Buckle Up, It’s Back to School Week

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Callister’s probably not the only one going into the school year with this expression!

It was almost thirty years ago that my oldest daughter went to school. I had such mixed emotions about her being old enough to go to “big kid” school. Thirty years later, I have some of the same feelings with my first grandchild going to “big kid” school this week. Add in lots of worries regarding Covid, and I have been kind of nervous about his upcoming experience. I certainly don’t envy parents of school-age kids during this time of Covid.

Callister turned four in June and will be starting Pre-K tomorrow. As a grandmother, I look at him and still see a baby. Is he ready to go to school all day, five days a week? Pre-K was not a thing when my kids were young, but it seems standard now.

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In my mind, my grandson is still this wide-eyed, chick-fuzz-haired baby. How can he be going to school?

Callister has gone to a pre-school at the neighborhood church for the last few years, and he has loved it. He has been so attached to it that he was adamantly opposed to leaving. A big new school with so many unknown factors was a scary idea. His school had an orientation day last week, which was utter genius. For the first two and a half hours, the parents stayed with the kids. That gave the kids the confidence to begin adjusting to their new classroom, teacher, and classmates. By the time his parents left, Callister had gone from being very reluctant to being fully engaged in the classroom. He barely noticed his parents were leaving. That night he said he loves his new school and proceeded to list all the things he was looking forward to learning. Let’s hope that enthusiasm lasts!

I’m glad I’m not the parent of a school-aged child. Whatever decision you make about this school year, virtual, in-person, pods, it’s not easy. I’m only a grandparent, but I can imagine the decision fatigue and questioning. There are the typical concerns: Will he make friends, will he be bullied, or worse – be a bully? Is he mature enough to handle a full day of school, and will he keep up academically? Those are concerns of every parent, no matter if it’s 1965 or 2021, but this year carries more significant worries. As Betty Casey pointed out in her blog, Covid in the Classroom, the pandemic means we have to take extra precautions to keep the kids safe, and for most of us, it carries anxiety beyond the usual level.

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Callister has a collection of critter masks to wear to school.

Despite my insecurities and worries, I do know there are many benefits of Pre-Kindergarten education. Here are five reasons pre-Kindergarten programs are beneficial.

  1. Kids learn the ropes of school. For many little ones, Pre-K will be their first experience in listening and following directions of a non-family member adult. Listening and following directions is a learned skill. They also learn how to line up, wash hands before lunch, follow a routine, and learn the rhythm of a school day.
  2. Pre-K is a time to develop social and emotional skills. Some of the more essential skills a child learns are sharing, taking turns, and empathizing with others. These are skills that are more important than academics during this stage.
  3. Play is the work of preschoolers. Children learn through play, and a good Pre-K program will allow them to experience areas of play they may not have access to at home. Their growing brains will soak up the opportunities for learning through art, music, books, and physical play that enhances brain development.
  4. Pre-Kindergarten helps decrease financial disparities in education. Publicly funded Pre-Kindergarten programs help families out with child care expenses and contribute to education equality.
  5. Early intervention. Participation in a Pre-Kindergarten program increases the chance to spot the need for early intervention for kids who might need extra assistance with learning. Early intervention can make a significant difference for children who need special education services.

This year may look a little too much like last year because of the resurgence of the virus. We all thought we would be in a better place by now, but the Delta variant had different plans.  Flexibility and adaptation will be two skills parents will need to utilize during this year. I may not be quite ready for my grandson to go to “big kid” school, but he is masked up and ready to go!

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Thank you, teachers and school support staff!

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Categories: Grand Life