Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer's Moving....Are Your Little Ones Fingers???

Are you savoring each and every moment of summer?  Are you enjoying a slower pace?  Is your family taking advantage of the great opportunities in the area?  Oh, there's so much fun...and learning out there!!! 

As a teacher, I just want to encourage the midst of the bliss of throw in a little prep work for the upcoming school a fun way, of course!  If your child is headed to Kindergarten, or even to Transitional Kindergarten, there are some creative ways to get your child ready for what's ahead.
Developing essential fine motor skills can be done in cool ways, like playing with playdoh...mashing, rolling, twisting...creative exploration!!!  Baking bread or making rice krispie treats work the same muscles.  Yummy!  Stringing beads is great...making necklaces and bracelets...accessorizing with a purpose!  Do some activities that involve pinching...objects, not just using that pincher grip to pick up snacks like Cheerios or goldfish.  Kids love to use tweezers to grasp items.  If your child has the game Operation, that's a challenge that comes with lots of buzzing and giggles.

Learning to hold scissors properly and practice cutting will be beneficial.  Buy Fiskars scissors.  They are the best.  Believe it or not, cutting playdoh is a good way to start and adds a little textured multisensory approach.  You might want to have a little conversation on what is appropriate to cut and what is not, whether you venture "out of the box" or not.

Have fun with sidewalk chalk!  It's art....It's outside....It's great development!!
Introduce the use of a gluestick.  Elmer's is the best.  Teach your child how to open the gluestick, to twist the knob just enough to raise the glue just a that you don't get globs, to screw it back down when finished, and how to close the lid until it clicks.

So get those fingers moving and developing!!  You'll be glad you did...and enjoy the process!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

We Decided to Retain....Now What?

The agony of decision making is over. Whew! Take a little breath. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea or whatever treat you desire. And rest in having your answer. Then relax. Enjoy the rest of the school year. Enjoy your summer!!!

But before you can take a breather, you might need to settle a few issues in your mind. Perhaps these questions and answers might help.

*When do I tell my child?
There's no rush. There is really no need for them to know before the school year is out. During the summer just look for opportunities to broach the subject.

*What do I tell my child?
Be positive and confident. Be patient and willing to listen. Be honest.

Here's a sample conversation:
"Honey, what was your favorite thing about Kindergarten?"
"Recess." (That's usually the answer...or Art...or Free Play...much to the teacher's dismay.) :)
"So what was your least favorite thing about Kindergarten?"
"Handwriting." or "Reading." or "Seatwork." (Probably whatever your child struggles with.)
"Was there anything that was hard for you?"
"Well, I had a hard time writing inside the lines." or "The other people in my reading group read better than me." or "I had a hard time staying in my seat."

(Now, just a note...hopefully your child's teacher was affirming and sought out the area of their strength. She could have been so encouraging that they felt great about the overall experience! However, you've seen the papers. You've seen the report card. You've seen the struggles at home.)

"You know, Daddy and I have noticed that you had trouble with _____. We talked with Mrs. Kindergarten teacher and think that it might be helpful for you to have another year of practice in Kindergarten. Mrs. Kindergarten teacher said that lots of times teachers are looking for special friends to stay back and help them out next year. Daddy and I have given it lots of thought and prayer and feel like that would be best for you. How do you feel about that?"
(Let me add here that your presentation and attitude will greatly affect their response.)
Probably your child's response will be:
"What about my friends?"
"They will still be your friends. And you'll get to make some new ones!" (Even if they went on to first grade, they would most likely be with different students.) Do you remember the old song "Make New Friends" (or am I dating myself)? It goes like this: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold."
Honestly, that's probably their biggest concern. Just be positive and encouraging. Your attitude will become their attitude.

Back to Your Questions:

*Should they have the same teacher or a different one?
You will have to check the school's procedure for teacher selection. In some schools you have input, but don't in others.
There are a couple of ways of looking at it:
The current teacher knows your child's needs and could provide some security. Here's where you can interject that "Mrs. Kindergarten teacher just loves you so much and would like for you to be with her for another year and be her special helper." (I actually had a child once to come to school the first day expecting to sit in the Teacher Assistant's chair.) :)
A new teacher will offer a different teaching style (that could be a better fit for your child), different room decor, different types of activities, just a change of pace for your student.
Pray for what's best for your child.

