K is for kindergarten

I’m writing this as the mom of a kindergartener. Say what? Yes, a kindergartener! We’re still learning the ropes — all of us — but I think we’re adjusting well so far.

We had orientation on the 13th, two days before the first day of school, and we were able to go and meet The Big Sis’ teacher. She said she has been teacher for 25 years and has been at this school for 13 years, so I’m happy that she’s established and (presumably) knows what she’s doing. Unfortunately we were unable to visit her classroom that day, as the kindergarteners are in portables this year (nice ones — with hallways, water fountains, and bathroom and everything), and they weren’t quite ready on orientation night. But we were able to see her classroom when we took her for the first day of school, and The Big Sis was most excited to find out there are two guinea pigs, three turtles, and some hermit crabs in her room. One of them is named Sparkle, but so far I haven’t been able to get the other names out of her.

That’s one of the things I notice that is different so far — we have to ask very direct, pointed questions to get anything out of her now. Really, if I think about it, she was somewhat like that before. However, whereas before I could corroborate information with her teachers and fill in the blanks after talking with them daily, that’s not really the case now. (And it’s really not cool to call or e-mail the teacher to ask the classroom pets’ names.) Thankfully, The Husband and I are Master Interrogators and generally get out of her the information we are seeking, but it can be exhausting sometimes.

The Husband drives her to school, and they just started using the car drop-off line (parents are allowed to walk kindergarteners to class the first few days, but not after that). Yesterday her assistant teacher met the class in the cafeteria (as she did last week), as it’s a long walk outside to the portables, but starting today, they had to walk to their classes all by themselves. I know she did fine, but The Big Sis was kind of nervous about it. It’s actually a pretty straight shot, through the school, out the back door, and following a single paved sidewalk to her portable (first one) right by the playground, but I can imagine that to her it feels like a much longer walk. (Side note: We often had portables in school, as every school I’ve ever attended has undergone renovation while I was there. But we never had paved sidewalks leading us there! Instead, we had gravel sidewalks. That ruined your shoes. Bah!)

She has several “specials” throughout the week, including P.E., art, music, Chinese, library, and computer. I’m excited to have her teach me some Chinese. And who knows — maybe she’ll be able to explain to me the point of Twitter. 😉 The Big Sis will have homework soon, probably toward the end of the month or beginning of September. (They have ordered special folders that they’re waiting to receive.) I’m unclear on how often it will be (see also: trouble getting answers out of her), but she should have time to work on it at her after-school program.

Oh! The after-school program. We had two realistic options: 1). The program at her school. This was cheaper (by $10/week), didn’t require her to be transported anywhere off-site, and would allow her to get to know other kids at her school. However, their big drawback was that they are not open during any days school is not in session and we would need to arrange other care. Or 2). The program at a church two blocks from our house. This was more expensive and required them to pick her up and take her there, but they are open during most school holidays (except major ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), all breaks, and snow days. Chances are decent that The Husband or I could arrange to work from home on her holidays, breaks, and snow days, however, we didn’t want to be in a position of both of us needing to be at work and not having anyone to care for The Big Sis.

So, we ultimately chose the church program near our house, which also has the advantage of giving us priority for enrollment in their summer program, which is what I would like to look into for next summer. (Crazy to be thinking about next summer already when technically it’s still summer now.) At this after-school program, The Big Sis will get an afternoon snack, have a chance to at least begin her homework (which will be a huge help since our evening time is pretty limited, though we still plan to be involved and go over her homework with her ourselves, even if she’s already completed it), and will get time in either their gym or outdoor playground. On the days she’s there all day long (like this Friday for teacher professional development), I think they often try to do a field trip or something else different for the kids. There are kids from both her school (including a couple in her specific class) as well as from a nearby school (including one of her best friends from preschool), so hopefully it’ll be a good way to branch out socially for her.

We all have to get up earlier, and we’re just a week into it, of course, but so far we’re doing well on that front. At the moment, The Husband is dropping off and picking up The Big Sis, and I am in charge of dropping off and picking up The Little Sis. We’ll continue to do that and see how it works and tweak if needed, but so far that’s the arrangement that makes the most sense. There will be some times that we will need to change (like next week when The Husband is out of town — ACK!), but for the most part I think this should be our new routine. We have tossed around the idea of seeing about moving The Little Sis to the daycare portion of the church program (there have been a few things at our place that I’m currently not happy with, and I gather that their financials aren’t that stable), but we’re waiting a bit to see how we like it there. No need to rush a decision like that.

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