{FAMILY} First Day of Kindergarten (Round 2)

No matter how hard I try, it’s simply impossible for me not to compare my second child’s first experiences with those of my firstborn. Because when you experience something brand new for the first time – especially those bittersweet monumental childhood milestones – the memories of those very first experiences stick with you. They tuck themselves in your back pocket like little reminder notes, and you just can’t toss them away.

But that doesn’t mean that experiencing those moments with the children that follow are any less significant, or anything the same. My second born and only son started Kindergarten today, and it was equally as monumental, emotional and memorable a milestone as when his sister took the leap into the world of school-aged childhood.

I was just as nervous as I was for Emma’s first day of Kindergarten. I couldn’t sleep the night before – tossing and turning, my mind racing with worrisome thoughts of how his first day would go.

After his less-than-successful Kindergarten orientation, I feared the worst. I prepared myself for tears and persuasive talks and sideways glances from the unfamiliar faces of new parents. I imagined holding my youngest under my arm – kicking and screaming – while I attempted to coax my little guy into his new classroom.

I had countless talks with my son about his first day. I walked him through the steps of how his first day would go, led him through the school on practice visits, and even promised a treat if the day went well.

And you know what? He nailed it.

Kindergarten

My little guy walked right into the classroom, gave me a confident wave goodbye, and sat right down on the mat as directed by his new teacher. He watched intently as she read him a story, and a wide grin spread across his face. I was so proud of him that tears welled up in my eyes. My sweet little boy had done it. He had willingly and enthusiastically stepped across the threshold between nervous little child to confident big boy Kindergartener, and my heart was full.

Two down, one to go…

 

 

{FAMILY} Kindergarten Orientation (Round 2)

Karma bit me in the ass when I took my son (my second born) to his Kindergarten orientation today.

In a haze of mom-ster arrogance, I had muttered to a friend that I hoped that my son wouldn’t be placed in a class full of first-time moms to school-aged kids. I poked fun at how hard it is the first time around for the children (and the moms) – how tears would be shed, and how I wanted to be grouped together with other “seasoned” parents who would opt to drop-and-go on day one of school.

Karma’s a bitch (and so was I).

I showed up with my coffee in hand (and baby in stroller), and strolled into the library with my head held high. I observed the new families in the room and reminisced about how nervous I had been when it was my first time. But I felt confident that this year would be easy breezy – I was just going through the motions. You know, for my son.

When the time came for the children to leave us in the library while they toured the Kindergarten classroom, disaster struck with a vengeance.

My son suddenly grasped onto my leg with a deathgrip and wailed “I don’t want to goooo” while my littlest simultaneously decided to wriggle and squeal in my arms. All of the other children – all newbies to the school scene, pleasantly obliged and walked hand-in-hand in pairs down the hallway. After several failed attempts at negotiations with my boy (including but not limited to: acts of bribery, stern commands, minor threats, loving coaxes and many many deep breaths), I followed the line of children – stroller, and wailing boy in tow.

As I stood by the door of the Kindergarten classroom, holding my distraught son in one arm and my overtired, cranky one-year-old in the other, I looked on as the other children sang along to songs, coloured pictures and enjoyed circle time.

I side-glanced to the outer perimeter of the classroom, where I noticed two teachers scribbling notes – observing each child and their reactions to this new environment. One of the teachers glanced in my direction, flashed a crooked, sympathetic smile at me, and scribbled some notes on her pad – presumably documenting my son’s behaviour.

I was officially that parent.

After about 20 minutes, I managed to sneak out of the room, leaving my son to his own devices. And of course, when they were finished (and the teacher observers had left), he met me with a glimmer of excitement in his eyes – grabbing me by the hand, eager to show me what he had done.

Today I learned that having three kids doesn’t make me more experienced as a parent. It doesn’t make mothering any harder (or easier) because each child and each experience is new and completely different.

When school officially starts in September, I will not judge the new moms. Instead, I hope to be just like them.

