Joining the big kids – the ABCs of kindergarten and beyond

Students across the territory will be heading back to school this August, and some will be taking their first steps into kindergarten

It seems like just yesterday that our little guy was taking his first wobbly steps; yet, in a mere few weeks he will step onto a school bus and into the school system, for the first time. Perhaps the smell of newly sharpened pencil crayons, shopping for school clothes and packing peanut-free lunches is old news to you; or, maybe you (like me) are a first-time school parent.

It was surprising to me, as a parent, that preparing for kindergarten began in February when school registration opened. Like many parents, we had a specific school in mind that we wanted our son to attend. I compared kindergarten registration to the pursuit of the once highly coveted Tragically Hip tickets. Online registration opened at 9 a.m., exactly; the website had a countdown, by the second, until the official opening.

My form was pre-filled out, and at 9:01 a.m. I had it submitted! Weeks later, we received an email that we our son would be enrolled in our school of choice; yet, this was only the first step. Once a spot in our desired school had been secured, we had to register him in person. My little guy and I went to the school with his passport, to prove his identity to the administration. When we arrived, to our surprise, there was no one in the office. Shortly after our arrival, however, a handsome man appeared claiming to be the principal. “Nice to meet you,” he said to my son. “Congratulations … you will be beginning kindergarten next year.”

“No!” responded my son, respectfully. “It’s actually this year that I am beginning kindergarten.” While they were both correct, I glanced sheepishly back at the principal, wondering if my little munchkin would be noted for confidently correcting the principal before the enrollment process was even complete!

On to the next stage … the kindergarten health fair. Children have to be poked and prodded as they are immunized and their teeth are inspected; however, the excitement of a fire truck outside, propagating fire safety, seemed to overshadow the immunization pain. After this, more orientations, a bus registration and parent meetings before the official start to the school year. In time, this will become routine for us and we will be in the same place as many of you.

From the kids’ perspective, returning to school may be bittersweet—summer is ending, and now they will be doing homework and sitting through long classes, which may or may not be engaging.

There are, however, some positives to returning to school. Perhaps there is a shopping trip in order, for new clothes and school supplies; or perhaps you are looking forward to participating in extra-curricular activities like sports, drama or music clubs. Recess or lunch breaks will resume, which is quite possibly where the most valuable life-related learning occurs (don’t tell any teachers I said that!).

From the parents’ perspective, returning to school is likely welcomed (or at least it was when I was a kid). Parents look forward to publicly funded child care, for the bulk of the work week, and the giant orangey-yellow vehicle that arrives to collect their children each weekday morning. I never have decided which colour the school bus actually is. Is it yellow? or is it orange? And why are they never pink, purple or blue? Why do school buses never have polka dots?

I suppose there are other, more important questions to answer and things to worry about when you are the parent of a school-aged child: How is my child going to fit in with his or her peers? Should my child carry a cell phone to school? What kind of apps should be permissible? Perhaps, most importantly, who will be my child’s teacher?

While the return to school may be sweet for parents, and bitter for kids, it is undoubtedly extra bitter for teachers. Gone are the days of sleeping in, grocery shopping on a Tuesday and enjoying the sunshine. Hello to the days of marking assignments, preventing the school domination of bullies and organizing extra-curricular activities for students.

To all of the teachers who are reading this: Welcome back to the work world! While many harbour slight jealousy towards you for your carefree summers, we have to admit that teachers do not always have it easy. Teachers arguably have the most important job in the world. They are literally preparing tomorrow’s generation for the world. This is a tall task, so let’s remember as parents to not be too hard on them.

With the recent Yukon-wide heat wave reaching astonishing temperatures like 29 degrees, it may be hard to believe that school will actually resume soon. So, whether you are a first-time school parent, like me, a veteran parent of a secondary student, a student yourself or a tanned well-rested teacher, it is now time to savour the last fragments of the Yukon summer. Eat popsicles on your deck, stay in your pajamas all day or squeeze in a little more camping. For soon the bell will sound, the books will re-open and school will start again.

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