*Will my child be bored?
No. A year has passed since they did the beginning of the year activities. If they remember them, they will probably be excited and feel much more confident in doing them. Also, most teachers will go above and beyond to provide new activities and do their best to challenge your child. Children just seem to face the year with a new confidence.

*Will their new classmates know that they have been retained?
Only if your child tells them...or if they already know each other socially. No matter what the case, if it comes up, the response and effect reflect right back to the parents' attitude. Your child's teacher will be sensitive and deal with it appropriately. :) It's really rarely an issue.

*What do I do about church age grouping?
I encourage you to think long term. It can be very beneficial to go ahead and make the change. Better earlier than later. You can run into difficulties when churches have "promotion" times and move according to Middle School or High School Youth Group...or College Group. It is much easier to remedy that at an early age than later. (I once had an 18 year old boy...towering over me...come to my 11th grade Sunday School class and say that he was told he had to move back to my class because he couldn't move to the college group. He had been retained in early elementary. It was difficult for him at that age. It made me so sad...and left a lasting impression.)

Again, relax. Enjoy your summer. Feel free to reinforce good handwriting technique. Do fun educational things!! Allow your child opportunities to develop those fine and gross motor skills. Paint! Exercise! Play with Playdoh!! Count for fun, review letter sounds, etc. as you ride in the car. Make a game of it! Make up silly rhymes. Laugh! Enjoy your Kindergartener!! They grow up all too soon! Also, READ, READ, READ!!! Read to your child...a lot. Go to the Library. Visit local storytimes. When you model great, expressive reading to your child, they will follow your example. Have fun! Be silly! Remember, great readers become great learners!!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

To Retain or Not to Retain...That is the Question

It's Parent/Teacher Conference time. You are aware that your child is having some difficulties in school...with handwriting, or reading, or listening, or staying on task. The teacher mentions that you might want to consider the possibility of retention. (You automatically get a bad feeling. Retention just sounds bad...Doesn't it? water retention...bloating...feeling miserable...sorry, that's the girl in me...) The thought of retention seems to bring on a flurry of negative thoughts from parents. Does that mean my child failed? Does that mean I failed? What will this do to my child's self image? Will he be emotionally scarred? What will his friends think? What will my parents think? What will the neighbors think? Where did we go wrong?

My first challenge to you would be to stop the negative thoughts swirling in your head. Remain calm. And listen. Retention is not always a negative thing (as in the context of the ability to remember things). Retention is not a punishment for failure. But it might be the pathway needed for success. Sometimes children just need a little extra time to develop to their full potential.

I think that most educators would agree that the early elementary years are the best time to be proactive if your child is showing signs of struggle. You see, this decision is not just going to affect one year of your child's life, but could have long lasting benefits or repercussions.

Let me point out a few benefits that are long-term rather than just immediate. You can give your child the opportunity to be a leader rather than a follower. You can give them the chance to succeed rather than struggle. Oftentimes the confidence that a child gains in a year of "repeating" a grade can be life changing, giving them a whole new outlook!

There are, believe it or not, social benefits to retention. The student is given an extra year of maturity before facing the challenges that come with age...such as driving (and having driving friends), dating, and going away to college. These may be hard to even consider at the tender age of 5 or 6, but those babes will grow up all too fast. Consider giving them every opportunity to be as well equipped as possible to meet the future.

A cool benefit, that often isn't realized, is that it not only will give them extra time to develop academically, but also in the sports realm. It can give them an extra year of eligibility for a team, offering the opportunity for greater success.

Should you find yourself in the situation of having to make this decision, I encourage you to talk to others who have faced retention with their own children. I honestly have never heard of a parent that regretted it.

Most importantly, seek the guidance of the One who knows your child best...the One who created him. Prayer will bring you the answer and the peace you seek. You can be assured that God knows and wants what is best for your child.

Do you need to give your child the "gift of a year"?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Attitudes of Gratitude

Whew!  The presents are wrapped...some already opened!!  Wish lists that were worked on (probably for months) have been granted...or maybe not completely.  My thirteen year old will be getting most things on her list.  But not an IPOD.  She'll have to borrow mine...which I don't even know how to use...or what real purpose it serves.  I'm showing my age, I suppose.  I have a friend whose little girls are asking for a puppy.  That's not going to happen.  Oh well.  Santa tries hard...but knows best.  Surely Christmas Day will hold moments of exhilaration...and some moments of disappointment.