Kindergarten Orientation

The Lowdown On Literacy – Teaching Your Child How To Read

Reading Quote

When my girl entered Kindergarten, I knew that part of the curriculum would include learning to read. But what I didn’t realize, was that her progress would be heavily reliant on the participation of her parents – that it would be our job to guide her through the tedious process of learning the life skill that is reading.

At first the thought of my little girl learning to read on her own was exhilarating. My daydreams were filled with visions of her sitting cross-legged on a patch of grass under an old elm tree, holding a classic storybook daintily in her hands. Spending hours lost in her own world of imagination – swirling down the tunnels of Alice in Wonderland, chasing the little white rabbit and celebrating unbirthdays. Lost in the stories of Anne of Green Gables, quoting and re-enacting the verses of The Lady of Shallot like Anne Shirley.

>But so far, I have to confess, teaching my girl to read has been…less than exotic.

When we sat down to tackle our first read, she came well-equipped with the sound that each letter makes, and how some letters make different sounds when read together. But the challenge with our oh-so-complicated language, is that we have so many silent letters, inexplicable rules, and seemingly nonsensical spellings, that it’s next to impossible to explain it all to a 6-year-old’s inquisitive mind.

I thought that this would be the one time that my Degree in English Literature, and years of experience as an ESL teacher would come in handy, but there is no skill that can prepare you for this milestone.

In the beginning I was patient. “Sound it out” I would coax in a motherly tone. “Good try honey, very close, try again” I would say between gritted teeth. Not only is our language a tricky one to master, but navigating through the rough waters of a frustrated 6-year-old’s temper is even tougher. “Tuh-oh-uh-guh-huh-eh-er?” – “No honey, -ou makes the sound -ow, and -gh sounds like -fff, and -er together is -ur.” What the eff, right?

And once Summer hits, us parents are on our own. No more skipping the odd nighttime reading, knowing that the content will be covered in class the next morning. No my friends, we are left to fend for ourselves.

Thankfully, the BC Library Association and our local public library have developed a Summer Reading Club – one that encourages early readers to read one book a day, and gives them milestones to reach, weekly gifts, games and resources, and a prize (they can choose between a trophy and a new book) for reading every night for the duration of the Summer. Motivation for the kids, and ammo for us parents.

My girl has now completed 5 weeks of the Summer Reading Club, and only has 2 weeks to go. She has become a more confident and skilled reader, and I have become a more patient parent!

Check out the great Tips For Parents page on the Summer Reading Club website, and don’t give up frustrated mamas and papas, I promise it gets easier!

Have you been having a hard time teaching your little ones how to read? Do you have any other tips for making it easier for us parents?

Summer Conundrum

Boom! The first year of school has come and gone, and my baby girl has transformed from a curious, inquisitive little girl, to a witty, confident big girl.
First and last day of Kindergarten
Kindergarten is a big milestone, and I’ve learned so much in the past year.
I remember feeling so anxious on her first day of Kindergarten. Would she adjust well in her new environment? Would she pick the right friends and make smart decisions when faced with school-aged challenges? Would she be exposed to the cruel reality of Kindergarten bullying?
She has undergone a beautiful transformation. She has emerged from her cocoon of toddler innocence and has become a beautiful butterfly. She’s become independent, confident, eager to spread her wings and fly.
Now that her first year of school has come to a close, I realize that it’s not only her who has undergone a tranformation, but also me. I’ve entered a new stage of parenthood. It’s no longer just about sleep issues, and potty training challenges. There’s a whole new list of challenges and learnings at this stage of childhood development (and I’m sure this is the case the whole way through!).

And now I’m faced with a new milestone/challenge: Summer Holidays.

