I did it. I cried when I dropped my son off for his first day of Kindergarten. I honestly didn’t think I would. I felt good about his going and I knew he was ready. In some ways, I was consumed with guilt about not being sad that my little boy was growing up. I hear that all mothers cry on the first day of Kindergarten. How could I be the one mother who doesn’t cry? I am, after all, the over-loving, smothering type.
But then it hit me. Three separate times I was blinking back tears – once as we walked into the school, then when I saw my son walk into the classroom without a glance back at me, and finally as my husband and I walked out of the school, leaving our big boy behind. I gave in that last time, letting the tears cross the rim of my eyes. My husband hugged me and said to let it out, but that was all I could give. It is, after all, a good thing. My son is ready, and we, as his parents, are to credit for that.
My husband didn’t go to Kindergarten. His mother says she preferred to keep him and his brother at home. I did go. Back then, Kindergarten wasn’t mandated, as it is now in my state. I think I would have sent my son anyway, not just for the free childcare public school offers, but because Kindergarten would feed his insatiable hunger for learning far better than I could. I simply don’t have the knowledge or patience for structured teaching.
I’m sure when I was a kid, Kindergarten was little more than a daycare. I’m told kids in Kindergarten these days are learning what those my age learned in first grade. Still, I’m not sure how one measures a good Kindergarten (other than teacher-student ratios). I sought answers on Scholastic and learned that there are certain basic agreements among educators as to what makes a good program. Here are those agreements:
- Expand your child’s ability to learn about (and from) the world, to organize information, and to solve problems. This increases his feelings of self-worth and confidence, his ability to work with others, and his interest in challenging tasks.
- Provide a combination of formal (teacher-initiated) and informal (child-initiated) activities. Investigations and projects allow your child to work both on her own and in small groups.
- Keep large group activities that require sitting and listening to a minimum. Instead, most activities feature play-based, hands-on learning in small groups. As the year progresses, large group activities become a bit longer in preparation for 1st grade.
- Foster a love of books, reading, and writing. There are books, words, and kids’ own writing all over the classroom.
But I wanted to hear from the biggest critic of all, my son. When we picked him up after his first day of school, he said, “Kindergarten is awesome.” And that just rocks.