On a beautiful summer day, we were soaking up the sun while drawing in our backyard. My friend’s son, age 6, decided he was going to write a book. He casually asked Lila, age 5 and a recent TK graduate, if she knew how to spell the word “like.” “K….L…E…” she started, and then looked at me in a hot panic. “MOMMY!!! I don’t remember ANYTHING from TK!!”
I mean, she did, of course, and with some reminders to say the sounds in the word, her memory was jogged enough to produce the letters. But her fear of summer reading loss was real. And it reminded me that we can’t abandon school work completely without experiencing the dreaded summer learning loss.
So if you also find yourself with a child entering PreK, TK, Kindergarten, or First Grade, it’s worth putting just a little time into some fun summer learning activities to avoid the dreaded summer slide. Here are some fun ways to make it happen without stressing your kids (or you!) out.
From an early age, I have always been both a teacher’s pet and an overachiever. I passed all the tests. I got all the awards. I always often came in first. For years, I’ve eagerly been awaiting my own kids’ turn. I told myself that I wouldn’t be pushy, wouldn’t assume my kid would be the best and the brightest, and was determined to let her go her own way. When the first few award ceremonies went by and Lila didn’t get an award, I tried my best to shrug it off. That’s okay! Everyone can’t get an award, or they would be meaningless! I mean, she has her moments, but she is fiery and passionate and smart and funny and AWESOME. Her day will come!
And today, when I opened up her homework folder and saw that slip of fancy copy paper, with the hint of a fancy border showing- well, I just knew. Our Her day had finally come.
“Congratulations! Your child has been selected to receive an award. Please join us for a ceremony on Tuesday, as Lila is recognized for… Alertness.”
You think you’re done with your holiday prep. You’ve baked. You’ve shopped. You’ve even wrapped. You have done the impossible- you’ve finished Christmas a full week ahead of time. You pat yourself on the back for a job well done and prepare yourself for a blissful evening drinking a glass of wine and watching “Love Actually” one more time.
And then you get a sweet little note from your child’s lovely teacher (and I mean that. She is SO wonderful), asking that you send twenty identical kindergarten class gifts to school the day after tomorrow. And since said teacher is seriously SO wonderful, you decide to oblige her one last request.
I mean, you cry first, of course. But then you get to brainstorming.
So, if you’re like us and find yourself with one more twenty little preschool class gifts to buy, might we suggest a few ideas…
Of all the back-to-school posts that I’ve read (and pinned. And obsessed over), the one thing that no one ever told me is that it would bring on the advent of weekends again.
For the last three years, I have been engrossed in the life of a stay at home mom. Yes, weekends were different in that my husband was at home, and I had a full-time parenting partner, someone to laugh with, someone to talk to. But so much of the weekend was just the same as the rest of the week for me. I was cleaning house, and watching kids, and hitting up the park, and cooking dinner. These are all things that I signed up for, and not even things that I particularly mind. It was just that they were everyday things, Monday through Sunday, and every day was much like the one before it. Sometimes that was a good thing, but sometimes? It wasn’t.
And then came school, and suddenly Fridays had so much more meaning. We’d survived a week full of rushed breakfasts school drop offs and homework and packing backpacks! Now I’d get two whole days to spend with my girl! Parks were a novel thing again, lazy mornings watching TV on the couch were a treasure instead of something to feel guilty about, and our pace was just DIFFERENT. She was tired from a full week of school, and ready for some downtime. Where the weekends used to be full of sameness punctuated by birthday parties, suddenly we were all looking forward to a little rest, a little less structure, and a little more free time to spend together. I finally remember why Friday used to be a thing, why everyone talked about weekend plans, and how the promise of two perfect days is enough to get anyone through a stressful, boring, or even just a normal-old-week.
So here we are, and I’m fully ready to open up my arms and embrace the weekend again. Take time to rest, to drink an extra cup of coffee, to snuggle up and watch some cartoons, and to not worry about rushing out of the door to get to school on time. I’ll stay up late with my husband, and the kids might actually sleep in, and we’ll play and laze about and spend Sunday evenings getting ready for the week ahead. It may not be everyone’s ideal weekend- heck, it may not even be mine- but whatever it may look like, I’m just glad to have it back.