When I had made the decision to transition from full-time corporate career mommy to part-time WAHM (work at home mom), I had reviewed my budgets to confirm that I could survive on a significantly lower salary, and the numbers seemed to add up.
What I hadn’t accounted for was the additional costs that come with Summer Camps.
While I was saving a good chunk of change by no longer having to pay for before and after school care, I wasn’t planning on the fortune I’d be spending on Summer programs for my girl. I had considered keeping her home with me full time for the Summer, but as many of you WAHMs know, it is next to impossible to complete a full work day with an active little one in the room.
I Google’d like crazy searching for fun and engaging programs around my area. Art camps, dance camps, soccer camps, biking camps, swim camps, the list went on and on. How does one choose!? I tried to leave it up to my girl but she wasn’t thrilled about the thought of Summer camp in general so she was no help.
After agonizing over my options (and the costs associated with each option), I settled on a great Summer program at a local community centre. Their schedule of activities included a range of exciting adventures, including visits to the Aquarium, water parks, scavenger hunts, hikes, picnics and so much more. I signed my girl up for 3 days a week, and can’t wait for her to embark on this new journey.
Because my tiny dancer has been so consumed with her desire to try a new form of dance, I’ve also signed her up for a one-week Summer dance program which will allow her to try every dance style – Irish, Jazz, Tap, Lyrical…it was a little more expensive, but should be a great addition to her Summer activities. 

My little ballerina on her last day of ballet

The programs are all booked (almost $1,500 later, ouch!) and I feel as though I’ve survived my first year of the Summer conundrum: Summer camp selection. We’re all set and ready to leap into the Summer sun!

What are your plans for the Summer? Have you found a great Summer program for your kids?

Creatures of the Creek Nature Party – My Girl’s 6th Birthday

It’s been a rough month for my little trooper, so when she requested a nature party for her 6th birthday, this mama wanted to deliver the best nature party ever.
My girl has always loved the outdoors, literally hugging trees and cuddling bugs whenever she can, so I thought a party at our local Ecology Centre would be the perfect venue.

 

Complete with a nature leader, the party included an educational circle time, which covered the anatomy of creatures of the creek, a group craft where the kids made bugs, and a nature walk where the kids were shown how to capture the bugs and larvae living in the natural environment that surrounded us.
Circle time
Creatures of the creek crafts
Learning how to capture bugs and larvae around the creek
My bug-catching birthday girl
Because the party started right after school, I thought I would prepare some healthy snack bags for the kids to enjoy while they learned and explored.
Snacks included Pirate’s Booty, an apple, yogurt raisins, gummy worms, and granola bars
Once the scavenger hunt by the creek came to an end, we hiked back to the Ecology Centre to explore our findings under a microscope. The kids’ eyes lit up as we viewed the little May bugs and creek larvae up close.
Then it was time for cupcakes! I’m lucky enough to have a talented baker for a mother, so she put together this beautiful nature-themed cake for my little birthday girl:
Carrot cake cupcakes with bug chocolates and butterflies, flowers and birds for each child to take home
And of course, no party is complete without the obligatory family photo in front of the birthday cake:
Each child went home with bumblebee or ladybug bubbles, a flower or butterfly balloon, a homemade craft, and a newfound enthusiasm for the nature that surrounds us.
Little explorers
Another successful party that my little girl will hopefully never forget!
To see what we’ve done for previous parties, check out these links:

Dealing With Kindergarten Bullies

I didn’t think it would happen so early on.

It started with stories of a girl in her class constantly yelling in her face. Antagonizing her with hurtful words and sometimes even laughing at her when she would tell a story. Making fun of her every time she presented her show and share item, telling her that her selected item was “stupid”.

When it first came up, I thought perhaps my daughter was exaggerating a little. Some children just have more aggressive personalities I thought to myself.

But then the stories became a daily routine. Her friends were telling me the same things that my daughter was telling me – that this girl was only being mean to my daughter. That she would somtimes shove her. One time my daughter even fell to the floor and her friends had to help her up. They made sure she was ok and told the girl to stop being mean.

Then one day, my daughter exited her classroom after school and told me with a worried look on her face that the girl had punched her in the face in music class. “Sometimes I feel a little scared of her mommy, she’s just so mean to me” she said in a whispered voice.

That was the last straw for me. This girl was a bully and something had to be done to make it stop.