Whatever the case, we need to encourage thankful attitudes in our children.  When the gift is underwear (and they're thinking, "How embarrassing!") or socks or other basic necessities instead of the newfangled gadget of the year, basic politeness should still be expressed.  We need to teach them that manners matter.

Plan ahead...give a little coaching...and train them to look the giver in the eye, smile, give a hug, and say, "Thank you."  You might need to give gentle reminders at the time of the actual gift opening.  And set the example yourself as you open your gifts.

Then, as you write your thank you notes, allow them to do their own!  Treat it like fun!!!
Make it very simple, a picture and just a few their handwriting or yours (if they can't write yet) to say thanks.  Let them put on the stamps...always a hit!  Enjoy a special trip to the post office (and then out for a chocolate or ice celebrate) or just a little walk to the mailbox, letting them put the envelopes in and pull up the red flag.  Aaaaah, simple pleasures...and showing your thanks.  It will mean a lot to the giver of the gift...and will teach your child the attitude of gratitude.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let the Games Begin!

Games aren't just for fun.

Yes, they are fun...and there's just nothing like a good old family game night...everyone gathered around the table for laughs, relaxation, togetherness, and a little healthy competition!  In our fast-paced society, time is a precious commodity...and there's no time better spent than with your family.

So let the games begin!

The selection is vast.  Head to your local Target or Walmart and just check out all that is available.  There are games for all ages...from toddlers to grownups...for all interests...pretty princesses to space invaders.  Whether it's board games or card games or games involving passing pigs, there's something out there for everyone!

Don't you love playing games that you played as a kid?  Well, they are still out there!  Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry O, Battleship, UNO, Monopoly, and so much more!  Dust off those stored in the attic or pick up a brand new one and have some fun!

Playing games not only provides precious memories of family togetherness, but develops all types of skills that promote success in school and in social situations.  Learning to take turns and be a good sport are of fundamental importance.  Children (and adults) need to know that they can't always win, but they can still have fun.  Healthy competition in a loving environment builds confidence and attitudes of graciousness.  From basic math critical thinking and strategizing, the brain is being stimulated and making connections that promote growth and development.  The building blocks are set in place for reading skills to be fostered.  The benefits are endless!

So, come on Mom and Dad, call the family together!  Get out those games and let the fun...and learning...begin!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Parent/Teacher Conference Time!!!

Wow.  So here's the deal.  You have 15-20 minutes to speak about or hear everything you need to know about your little one.  Perhaps you'd like to ponder a few pointers to maximize the use of those precious moments!!! 
  • Be prepared.  Think of questions or concerns that need to be shared with the teacher.  Jot them down ahead of time.
  • Be alone...or with your spouse.  Arrange for childcare...or have a game-plan that allows for focused one-on-one time with the teacher.  The student really should not be present during this time...or siblings. 
  • Be on time.
  • Be ready to "get down to business."  The time will fly!
  • Be a good listener.  Generally the teacher has a report card or some type of written evaluation to share with you.  Hear her observations and thoughts.  
  • Be open-minded.  It's okay for your child to need to improve in some areas.  That's what school is all about...learning, growing, developing, getting better!
  • Be sure that your teacher is well-informed (prior to conference time) of any special testing done or services given to meet any area of need for your child.
  • Be open to suggestions the teacher might make for future testing, services or help needed.  She is concerned for your child's best interests. 
  • Be aware that she probably has another conference right after yours.  If you feel that you need more time, just ask for the opportunity to meet again on another occasion.
  • Be appreciative.  As unnerving as this might be for you, imagine being in the teacher's shoes.  She works hard to provide a fabulous learning experience for your child.  She cares for them deeply.
Whew!  When it's over...breathe.  Relax.  Then begin thinking about how you will share the information with your child.  Be positive in your presentation.  Encourage your child to strive for his/her best in behavior, academics, and to enjoy the time with the teachers and peers!

And by the way, should your teacher mention the possibility of retention for your child, receive that information calmly, explore the possibilities, and please visit my blog for further thoughts on that subject.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Parent Night Pointers!

It's here...Back to School time...the season of Open Houses...Meet the Teacher events...and Parent Night!  What exciting...occasionally unnerving...sessions of information overload for both parents and teachers!!

Hence the offering of a few points to ponder as you meet those who will be partnering with you over the next year of your precious one's life....

