The Ups and Down's of My Kid's First Year in School

Photograph by Twenty20

It seems like only last month my oldest started kindergarten. And yet, here were are already in spring, the school year home-stretch.

At the beginning of the year, I was annoyed at how unprepared we both were for the schedule (30-minute recess? Lunch at 1:35pm?) and what my son needed to know to keep up. I'm happy to report, the rest of the year has been pretty good, though there have been a few minor hiccups. Most importantly, my son is figuring out, in his 5-year-old way, how to be in the world.

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For example, even though the school schedule has not changed, my son has figured out how to make sure he isn't starving by lunch. Each kindergarten class gets a mid-morning snack, so he tries to fill up on fruits, veggies and pretzels. He also goes for the optional free breakfast some days, especially when he knows he has P.E. and will be burning extra calories. That kid is constantly growing, so food is always a must.

One of the best things my son and I have learned so far in kindergarten is the joy of reading.

Another thing he got through: bullies. It's hard to believe it, but my son came up against bullies in kindergarten. I had no idea until he told my husband that there was a boy that was being mean to him, but that it was all fine now. Naturally, my mama bear instincts came out. Who would dare torment my sweet, friendly, adorable boy? Apparently. my son just turned to the bully one day and said. "Why are you being so mean?"

That was all it took. They have been friends ever since.

Maybe the boy didn't realize he was being mean. Maybe the kid just thought teasing was a good way to make friends? Or maybe those lessons in proper school-and-friend behavior they get are actually working. I know not all kids are so lucky, but I'm so glad our first experience with bullying went so well.

One of the best things my son and I have learned so far in kindergarten is the joy of reading. I have always read to my boys, and I have been itching for my oldest to learn. Not so he can read to himself or take over that sacred nightly ritual of the bedtime story, but because there are so many amazing books out there that I can't wait for him to read so we can talk about them (Harry Potter for the win!). Thanks to his age (6 and a fall baby) and, I like to think, some good parenting and reading enthusiasm on my part, my son, who could barely read a sentence before he started kindergarten, is already reading at a first-grade level.

Kindergarten has had its ups and downs, but my son and I are both getting what I always hoped we would out of his first year of school.

One thing that hasn't changed is the amount of paper that comes home: paperwork to fill out for field trips, homework, science fair sign-ups, language classes, the school newsletter—you name it, it comes home. I also get about a paper ream's worth of drawings and worksheets every week. It's enough to make an environmentalist cry, let alone a mom who wonders what the heck I'm supposed to toss and keep. Right now, I have a pile I go through once a month. I save the really good projects and toss the random homework, writing practice sheets and math worksheets. The rest go into a big box on top of a shelf to be looked at in a year to see what is too precious to live without for the next 20 years.

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Kindergarten has had its ups and downs, but my son and I are both getting what I always hoped we would out of his first year of school. He is making friends, has a love for reading and actually wants to go to school every day. My only goal these first few years is to get him excited about learning. He's already looking forward to first grade, so I think we are well on our way to a great end of the school year and the start to a great academic life.

That is until middle school. I'm already dreading those years.

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