She believes that “being different is better” and treats everyone with a kind heart.

I didn’t know how to approach it so I weighed the options in my head, and asked a few of my teacher friends for their advice. We narrowed it down to three solutions:

I could talk to the parents of the girl who was bullying my daughter. I didn’t feel comfortable going directly to the parents because I hadn’t seen the acts firsthand. In my opinion, it was the teacher’s responsibility to react immediately to the behavior, and to discuss the issues with the bully’s parents and the parents of the affected child.

I could talk to the school’s principal. I weighed this option carefully. I knew there were certain procedures in place for addressing bullying in the school, and worried that going over the teacher’s head might get her in trouble with her supervisor.

I could talk to the teacher. This was the option that I thought would work best. This would allow me to get the full story from a firsthand witness, and would give the teacher the opportunity to explain her process for addressing bullies in the classroom setting.

After careful thought, I ended up doing a combination of the last two options. I had been asked to send a note to the principal with any special requests for grade 1. In my note, I requested that my daughter not be placed in the same classroom as the girl who had been bullying her, as I thought the behavior was hindering my daughter’s learning environment. This note led to a follow up call from the principal, who asked me to share more information on what had happened between the girls. She suggested that I speak directly with the teacher as well.When I brought up the subject with my daughter’s teacher, she was very understanding and reassured me that she had set up meetings with both the girl’s parents, and her grandparents who sometimes shared childcare responsibilities. She told me that they were managing the situation and doing their best to ensure that the behavior is dealt with.I also took some time to discuss the situation with my daughter. I asked her to try to avoid talking to the girl, and to do her best to sit apart from her in class. My daughter agreed that this would be a good resolution and followed my advice.

I haven’t heard any stories this week about the girl attacking my daughter, and feel a little relieved that perhaps the situation has been resolved. But this is only Kindergarten, is this just the beginning of a long road of bullying? Will I always have to ask about my kids’ classmates and how they are being treated by their peers when I’m not around?

Has your child ever been the victim of bullying? What did you do?

NOTE: In my online research efforts, I came across this resource and thought it might be helpful for anyone who is experiencing the same thing as I have. Check it out:  First Steps To Stop Bullying – Adults Helping Kids Aged 4-11 (Public Safety Canada)

 

What To Expect When Your Kid Becomes A Kindy

It seems like just yesterday when I helped my little girl through her first day of Kindergarten. It was a life-changing milestone for me – it caused me to make a career change, shift my priorities, and come to terms with the fact that my first-born – the one who had made me a mama – was going to be in elementary school. Big steps for my little girl, and big steps for me too.
As we approach my daughter’s last month of Kindergarten, I find myself looking back on how she has grown, changed, and blossomed into her own little being through this trasitory phase. And I think about all of my friends who are about to embark on this same milestone this September. Who are nervous about this big step, who are wondering what to expect. So for you (and only based on my own experiences as I’m sure it is slightly different for everyone), I present to you, what to expect when your kid becomes a kindy.
The first day of school will be overwhelming. Both for you, and for your little one. Whether your child is transitioning from full time child care, part time preschool, or home time, this is a big step. You will feel nervous, and so will your child, but you will both adjust, and will love the change. It’ll just take some time.
Your child will become independent. At the beginning, you will drop your little one off (either at before-school-care, or at the classroom door), and you will be showered with hugs and kisses. They will hold your hand firmly, and they will hesitate before entering the room. But quickly, a new kind of confidence will emerge, and your clingy little kidlet will no longer want to hold your hand. Will forget to kiss you goodbye and will ask if it’s Monday yet, eager to return to class. Don’t take this personally, they are growing up, and they are learning how to walk on their own two feet.
They will learn new skills, quickly. Even if you have a little chatterbox like I do, you won’t always be up-to-date on everything they’ve learned in school. One day they’ll be printing their own name on paper, the next they’ll be tapping out syllables on their arms, and before you know it, they’ll be reading bedtime stories to you at night.
Their own individual personalities will emerge. This is so beautiful to witness. Suddenly, they are cracking jokes, discovering their own interests, telling stories with a new kind of enthusiasm, and walking with their heads a little higher. They will be choosing their own friends, making plans, and dreaming up future aspirations. This is when you really realize that your little baby has blossomed into their own little person.
Once shy, my little girl is now confident and comfortable in her own skin
 One last little piece of advise for you Kindy mamas and papas to be: try to drop them off at least every once in awhile. It’s nice to see who their friends are, to meet their teacher, and to meet a few other parents. If you can, volunteer at least once so you can witness how your child interacts with his/her peers in the classroom, and try to have a playdate so your child can strengthen those new relationships.Expert parents – how was it for you when your child started Kindergarten? Any tips to add?