  • Be prompt for Parent Information events.  Usually the teacher has a planned agenda...lots of helpful info!
  • After the meeting, read the information.  Return forms expeditiously. 
  • Keep in mind that these meetings are typically meant for parents...and can stretch the limits of the behavior of little ones...which can distract you...and those around you.
  • "Divide and conquer" if you have more than one child attending the school.  Be considerate of others if you must slip in and out of classrooms.
  • Be appreciative, attentive...and patient.  The teacher has worked hard to prepare the classroom and orientation packet for you.
  • Be prepared to write down notable information regarding your child.  It is great to speak face to face, but very helpful if you document the information for her to refer to she gets to know your child.
  • Be upfront and honest about any prior testing, therapies, and special needs of your child.  This information is very helpful to the teacher.  Again, please note in writing.
  • Present, in writing...and verbally, all vital allergy information.
  • Bring in a photograph of your whole family, inscribed with the names of parents and children.  This will help the teacher to associate parents with students, as well as to recognize siblings.  Again, be patient.  You have one or two teachers to get to know.  She has multiple students and families.
  • Keep in mind that you may set a conference time for a later date to focus on your child...after the pace has slowed...and she can remember which child is yours.  :)
  • Be positive...encouraging...and patient.
  • Be excited!!  It's going to be a great year!!!  

School Supply Shopping...Sales vs. Skimping

It's that time! School is about to begin! No doubt, many of you like to beat the crowds and get school supply shopping marked off your "to do" list! Good for you!
From the heart of a teacher, here are a few pointers!
  • Follow the Supply List. Teachers spend a good bit of time thinking through and specifying items needed in order to make it easier for you...and your child...and to be consistent with all of the students. Take the list with you when you shop...and pay close attention to it. Note sizes and types of items...not just to what looks fun or cool or "what's even better" than what's on the list.
  • Stick with the Name Brands. We all love bargains, but often the cheaper item is not the best deal in the long run. For crayons, markers, watercolors, colored pencils and such, Crayola is tried and true. (And unless otherwise specified, stick with the basic colors. Again, note the sizes and types...of crayons (fat or regular), of markers (blunt or fine tip). When it comes to glue, Elmer's basic white school glue and gluesticks can be trusted to do their job well. In the scissor category, Fiskars are the best! Choose tips according to your child's age. Blunt tips are great for kindergarteners. With pencils it gets a little tricky. Go with a quality number 2 brand. The less expensive kind tend to have lead that breaks easily, poor quality wood, and erasers that don't work as well. Decorative pencils are cute, but often fall into the "not so great" category.
  • Note teacher's instructions for labeling items. Check with your child's teacher on this one. Some items go into containers for whole classroom use. Others remain in the care of individual students. It helps to have this taken care of before you bring them in to the classroom.
  • Follow school guidelines for bookbag purchases. Many schools specify whether bookbags on wheels are allowed.
  • Miscellaneous class supplies are important. When buying Kleenex for the class, again, go with the name brand ones. Runny little noses need something soft for wiping them. With Wipes, note whether they are to be used for cleaning desks...or little hands...and buy accordingly.
  • Class wish lists offer an occasion for visiting the Dollar Store and buying less expensive items. Here's your chance for creativity! Students love little trinkets from the "treasure chest"! Small plastic animals...frogs, lizards, snakes...come in fun packages and are a hit with the boys (and lots of girls)! Tiny stuffed animals, jewelry, hairclips, and figurines are sure to tickle the little girl's fancy.
  • Watch store circulars for sales on the items on your list!! Often you can get the name brands even cheaper than the off brands during back to school sales.
  • Try to avoid peak shopping hours.
  • Go shopping when your child is well rested and well avoid the grumpies.
Well, happy shopping!!! Get ready for a great year of adventures in learning and fun!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Relaxation, Recreation...and Some Preparation

Summer is here!  Aaaah...lazy mornings...days at the pool...leisurely schedules...cookouts...long evenings in the neighborhood to play, visit, and catch fireflies.  Don't you wish there was a way to just slow the hands of time and make it last longer?  However, time hastens on, and before we know it, the lazy days of summer will come to an end and the excitement of a new school year will begin.