For a first time Mom, I felt incredibly prepared when my son was born. I had 17 nieces and nephews and had been around kids a LOT. I was ready to change diapers. I wasn’t afraid of the dreaded first cold. I knew all the first aid and CPR you could want. I was prepared. And then the kids showed up and I learned all the things I hadn’t learned.
You probably haven’t learned all the things either.
Make sure to add these to your to-do list.
How to Throw a Ball.
Okay, I’m not a complete athletic disaster. I can throw a ball. But it’s actually WAY harder to throw a ball to a three year old than to another able bodied adult. You have to somehow throw it really slow. And make sure to avoid hitting them in the face. Because they won’t just catch the ball if it’s about to hit them. They’ll wait, let it hit them, and then freak out about it. And then make you throw it again and again until your arm falls off.
How to Draw Every Animal in Existence.
Before I was a Mom I’m not sure I’d ever drawn a rhinoceros. Or a “water dinosaur.” I know I didn’t draw the animals/monsters/creatures that my children imagine – and then request for me to draw. To their exact, but undescribed, specifications. But I do know that a lot of the time my drawings are not up to my children’s standards. I should have spent more of my first pregnancy in an avant garde art class taught by opinionated toddlers. If they have one of these in your area, it will be worth every penny.
Bonus points if they teach you how to draw things that you’ve never seen before. You know, like thunder.
How to Move Silently Through a House.
When we were house shopping, I did not walk through the house listening for squeaky floorboards. FATAL mistake. Because there’s a board in my son’s room that has almost destroyed me. After spending countless hours lying on his floor praying he’ll fall asleep, the last thing I want to do is wake him up stepping on that board. Squeaky doors? I’m just going to take them all of their hinges. Or go to some sort of cat burglar crash course in how to be more sneaky.
How to Remove Objects from a Nose
Maybe you think this is covered under basic first aid, but not so, my friends. There are actual techniques for this sort of thing. For example, do not put any kind of finger or tool up there. Is it close enough to the nostril that you can pinch above it and push it out? Or should you try to blow it out like in that viral video that’s been going around (doctors say no, by the way, so THANKS FOR NOTHING VIRAL VIDEO)? Or do you have to go to freaking urgent care over this?? No one prepared us for A.) That level of decision making. B.) That kind of medical know-how.
Tetris Level Packing Skills
No one told me that I should have been spending WAY more time playing Tetris in preparation for parenthood. From packing a diaper bag, to packing my car for a day trip, to packing my daughter’s backpack on show and tell day (which is much more complicated than one would originally believe, I assure you), I use way more spatial awareness on the daily than I ever imagined I would.
Emotional Awareness of Others, Bordering on Psychic Ability
In the thirteen seconds it takes from when my daughter first appears in the dismissal line to when her teacher hands her over at the gate, I have to decide what kind of mood she is in and how to react appropriately. Will a big hug make her push me or melt her like a popsicle? Should I dare ask how school went? Does she want to walk or should I prepare for a battle about whether or not I am going to carry her to the car? It seems like an impossible task, one I am certainly untrained for. But I gotta say…for an impossible task, I’m getting pretty darn good at it.
How to Put Gloves on a Child
Ooooohhhhh, you think this is easy? That’s cute. Because guess what? Kids can’t move one finger at a time. And eight of their little fingers fit into one glove finger. So you sit there like a rational adult saying “Move this finger, no pull this one one, okay put the big one back in, no not that one, the other one, wait, now we’re back how we started!,” before you realize that you are fighting a losing battle. Better to take your chances with frostbite and save your sanity.
What other skills do you wish they’d told you that you’d need as a parent?
No matter where you are in the school year, I’m sure the pressure is on. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day to day that you forget to prep for the big events ahead. End of year teacher gifts are FAR off of our radar. We are miles away from Teacher Appreciation Week (which, WHOA. Could we possibly make that a bigger deal? I don’t think so.) The last days of school? Please. Let’s just get through Back to School Night first, am I right?
Except on the first day of school last year, when I asked Lila how her first day of school was, she said “I need three popsicles. And a nap.” The second day, she said, “When Mrs. D gets mad, she sounds like a buffalo. It’s AWESOME!” I made a mental note to tell her teacher about it, but frankly, there just isn’t that much time to touch base every day. And let’s be honest. My memory ain’t so good these days.
