Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 22, 2005, Herald Journal

Preparing for kindergarten


My five-year-old daughter recently went through a rite of passage that five-year-olds must experience before starting school; she received her immunizations.

She actually likes going to the doctor because her pediatrician has a wonderful sense of humor (he is definitely in the right profession), finding something in her ear when he checks them, or guessing what she had for breakfast when he checks her stomach, etc.

But this time, the trip to the doctor was different. She was tentative, scared, and much quieter, and the doctor sensed it.

“Now, Callie-girl, what are you thinking about, that a five-year-old is so quiet? Is there something coming up that you are not looking forward to on this visit, and has your older brother been ‘telling’ you about it?” he asked.

Callie nodded her head and meekly said, “Shots.”

“It hurts for just a second. Blame it on Nurse Cathy. She has to give you the shots. I get to be the ‘good guy’ and give you the sucker and sticker,” her doctor said with a smile.

Anyway, Callie made it through in “big girl” fashion, and is definitely set for kindergarten. She has her backpack packed with all the necessary supplies, as well as a few extra that she thinks you must have in kindergarten.

She has been practicing printing her letters, especially her first and last name – first letter in capital and the rest in lowercase. At a beginning reading workshop I recently attended, put on by a wonderful kindergarten teacher, I learned that many kindergarten classrooms are focusing on the lowercase letters first because that is what children will see the most in everyday print.

We have read “Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate, Ashley Wolff; and “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by Nancy Carlson (the same author of “I Like Me,” which is a great book about self-esteem), and “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing, Julie Durrell. These are all great books that, as you can tell, are about the world of kindergarten.

Many of you may also be sending your “not so little ones anymore” off to kindergarten, and the National Education Association offers some tips about how to prepare our child (and us, as parents, too) for kindergarten.

• Talk enthusiastically with your child about starting kindergarten (even though you may feel anxious, don’t let it show).

• Reassure your child if he has feelings of fear or anxiety.

• Attend the open house with your child. Have your child visit his or her new school and classroom. Many of the children may have done that with kindergarten visits last spring, as my daughter did – to give them a little flavor and help get them acclimated to what a kindergarten classroom is like and how it functions. If so, revisit the classroom and the school during the open house.

• Read books about starting kindergarten. The books that I mentioned are most likely available in the local public libraries.

• Talk with your child about the kinds of work he or she will be doing in kindergarten.

• Talk about and practice new routines, as most kindergartners will be going off to school every day now, except weekends, of course.

• Spend extra time on the first day of school with your child, but do not “drag out” saying goodbye.

Kindergarten is a time for children to expand their love of learning, and children, at this stage, are eager to learn and are very curious.

While kindergarten marks an important transition from preschool to the primary grades, the National Education Association (NEA), on its website, www.naeyc.org reminds us that it’s important that children still get to be children. The website notes that getting kindergarten children ready for elementary school does not mean substituting academics for play time, forcing children to master first grade skills. Children learn through play, snack time, recess, and group and individual activities, too.

The website further notes that individual classrooms will vary, but all developmentally-appropriate kindergarten classrooms will have one thing in common; the focus will be on the development of the child as a whole.

Good news about Minnesota public schools

Here is some good news about public schools in Minnesota, found on the NEA website also, reminding us that the state of Minnesota is a great place for our children to be educated.

• Reading scores in Minnesota are among the nation’s best (even though I feel test scores are not always an appropriate measure of “success”). Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation for having the largest proportion of public school fourth graders scoring at the highest two levels in reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

• Minnesota has one of the best graduation rates in the country, with the public high school graduation rate among the top four in the country.

• Minnesota students get to school on time. Minnesota is one of the top eight states in the country in the percentage of public school eighth graders attending schools without a tardiness problem.

National inventors’ month

August is national inventors’ month. Family Fun magazine recommends challenging your child to dream up an invention for a new gadget.

Give your child some simple household items: Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, sponges, cotton balls, q-tips, etc.; and let their and your imaginations soar.

The magazine also recommends going to the website www.ideafinder.com with your child to help get them inspired. It’s a fun website that includes some really unique and silly inventions that people have created. If you do not have the Internet in your home, your local library may.

Have a good week enjoying your children and their inventive minds.