So...while it's still here, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!!  Take time to relax with your child.  Sleep in.  Snuggle up with a good book and then take a nap.  Take leisurely walks or bike rides and enjoy the beauty of summer.  Lounge by the pool.  Taste the cool deliciousness of the fruits of the season, letting juicy peaches and watermelon drip down your chin.  Have a picnic.  Visit a local park.  Find a shady spot, throw down a blanket, and share in the sweetness of time.  Cook Out...and don't forget the s'mores!  Head to the local ice creamery and enjoy and evening treat.  Simple memories last a lifetime.

Be sure to get your kiddos out for some exercise!  Walks, bike rides, and park visits are excellent for parents and kids alike.  You might be surprised to realize how beneficial those bikes and playground equipment are for developing the large motor skills that are so important in your child's growth.  Pumping their feet on the swings, climbing up slides and on play structures, crossing the monkey bars, throwing a ball, playing frisbee all work to foster muscle development.  Many outdoor activities also promote problem solving skills as they work to maneuver around obstacles or challenges that come their way.

Recreation with other children is also vital.  Learning to play on a team, work in a group, cheer others on, and have fun...even if you're not winning...develop social skills that will last a lifetime!

And all along the way, sprinkle in some opportunities for preparing for the upcoming school year.

One of the greatest things that you can do is read, read, read!  Read a variety of books.  Visit your local library.  Read about places you might visit.  Read fiction and nonfiction...explaining the difference between make believe and real in terminology they understand.  Share your interests.  Find out your child's area of, dancing, art, gymnastics, music, animals, travels, etc...and select books in those categories.  Read board books, picture books, short chapter books.  Your interest in reading, and your modeling of great reading will carry over to your child.  This time of listening on your child's part is helpful in developing his/her ability to "attend" for a period of time once they are in the classroom.

Also, work toward independence in handling snack and lunch items...opening containers and packages.  Learning to eat within a time frame is also good preparation.

Using good manners with friends and adults will benefit your child for a lifetime.  Remind them to say, "Please" and "Thank you."  Learning to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you"...and mean it...enhance healthy relationships.  Saying, "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am" (or sir) teach respect for authority.

So relax, have fun, and incorporate a little learning along the way!

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's January! Time for Enrollment!

Happy New Year!!  With the arrival of the new year, also comes the time to enroll our little ones for school...preschool or big school.  Before you proceed with this (sometimes daunting) task, perhaps you could use a few pointers!  Important decisions are to be made that affect your child...and you too!

Before you make a choice, do your homework.  Take advantage of local Carolina Parent...and the information they share.  Talk with friends, neighbors, co-workers, people who attend your church.  Find out what their experiences have been...their likes and dislikes of schools their children have attended.  Keep their input in mind...but remember the old phrase "different strokes for different folks."  Children are different, families are different.  Keep the needs of your child and your family in mind as you research.

*Make a list of your options.
*Confirm the locations of each.  Which will work for you?  It is worth the drive to find the best situation for your child.  Just carefully consider the circumstances of your family.  Are their carpool options?
*Check the calendar and schedule of the schools on your list. Do they work for your family?
*Clarify your desires.  What type of setting are you looking for?  Highly academic?  Learn through play?  Strictly structured?  More low key?  What best suits the needs of your child?  Where can he/she flourish and grow?
*Visit those schools that are possibilities.  Call ahead and schedule an appointment.  Take advantage of Open Houses and designated Observation Days.  Getting the "feel" of a place, experiencing the environment will help guide you.
*Meet with directors, principals, (and teachers if possible) to understand the vision of the school and what they hope to offer your child.  Prepare yourself with questions in advance.  Think about things like class size, curriculum used, behavior management, parent involvement, etc.
*Compare the cost.  What can you afford?  Are there scholarships available?  Remember, your child is worth the investment you make in his/her education.

Do your homework!  Explore your options!  Ready, set, go!    

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Oh You Better Watch Out..."

'Tis the season to use the incentive that "Santa's watching" to keep your little ones on track with good behavior.  I've done it.  Oh yes, when my girls were little, upon observing any contrary moods or misbehavior, many times I would just start singing, "Oh you better watch out.  You better not cry.  You better not pout.  I'm telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town."  Often it least temporarily. I'd rather not admit it, but I also made the standard "threats" that if they weren't good they might get a bag of coal...or a bundle of switches...or at least something similar that conveyed the idea that Santa just might mark some items off his list if they didn't do the right thing.  I guess that as parents it gives us a personal reprieve to put discipline issues on Santa's shoulders...but is that the wise...and lasting way to handle shaping our child's personality,set of standards, and motivations?  And what happens when Christmas day has come and gone?