I spent many years as a teacher, and I’m sure my students must have come home with some whoppers about me. Hearing Lila’s version of events made me think about all the funny/silly/sweet things my students must have told their parents about me and my classroom. I desperately wished I could have heard what those things were. (I mean, the nice things, of course. I’m not a glutton for punishment. I don’t want to hear about how the kid said I’m a monster, obviously.) Continue reading “A Teacher Gift You Should Start on NOW”→
My husband is tall. Like, really tall. Like, “hey, did you play college basketball?” levels tall.
And he’s smart. Like went to a super academically demanding college, and killed it. Like, when I told my parents he existed I said, “he’s a rocket scientist” – and I wasn’t lying.
These traits are both VERY celebrated in his family. On a trip back East during our engagement, there was a robust conversation about my ability to provide sufficiently tall grandchildren, what with my diminutive stature. I somewhat nervously defended myself, “I mean, I’m 5″8’….. that’s not exactly short?” My mother-in-law to be quickly rebuffed me, questioning my asserted height, as though perhaps I would lie about it to get in her good graces? There was only to be one solution. I was to be measured. Yes, she ACTUALLY measured me.
Thankfully, there was no such test to measure if I would adequately assist in our children’s mental agility. I would like to think I would pass that as well, but I’m honest enough to admit I’d fail the math portion.
That being said, there are tall expectations set on my husband’s family, both literal and figurative. So it was with great joy when we dropped the bomb on them: we were aiming for average.
Personally, I’m tired – nay, downright exhausted – with the quest for excellence. Every child cannot be in the 99th percentile at their 6 month well baby check. It’s not possible. That’s just not how percentages work. Every child cannot be leaps and bounds above their peers academically. If they are? Great, if they’re not, that’s fine too. That HAS TO BE FINE TOO.
So when asked if our son was just “off the charts” in regards to his height, we would often reply, “nope, he’s right on track” sometimes even fudging the numbers to make him MORE average. The looks of horror on my in-laws faces were priceless. (However, they were quickly replaced with theories as to why he was so stunted, but that dear readers is a story for another time – spoiler alert: it’s my fault). A family of engineers, they would see him holding an object and making it work and excitedly exclaim, “oh, I see we’ve got another engineer on our hands!” They decided quickly and concisely that he would, obviously, attend his father’s alma mater and we’re debating what kind of an engineer he would be. My husband, again enjoying getting a rise out of his family, would say, “I don’t know, I think he’s more inclined to be an entertainer. Maybe in Vegas!” You’d think he said, “I don’t know, I think he’s more inclined to be a serial killer. Maybe one of those cannibal ones.”
And I get it, it’s back to school and there’s AP classes or “gifted classes” and Varsity Football or a starting spot on pop warner and someone’s getting first chair in the orchestra or the solo at the fall concert or will be the kid with the longest line in the Kindergarten production of Peter Rabbit and so many areas for our kids to have the opportunity to shine and excel. And we absolutely want to give our kids all of those opportunities and encourage them to be the very best version of themselves that they can be.
But we can’t all be 6′ 7″ (yes, that’s how tall my husband is) and we can’t all be engineers. And why should we all want to? Our kids won’t all play major league baseball or be famous actors or cure cancer. Most of them? Will just be average. Wonderfully, beautifully, average. That’s truly all I can aim for.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for nearly a year, Cole and Evie have had an emotional goodbye through a chain link fence. It’s like a scene out of some prison movie. They tell each other how much they love each other and are going to miss each other and then I tear Evie away from the gate telling her we’ll see Cole in four hours. Often, I have to carry her writhing body in one arm, while balancing a baby in the other, and haul these girls out to the car. After dealing with this week after week, month after month, Chad and I had to have a serious conversation: Is it time to start Evie in preschool?
We had made bold proclamations and decisions on our plan for Evie’s schooling. I’m a stay at home Mom and she’s just fine here with me. She can wait until she’s 3 like Cole did. We can see if they have a spot open in January and if they don’t she can start the next fall. Two years of preschool will be plenty for her.
But it seemed she was disagreeing with us.