First Day of Kindergarten

She woke up with a worried look on her face. “Do I go to Kindergarten today mommy?” she asked hesitantly. All week she had been excited about the big day, but when the day was finally here, she was nervous.
 
As she put on her new back-to-school outfit, I told her about all of the exciting things she would learn this year. “I already know everything mommy, there’s nothing more for me to learn”, she proclaimed confidently. “Oh just you wait and see”, I responded.
 
Before we climbed into the car, I snapped a few shots to mark the momentous occasion:
 
 
 
 
 After the mini photo shoot, reality set in. She grew anxious and began to walk away from me, quickening her pace as she hurried down the driveway away from the car. “I don’t want to go to Kindergarten mommy, not today”, I heard her mutter as she distanced herself from us.
 
Reassuringly, I grabbed her hand. “We’ll go together ok sweetie?” I said as I led her back to the car. “Mommy and daddy will be with you every step of the way.”
 
I saw her eyes widen as we pulled up outside the school. Children of all ages hurried towards the building, and giggles and chatter filled the air. She tugged my hand as we strolled towards the front door.
 
The classroom was packed with nervous 5 year olds, and even more nervous parents. Some of the parents were looking around intently as they cooed their children, crooked smiles on their faces. A group of moms began sobbing uncontrollably, hugging each other as if they had just lost a loved one. Another group of parents (including myself) huddled in a corner with iPhones and cameras in hand, quietly snapping shots like the paparazzi.
 
 
 
My girl was very excited to discover that two of her friends were in her class, and she quickly settled in and waved goodbye. When we picked her up an hour later, she wore a huge smile on her face, rushing through stories about her new class, and excited to return the next day.
 
I knew it wouldn’t be as hard as I had anticipated, and now that the first day has passed, I take comfort in knowing that she’s ready, she loves it, and she’ll thrive in her new environment.
 
Off to class on day 2
And so we begin a new chapter in the book of parenthood…
 

 

Kinder-Pardon (Part 2): Prep Mode

My baby girl starts Kindergarten in just under 2 weeks, and this mama is (still) freaking out. The Kindergarten orientation experience was overwhelming enough for me, but with the approach of this milestone so close, I’m doing my best to come to terms with this momentous occasion. Here are the steps I’ve taken so far to ease myself into this big transition:
Step 1: Update lunch boxes and food containers. A task that I thought would be fun, quickly became the bane of my existence. I have loathed the dreaded l-word for some time now, and fishing through a sea of multi-sized tupperware on a nightly basis has been enough to put me over the edge. My solution? To find a bento box style lunch container that could hold all of the items in one unit. After hunting around Google for quite some time, I came across these gems and quickly placed my order:

 

