On Your Mark, Get Set, “GO” ing to Kindergarten!
Alyssa Schneider (Guest Blogger) @ Kids Matter
As I stroll up the aisle of Target in mid-July, I cannot help but begin feeling the buzz about the upcoming month, the month that children return to school. For those parents whose child will be entering school for the first time, as a kindergartener, there is an elevated level of organization, excitement, and maybe panic. I remember when my own children were at this stage; I was busy making lists. Lists of back to school clothes that they needed, the endless list of school supplies, and of course we cannot forget the new backpack and lunch box featuring Spiderman or the newest disney princess. Preparing for kindergarten, as a parent, seems to be getting the needed items on the list, just in time for the first day. Have we asked ourselves a bigger question; is my child really ready? Not just ready to begin waking up at the crack of dawn and getting on the school bus; but, is my child ready socially, emotionally, and skilled enough to have a successful transition into the world of school?
School readiness in Kentucky means that each child enters school ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that promote a child’s success. The developmental areas for school readiness are: (www.kidsnow.ky.gov)
· Approaches to learning.
· Health and physical well-being.
· Language and communication development.
· Social and emotional development.
· Cognitive and general knowledge.
Many, many years ago this definition had not been adopted by the state, so there I was wondering. And by wondering, I mean worrying; is my child ready for kindergarten. Fortunately, he was, although we still had things that were “in progress”. He had these skills not by chance, but rather, I and the quality childcare providers had been strengthening these skills since he was a baby. As an early childhood professional, I knew the importance of quality pre-school, language development, self-help skills, confidence, and allowing my child to move at his own pace. It was not about reciting the ABCs and 123s, although knowing them is important; it was about fostering the skills of the whole child. My child was excited to go to school. He was curious, always asking questions, and by answering his question with more than just a yes or no answer he was gaining broad and colorful language. We read books daily, and in turn he also shared stories with me. We had conversations that were turn taking with listening and speaking. As I read to him, I realized we worked on being able focus for ten minutes; which supports skills for following directions. We worked on him being able to articulate his needs to an adult and control his emotions. We encouraged other self-help skills such as using pencils and scissors, and putting on a coat. All these daily skills that were poured into him were building a boy ready to make a successful transition to school.
The first day of kindergarten came with much anticipation. There he was: new clothes, back pack, and a cute little haircut, smiling with excitement and confidence for this new adventure. The bus came around the corner and stopped just long enough for him to board and wave from the window. As I got back into my car and wiped away the tears, I realized that over the last few months while I was busy checking items off my list of “back to school to dos,” I had not added preparing him for kindergarten. Thankfully, I had been doing that since birth. He was kindergarten ready!
Alyssa Schneider is the STARs Quality Coordinator, Quality Enhancement Initiative