So I asked the Director at Cole’s eternally waitlisted preschool if they happened to have a spot. No rush, anytime really, we’re fine keeping her home as long as we need – oh, what’s that? You already had her on a list because I mentioned it to you once in passing? She can start next month? Yeah, okay, that works too…Suddenly we were launched into preschool prep mode! I bought Evie a lunch bag, did some “Back to School” shopping, grabbed her a water bottle and talked about the impending start of her career as a student. She proudly told everyone, “I go to school with Cole soon!” She was excited. Like really, REALLY, excited. Drop-offs were suddenly much easier, because as they hugged and kissed each other each morning, they’d exchange excited words about how soon Evie would be joining her big brother.
She was excited. I was all the feelings. Normally made of stone, the idea of having two kids in school proved too much for my solid core to handle. I just wasn’t sure I liked this. At all.
Then it was the big day. We got dressed in one of our new outfits. I busted out the chalkboard easel for important stats and pictures and a giant display of “Evie’s first day of preschool!” I took a thousand pictures of the three kids in every possible arrangement – sitting, standing, two sitting – Evie standing prominently, all three sitting together – Cole in the middle, Evie in the middle, Izzie in the middle – you name it, I probably have a picture of it. Evie looked happy and proud – probably a combination of first day excitement and the promise of a lollipop in exchange for endless smiles.
We loaded into the car, drove down to school, hopped out of the car and proudly marched down the hall. Which is about when all hell broke loose. To our complete and utter surprise, our cool, confident, happy-go-lucky, independent daughter freaked the F out. We thought we’d done everything “right” to prepare her! She knows this school, knows the teachers, knows lots of Cole’s friends! Plus the school happens to be on our church’s campus (though not affiliated) so she literally has been in the classrooms since the week she was born! We talked, oh how we talked, about what the first day would entail. And she was sooooo on board. Lest she forgets, this was HER IDEA!
But, as is a woman’s prerogative, she reserves the right to change her mind. And oh did she change it. My husband and I looked back and forth for a minute, telepathically running through our options.
Me: Evie, it’ll be fine. Cole’s right here with you. *Jump in here dude! Tell her it’s fine!!*
Chad: That’s right, Cole’s going to go do circle time, you can sit with him. *She’s screaming! Why is she screaming??*
Me: Honey, honey, honey, calm down, baby. *I don’t KNOW!! We gotta get out of here!*
Chad: *We can’t just LEAVE her like this!*
Me: *Like hell we can’t! She’ll be FINE! Band-Aid! RIP IT!*
Chad: Okay Evie, Mommy and Daddy have to go, you’ll be okay. *You’re a heartless monster*
Me: I’ll be back sooooo soon, you’ll have lots of fun, okay? We love you! *Oh, grow a pair*
Us: Bye sweetie!! We love you!!
I may have been the one to force us to leave, but I thought of my sweet little baby all day, hoping she’d calmed down and found some fun. I picked her up a few short hours later. Before she saw me, I saw her eating and laughing and I knew we had made the right call. She looked up, saw me, ran and jumped in my arms.
When we settled in the car I asked, “What did you do today Evie?” She said, with a big smile on her face, “I did art and crying.” I laughed at her and hugged the heck out of that kid. I said, “Maybe next time we’ll try for just art, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, I liked the art.”
So yes, in the grand tradition of first days of school, there were tears. Lots of tears. Mostly from Evie. But, as terrible as it is to say, the tears were a nice reminder that even though she’s a sassy, independent, stubborn, “I can do it myself” kind of 2 year old, she’s still my two year old baby, that just needs her Mama once in a while.
A new school year brings with it many things- new backpacks. New uniforms. New teachers. And for some of us it brings new experiences. When you first set out to prepare your kids for their FIRST first day of school, a million questions pop into your mind. Is my child ready for preschool? Does my child have the kindergarten readiness skills they need? Will they be okay without me?
As a former teacher, I was surprised to find that I had exactly the same concerns when my daughter went to school for the first time. I felt like there were soooo many things I wanted to teach her before school started- and believe it or not, letters and numbers were the least of my concerns!
When it comes to school readiness, there are more important things to focus on (things like independence, how to get along with others, and fine motor skills) that will free up the teacher’s time to teach academics. Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids before school starts that your child’s Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.