however for other kids (like my son), having unstructured time for free play and relaxation is very important.

Finally, take care of your mother heart.  It is helpful to talk with other moms and friends who may be going through similar things with their own children and can offer sympathy and support.  In my experience, knowing we are not alone is sometimes the most valuable thing for a mom.

I wish you and your child love, and light, and luck during this trying time.  Just keep telling yourself it will all be okay, because it will be.  Your child will surprise and delight you over and over again as you watch them take on the world with their own unique charm, wit, and intellect.

Momaste.

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I Hate Kindergarten- This Mom’s Rant

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Last August, before Jack, began kindergarten, we went to the library.  We checked out the story books about kindergarten.  They told happy, hopeful tales of adorable little animals going off to play in classrooms filled with toys and free time.  They talked about naptime, snack, kindly teachers, helpful friends, and recess.

We registered Jack for kindergarten at a private school because we needed full day school with after care.  Our work schedules couldn’t accomodate half day kindergarten.  We thought it would be a nice transition from his progressive pre-school/daycare where he had been since infancy.

Armed with positive attitudes, we purchased crisp uniforms, healthy snacks, and a little mat for rest time.

Fast forward six months:  It is a Herculean feat to get Jack up in the morning and ready for school.

Tantrums ensue.

Jack trudges out of the school building at the end of the day, the weight of the world in his backpack.  He barely talks in the car on the way home.  Once home, he curls up on the couch with his blankie, stating he’s tired.  He doesn’t want to play, or have snack.  He prickles if I ask him about his day.

Tantrums ensue.

Jack trotted off happily in September.  He came home his first day stating he couldn’t wait to get homework.

Wait, homework?  In kindergarten?  Um, don’t children’s brains pretty much shut off for the day at like 3 p.m.?   (I’m just a lowly child and family therapist, but I thought I read that somewhere.)   How were we expected to do homework with our child after getting home from work around 6 p.m.?  Maybe it would just be coloring pages or family reading time, I thought optomistically.

Nope.  Jack gets math and literacy homework, plus reading.  Every night.  To his credit, he puts time and effort into it, sometimes to the point of being up past bedtime, his overtired brain short-circuiting because he can not find the exact shade of blue-green with which to color, which in turn leads to a tantrum, which prolongs bedtime, which exacerbates his exhaustion, which. . .  you get the picture.

One night I cuddled with him at bedtime.  He mentioned an abrasion he had on his arm from falling on the playground.  “Ben tripped me,” he said.

“Wow buddy,” I sighed.  “Kindergarten is pretty stressful, huh?”

“Yeah,” he replied, and thought a moment before adding, “We don’t even get nap time anymore, because we are ‘sposed to be getting ready for first grade, so I’m always tired.  And we hardly ever get to play at centers either.  It’s just all work.”

I stayed with him, rubbed his back and ruffled his hair until he fell asleep.  It will all be okay, I whispered, before leaving his room.

The exchange left me depressed, questioning if we should have waited a year for him to start institutionalized education.  It also left me guilty that we work and can’t be with him more during the week, that we can’t afford to home school or send him to an alternative setting where his sensitive, creative soul would be nurtured.

I hate kindergarten.

I hate seeing my kid stressed and miserable.  I hate doing homework with him at 6:30 at night, or worse, rushing him through it in the morning.

I hate seeing the world of education trying to pulverize his heart and soul to fit into some stupid box.

I hate that Jack has lost some of his innocence since starting kindergarten.  One morning, before the bell I witnessed a “big boy” on the playground shouting rap lyrics at my son and his five year old cohorts, while gyrating his hips and gesticulating at his crotch.  I hate that Jack is exposed to so many “unknowns” in terms of his classmates and family cultures that may not be as conservative as ours.  I hate that he thinks this “big boy” behavior is cool, and then gets “behavior needs improvement” checked on his progress report.

I hate that I feel like “That Mom,” when I advocate for my child, you know, the one who always complains and never believes her kid does anything wrong.

I hate that  Jack is graded and judged.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have valued Jack’s education since day one.  We read to him and encourage exploration and experimentation.  We made big sacrifices to have Jack attend a daycare/pre-school that nurtured intelligence.  We put a positive face forward about kindergarten for our little guy.

Jack has a good teacher who he likes.  I have nothing but respect and fondness for her, but this education system, in my humble opinion, has it all wrong.  There is such a rush to grow our children with so little respect for the process involved.

In my professional practice, I see many kids drop out of school.  They are square pegs that the system has been trying to cram into round holes, and sick of it, they give up.  At the other end of the spectrum, I see  kids Jack’s age who are sick with anxiety by what the world expects of them and develop school refusal and psychosomatic issues.  I encourage these kids to develop good self care and strategies to deal with their worries, or to find alternative paths to education.

All too often the bad taste they have for learning sticks.  Further, if a kid doesn’t grow in the “traditional” path of school, college etc. to adulthood, it legitimizes other paths to adulthood, such as through teen pregnancy, drugs, and gangs.  While not every kid who drops out is going to join a gang to fit into a system, it is a concern.

Jack will pull through.  In this fact I have every confidence.  We will hug him, encourage him, and give him hope.  In the meantime, I would like to tell kindergarten that I think it is poopy and stupid, and it stinks like broccoli farts.

I will keep this thought to myself.

Please read my follow up post to this piece here.