As a teacher (with lots of years of experience under my big black belt..Ho Ho!) I have observed a frightening trend in parenting.  There seems to be a lot of "looking in the other direction" on the part of parents when they ask a child to do something and the little one doesn't obey.  What provokes this?  Are we afraid to say "No"?  That little word seems to have become taboo in some circles, yet often it is needed to make a point.  Do parents fear that their offspring won't "like" them if they correct them?  Are there thoughts swirling around in their heads of "what will they (neighbors, peers, teachers, any onlooker) think" if I discipline my child?  Shouldn't we, as parents, be more frightened by the fear of raising children with no concept of understanding of right and realization that there are behaviors that are acceptable and others that are unacceptable?

Now, understand me here, I am one that surely errs on the side of grace in the classroom.  However, that is after my expectations have clearly been stated...and re-stated...and illustrated.  The same can work at home.  Your child should be informed in language that they can understand how you expect them to the car, when you are talking to another adult, inside vs. outside, when visiting in someone's home, when at church, and so on.  Explaining and reminding them of your guidelines before you engage in those situations will help set the stage for success.

Then communicate that "Obedience brings blessing" and "Disobedience brings consequences."  Again, make a plan ahead of time.  What types of "blessing" will you offer?  This does not have to be a treat or something that costs money.  It might be a high five...a word of encouragement...a special privilege...or maybe a sticker on a chart that can be filled in order to receive a treat (ice cream, movie, a trip to the park).  I think in this day and time our children are rewarded with "gifts" far too often.  (And I am often just as guilty as the next guy!)  Children need love and affirmation way more than they need another trinket.

And believe it or not, they need boundaries.  They even want them.  It makes them feel more secure. 

What are your "consequences" going to be?  Consider what works for your child.  What gets the point across that a behavior is unacceptable?  What makes an impact that would keep your child from wanting to repeat that act?  Children are different.  What works for one child might not work for another.  Find out what works for your child and do it.  For some children simply having a firm discussion works.  For others you need to find another course of action.

Keep in mind that parenting decisions that you make even with young children convey your standards.  Consider the long term effects.  Ponder your desires for your child as they grow.  Set the boundaries now that will help them learn and mature to their fullest potential.  And assure them of your love...that is unconditional...even when you correct them.

Come on parents, let's be good...for goodness sake.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Gift of a Year...Before Kindergarten

Before we know it, the date for the new school year will arrive...and there will be mommies shedding tears as little ones take those first steps toward the Kindergarten classroom. Many of those children are more than ready to begin, but some of them would benefit greatly from an extra year of readiness...and a little more time with those sweet moms! Transitional Kindergarten provides a wonderful option for "young fives". Children whose birthdays occur in the spring, summer, or very early fall, even though making the school cutoff dates, could often benefit greatly from the extra time to develop physically, academically, in emotional and social maturity, as well as the area of independence. It can be so beneficial for parents to consider the foresight in making a decision that may seem obvious and trivial at the time, but can truly have long term effects on the educational journey of their child.

Transitional Kindergarten is the place where a child can blossom and grow in a more relaxed environment, and one that offers smaller class sizes. It is not just another year of preschool, but rather a place that introduces the structure of Kindergarten with allowances of more time for learning through play. Opportunities are provided for socialization, fine and gross motor development, reading readiness...including print awareness, introductions to letters and sounds, and oral development. Math is hands-on, activity-based...encompassing patterning, sorting, classifying, counting and number recognition, and graphing. As the children learn "through play," social skills are developed, attention spans are expanded, and a love for learning is inspired! Transitional Kindergarten offers another year of preparation and maturity...building stronger students...who succeed rather than struggle and who have a greater likelihood for becoming leaders instead of followers.

The years go by way too fast. You can't get them back. Consider Transitional Kindergarten...what a great option for prolonging childhood!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're Off to Kindergarten!

The Start of Something New!