GGLB
Go Green Lunch Box Image Source
I was so excited that I had finally found the perfect lunch box solution, and eagerly awaited its arrival. When I opened the package, I was pleased with the product, and my kids seemed to love it as well. I packed their lunches with a smile on my face, proud of myself for accomplishing this first step. Little did I know, not everyone loved it as much as I did.
My husband’s first comment was that it was much too large (side note: too large for my little ones who are 2 and 5, I don’t think the size would be an issue for an older elementary school student).
The daycare teachers politely rejected the lunch boxes as well (not to my face of course, but through my husband). The size of the boxes were again an issue because they took up so much space on the daycare lunch tables. I had included homemade pasta in their lunches that day, resulting in the teachers having to scoop out the pasta, place it in a bowl to heat up, and then re-place back into the box for consumption. They also mentioned that they like to have the snacks and treats in separate containers so they can offer them to the children at their discretion. Fair enough, but in my mind, all small potatoes.
Begrudgingly, I set out that night to find a new solution, leaving my lovely lunch boxes tucked away – their fate still to be determined. 5 stores later, and I now have (yet another) matching set of tupperware containers that will be used moving forward.
Step 2: Establish a new pick up/ drop off schedule. This task wasn’t quite as much of a challenge, but I’m dreading the day when this new schedule will be implemented. Right now, I’m lucky enough to have both of my children placed at the same daycare, which is less than 5 minutes from our home, and right on my way to the office.
Beginning in September, I will need to drop off my 5 year old at a before/after school care location (in the completely opposite direction), and then my 2 year old at daycare. Longer morning routine, cue the sarcastic enthusiasm.
Step 3: Step up the bonding time. The rapid approach of Kindergarten is a solid reminder that my baby is no longer that. She is a big girl, and will only continue to grow and mature. And while I refuse to accept that she will one day be a teenager, drive, date, procreate (GASP!), I will welcome this milestone with open arms. In the meantime, I feel as though a few bonding activities are a must. First, I am planning a back-to-school shopping day, just us girls. She needs a new outfit, doesn’t she? Second, I’m going to take her for some mommy/daughter mani/pedis, because she has always wanted to do this, and this is something that us big girls enjoy! Third, I’ve signed us up for a mommy & me cooking class at Hungry Oven. Because there’s nothing more bonding than creating and sharing a meal together, right?
What are some ways in which you’ve prepared for this big milestone? I’d love some advice from the expert mamas out there!

Kinder-pardon?

Tonight I was given a sneak peek at the monumental milestone that lies ahead. The one that has been consuming my mind, keeping me up at night, making me hug my daughter a little longer, and kiss her a little more frequently. Tonight I went to my district’s kindergarten information session.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and part of me expected to be one of a dozen parents attending the event. As I drove towards the school district office, I noticed a distant trail of headlights behind me, cars coming from every direction, traffic aides directing us to park amongst a nearby soccer field. Mini vans and SUVs and station wagons spewed out rushing parents, notebooks and pens in hand, frantically moving in herds towards the building doors. I had decided to attend the session alone, and felt lost among the sea of eager parents.

As I walked into the overcrowded gymnasium, I was immediately overwhelmed by a sea of what seemed liked a million confused faces. The outer areas of the gym were lined with information booths littered with colourful crafts, and signs written in giant kindergarten teacher print. I moved through the crowd like I had somewhere important to be, and found a seat by what looked like a cool group of mommies.

The Superintendent of our school district welcomed us to the session, and ended his intro with “we look forward to working with you over the next 13 years”. I gasped. 13 years. Am I ready for a committed relationship like this? One that will greatly influence the person that my child will grow to be?

The speaker dove into explanations on the various programs we have to choose from – French Immersion, International Baccalaureate Programs – I thought my daughter was going to Kindergarten? Isn’t that like, colouring and recess and snack times? He spoke about school choices, catchment areas, priority lists and learning techniques. He spoke of the importance of learning to pay attention and remembering things for a reason – basic skills that will contribute to the development of our children for years to come.

It was informative, and I’m glad that I attended, but seeing the images of the children on the projector screen, hearing the stories of a typical day in Kindergarten, and imagining my little baby girl walking towards an Elementary School door with an oversized backpack and a lunch bag in hand – I have to admit brought tears to my eyes. My baby’s growing up, and I don’t have a choice but to help her through the stages, to hope  that I’ve made the right choices and taught her the right skills to move on to her next stage in life.

This is just the beginning, and I’m already freaking out.