On Kindergarten

The boys completed kindergarten! I couldn’t believe we were sending our little (they are so little once again at this age!) innocent souls out into the world. Were they ready? Were we ready? What would happen to them?!

They were totally ready. Of course. And they had a wonderful year! They grew into their own people, and really held their own (each of them!) in a class of completely new people. Their teachers had many wonderful things to say about both of them!

They were in the same class–there wasn’t a choice at this school but I would have chosen that anyway. Since they have always been together in everything, I think it would have been a difficult shock to go into a new environment alone. It was certainly an adjustment for their peers and teachers to figure out who was who…one day in late spring the boys decided to have a Twin Day, where they dressed in the same outfit. I took them to school that day and one of the kids asked one of them which one he was (and then I heard her say to the teacher she tells them apart by their voices).

We’re in our neighborhood school, which is just down the street–less than a ten minute walk! We went from an hour-long-roundtrip daycare dropoff to a short walk! It was amazing to save so much time (and gas money). When it rained or was dark though, I confess that we drove three blocks to get closer. The boys were usually fine with the walk to school but the walk home was always filled with whining about being SO tired and HATING walking, even if it was *immediately* after they’d been happily running around and playing. I always brought a bunch of snacks to shove into their faces to avoid hanger.

The schoolday schedule was only a small transition/change; luckily, our school begins at 845am! And since we live so close by and it’s quick to get to, we didn’t have to force the boys to wake up early or get them out of bed. They were able to wake up on their own and usually had time to play a bit at home before breakfast. What a luxury! Sadly we often got lazy about leaving on time and arrived after 845…I want to get better at this for next year for sure.

We had the boys in three days of after-care, and the other two days I picked them up after school ended at 3pm. Those days felt very short after so many years of daycare pickups at 530/545! The days I picked them up, we usually stayed at school and they played on the playground with other kids. I would read a book. 🙂

The boys had two teachers this year, a morning teacher (a woman, her first year) and an afternoon teacher (a man, who has been teaching kinder for years). They were both patient and kind and just really great. One of them used an app to share pictures and videos with parents, which was really fun. There were all kinds of fun projects throughout the year–a whole thing about plants and experimenting with conditions; and a friendly alien who left clues around the classroom/school. There was a reading program too, or more than one. One was grown-ups coming in to read each week with the kids and give them a book (I always felt bad about this because I know there are so many households who need books but ours is *definitely* not one of them!), and I think they also had reading buddies in an older class in school.

The boys almost never talked about school. I gave up even asking pretty early in the year because the response would be either an, “UGH” or “Stop asking about that!” or “I don’t want to talk about that!” accompanied by an eyeroll. Fine. So the little peeks into their day in the app was a really sweet way to actually see what they did in school. (I’m still not sure about the reading buddies!)

Lunch!! The kids all get their own student number for hot lunch, and after we got theirs I had them practice. They said it over and over, and I had them practice on my laptop number pad. They thought that was great fun and they were very comfortable knowing their number after that.

I got such a heart pang, thinking of their tiny little selves coming into the lunchroom and being confronted by this whole new place, with all these expectations and routines that were foreign to them, and knowing they must have felt helpless and scared and intimidated. What a unique and powerful thing that kindergarten teachers have, to teach their charges how school itself actually works!

M was eager to try hot lunch and he really enjoyed it once he worked up the nerve after a couple weeks. He didn’t quite get their system at first, with plates and choices, but he eventually did. But E was much more hesitant, I think mainly because he didn’t know what to do or that he didn’t know what it would be like. (This is pretty typical of the two of them, actually–M is willing to try new things and branch out, and E hangs back until he knows it’s okay.) I think M said he would help E, and he tried to explain how it worked. M began getting hot lunch several times a week–he liked looking at the lunch calendar for the week and deciding what he was going to get. We felt that it was less about the food itself than the independence and novelty of getting his own lunch like a big kid.

Their kindergarten class had no homework (apparently at least one of the other classes did) and I was very glad for that. I liked that they had time to just play after school, either at school or at home. I am definitely dreading homework in the future…and I’m a former teacher who is pro-homework!

As for actual school skills, both boys have done great. Last summer, they were both already reading. M was a lot more confident, and maybe slightly higher level than E. M would do a lot of writing freely and E wanted lots of spelling help and only wrote things that he could get right. They were both quite good at mental math, adding and subtracting one and two digit numbers.

Over the course of the year, both boys learned a ton of sight words and began reading more, and more smoothly, and even more confidently. They can both easily read picture books and low-level chapter books. (They can sound out 90% of Harry Potter too!) One thing that you can’t teach that they both do is that they read with correct intonation! Not just reading with punctuation, but like, acting out tone too. E got really great at writing, and really interested in communicating that way, and began writing confidently in his creative spelling, which I love. M got a little more hesitant about his spelling but he also has done a lot of great writing.

fortune teller

Above: a fortune teller by E from last year. Check out the very early creative spelling–he’s improved a ton since then!

Rainforest ecosystem: “There is water, sun, air, space, nutrients, minerals, soil, leaves” I love how E labels all the parts of his drawings. ❤

On the left is M’s very neat handwriting this spring, and on the right you see both boys’ handwriting. Below, you can see what M’s handwriting is currently like. It’s become really sloppy and harder to read. 😦

From what we could tell the school didn’t do much of a math “curriculum,” it was more like playing with patterns and manipulatives. Their report cards say they did well/fine…but we felt like they were definitely above grade level in both reading and math! I really have wavered for the whole past year about ‘enrichment’ or doing extra academic stuff at home–clearly their skills are pretty good right now and part of me wants to push them a little to solidify those skills (especially math). I don’t want them to get complacent, and I definitely don’t want them to get arrogant or entitled…but I also don’t want to take the joy and fun out of learning for them. And also, I mean, it’s freaking kindergarten. They don’t need to be, like, doing math worksheets or memorizing times tables or whatever in kindergarten. They have so many years of that in the future and I have to keep reminding myself to let them stay little and playful.

Both boys but especially E recently began pushing against some boundaries and control, namely in not getting to do what we grownups get to do. One spring afternoon at the school playground, E was whiny about something–I think he wanted to go home and M didn’t. So he asked if he could walk home by himself. Now–we live maybe four or five blocks from the school, and we have walked back and forth since they were small toddlers–easily several hundred times. So obviously I wasn’t worried about how he would get home, but there is a fairly busy neighborhood road that one has to cross. I told him we could practice: I would follow from a distance and have dad meet them close by. He did perfectly of course and after that I totally let him do it on his own…but I may have spied once or twice. Of course M wanted to do it right away also and of course he was fine too. And after that, they walked home alone regularly. Funnily enough, the whining of “I wanna go hooooome” would immediately become “Can I walk home by myself?” with a big happy non-whiny smile when I said yes, so that was a win. (Sometimes they insisted on going home by themselves but take different routes so they would be actually by themselves.) Part of me felt weird about being comfortable with letting them go on their own…it’s so not done nowadays! But also I’m happy that they’re independent.

This year and being in school really solidified that E and M are their own actual people, not just our sweet little babies. You know? They made friends and did activities and learned things, all without us knowing anything about it. And not only did they make friends with their classmates, but lots of bigger kids are their buddies too!

We’re both really proud of them. They’re good kids, they’re smart, they’re doing well in school, they like learning. It was a really good kindergarten experience.

It felt like a big milestone, to complete a year of school for the first time, only behind starting school for the very first time. And now summer is already over and it all starts again!

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