I am almost giddy with the excitement of this writing adventure! I guess it's the teacher in me, because I love fresh starts! I look forward to the beginning of the school year...a roster full of new students thrilled to come to Kindergarten with their cute little backpacks and lunchboxes...a spic and span classroom with its gleaming waxed floors and recently painted walls...a blank lesson plan book yearning to be filled with new ideas as well as those "tried and true" supplies with sharp pencils, unopened boxes of crayons and markers, new scissors (Fiskars brand, of course), and boxes of gluesticks...shelves filled with a rainbow of colors of construction paper...Oops! Sorry! I got carried away!! Yes, I love the start of a new school year!

You see, I've always wanted to be a far back as I can remember. As an elementary student, I would line up my stuffed animals and dolls (wishing desperately that they would come to life) and "make them do work." I just loved it when my teachers would give me the extra copies to take home for "my students." Even well into middle school I "played school." My best friend, Judy, and I spent hours at her house practicing to be teachers. We both had our own chalkboards. (Yes, that was back in the day! I think her Mama still has chalkdust in her baseboards!) One of us would work in her living room and the other in her den. The kitchen was our "teacher's lounge" where we would snack on Wedding cookies and discuss all the difficulties we were having with our students. We took it very seriously! When we got to high school, Judy and I continued to follow our passion and were given the opportunity to work in our local elementary school, assisting teachers and tutoring students. We both were "called" to be teachers and have spent many years instructing, nurturing, and loving our students.

I've taught Kindergarten through Fourth grade, enjoying the experiences at each level. But I've spent most of my 20+ years teaching Kindergarten. What a privilege to give children their first "Big School" experience and observe the amazing transition and growth that takes place! What a responsibility to formally introduce the process of learning...and experimentation...and success and such a way as to make them love school and want to come back each day!! What a thrill to teach a child to read...and open the gateway to all learning!

So here's the place where I hope to share some encouragement...and maybe a funny story or two...with parents of Kindergarteners...or whoever happens by! I hope to offer some insight into the mind of a teacher, as well as a few tips and pointers. Education happens with the teamwork of teachers and parents! Let's go for it!

New Teachers, New Schedules, My Baby...Oh My!

What Can I Do to Get My Little One Ready for Kindergarten?

Your little one is about to embark on the learning journey of a lifetime! What can you do to insure that they are ready?

First of all, enjoy every moment that you have before they begin! Take lots of pictures!! Play! Laugh!! Talk a lot!! Explore your surroundings...your neighborhood, your town, local museums, visit the library often! Read, read, read! Spend lots of time snuggling up with good books and good movies! (Do view them ahead of time. There are lots of great books and movies. There are also lots of books and movies that don't teach or encourage attitudes and behaviors appropriate for children. Be choosy!...And continue to supervise their reading and TV or movie watching as they grow!) Cherish the moments. Make lots of memories. The days and months and years will fly by. (It seems as if I blinked and my own little ones went from that first day of Kindergarten to a walk down a wedding aisle!)

In preparation for Kindergarten, here are some things you might want to consider:
*Provide opportunities for them to experience the supervision of someone other than parents or family. If your child is in Mother's Morning Out, a preschool program, or Sunday School types of situations, that is great.
*Provide opportunities for them to socialize and interact with other children...playdates, summer camps for preschoolers, age appropriate sports activities....Again the MMO, preschool, and church activities work wonderfully.
*Encourage the development of the ability to sit and attend (to a story or to an art activity) for 10-15 minutes. Again, visiting storytime at the library or your local bookstore offer great avenues for this.
*Practice using scissors and gluesticks.
*Teach them to hold pencils and crayons correctly. Use a pencil grip if needed. (Available at school supply stores)
*Play games like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders...and don't always let them win. They need to learn good sportsmanship.
*Go to the park. They need to climb and slide and swing. Teach them to "pump" the swing for themselves.
*Go outside and skip and hop and gallop and run and jump!
*Play with puzzles and Playdoh.
*Give them 3 step instructions to follow. (Ex. Go choose a book to read, brush your teeth, and get in your bed. Or at the park, go up the ladder, down the slide, and run back to me.)
*Teach your child to write their first name. Please check with your school to see what handwriting program they use. They can probably give you a sheet explaining each letter's formation. Teach them using that style. Please use capital letters properly...usually only the first letter is capitalized.
*Be sure that they can take care of their bathroom needs...completely. :)
*Teach them how to zip and snap and button and buckle belts.
*Also, those tennis shoes that have little stretchy bands across the top are so much better than those that tie and those with velcro!

Again, have fun! Make the most of every moment! Let your child be a child!!