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From my point of view as a teacher: probably the single most important thing most students can do, with respect to academic success, is keep their stuff organized. So if your kids are of an age where you can look through binders with them and make sure stuff is in sensible places (and three-ring binders, where homework can be removed and then put back in properly, are the only way to go), and where you can look through their assignment books and make sure they're checking stuff off when it's done, for heaven's sake do that.


My question is, why is it that although my about-to-be-four-year-old daughter has been in full-time group daycare for 2 years, I am all worried and weepy at the thought of her going off to the first day (and only a 3-hour day at that) of public school pre-K?

(I am at work. I wish I were home, but I'd probably be stressing her out if I were, so best that my husband is the morning shift.)


For the youngest students (preschool / kindergarten) -- make sure your child can take his/her clothes on and off to use the bathroom (also wash hands every time), tie or buckle shoes alone and zip or button coats without help. Ain't no kindergarten teacher in the world can pull up 25 little pairs of pants every time someone uses the potty!!

Also, if your child is in half day kindergarten, consider avoiding the cesspool of iniquity that is the school bus packed with older kids. The midday runs -- home from school for AM kindergarteners and TO school for PM kindergarteners -- are kindergarten-only. No scary big kids at that time. If you can transport your child at the other times (early AM or late PM) and have them ride the bus only on the midday run, much trauma will be avoided. I hate to say it, but your child's older sibling will not be much protection on the bus. :(

Finally, email your child's teacher as much as you want. Ask all the questions you have. But DON'T expect an immediate response during the first few weeks of school! If there is an immediate, pressing issue, the teacher WILL contact you ASAP. The teacher is VERY busy, has little to no down time during the day and has MANY MANY other parents' notes to return. Give him or her a few days. I promise he/she will get back to you eventually.


For me it is about logistics. It is never getting everyone where they need to be. I find it helpful to set everything the night before. I also pack lunches and set out everything needed for breakfast. I also have a time line- breakfast by this time, teeth-face-hand-hair by this time, in the car by this time. It makes it easier if the kids know what to expect each day.


La started VPK this year (needs to be on the star carpet at 8:30 for circle time) and the monkey started 8th grade (1st bell at 9:20, but the band room opens at 8:15).

The lesson we learned this morning is if the monkey wants a ride to school for band practice, he should be asking the night before so we can schedule it in, not at 8:05 on a Monday morning.

With Boy Scouts (the boy) and Cub Scouts (the husband) and BSA district meetings (the husband) Google calendars are worth their virtual weight in gold for keeping all of the events straight. We have the added bonus of the girl being in an Orange county based calendar and the boy in a Seminole county one.

My outlook calendar at work is a good place to add in school holidays too. But it's nice to be able to see the calendar from home, without a VPN connection.


It's a good time to take a "first day of school" picture of your kid(s), and record height and weight, too. At least it will work for littler kids -- I don't know if the older kids will cooperate...


I'm sure this is a stupid question, but here goes...
I'm a SAHM of two so my kids don't do daycare. The oldest just turned 3yrs so I know some sort of schooling is looming on the horizon. When does my oldest start school? Is it full day all week or part days part of the week? What should he know before he starts (academically, socially, creatively)?


Ok first my little tip is that teachers always ask you to put your student's name on their belongings, especially their backpack, and there are personalized backpacks everywhere it seems. PLEASE don't write your child's name on the outside of their backpack where anyone could read it. If a strange can walk behind them, read their name and say "Hey Johnny!", Johnny will think that person knows them...very bad idea. Make sure the name is in an inconspicuous spot like inside on a tiny tag :)

I don't want to hijack this post but, Moxie, I'd love to see you address Kelly's question above. Being a mom to a 3 1/2 year old (December baby, so Kindergarten in 2009) I've been reading more about school readiness and it seems to vary so much! Some say they should be able to recognize all letters of the alphabet, some say they should be reading two or three letter words, others just say they should know their colors and shapes don't worry so much about the reading. Help! We don't want our kids to be behind in kindergarten but I also don't want him to be too far ahead and be bored, especially since he'll be one of the older kids in his class.


Of course that "strange" above should be stranger...ugh. Sorry! :)


For my 3-year-old (who goes to a year-round preschool, so there's not really any "back to"), we've put little charms on some of her stuff. Several kids have the same fleece jacket and one has the same backpack, so having a tiny recognizable thing attached to the zipper helps keep her own sorted out, without having teachers have to look in everybody's collar while they're trying to get 16 kids back from an outing. We used peekapoohs since Mouse likes them, but you could obviously use whatever.



Here's what the state of PA says kids should know / be able to do before starting public kindergarten:


What an ungly link. Sorry. It's good info, though. HTH


Nikki (and others, too)
I work in an embroidery shop, where I see about 7000 or so people this time of year who want their kids' names on their backpacks. Every single day of August and September, I tell parents that if they want their kid's backpack to have identifying information on it, then they need to use only initials or put the name somewhere that the world won't have easy access to it. Another way to personalize it is to let the kid pick out a picture (like a firetruck or butterfly) to put on it. Then there is no personal info on the pack at all, but a kid could identify the pack in case of loss or theft.

I am sorry to say that I cannot tell you how many parents insist on the kid's first name emblazoned on the backpack in spite of my tempered remarks about strangers and many youngsters' reduced ability in risk assessment. Perhaps they are more optimistic than I am, which is not really saying much, now that I think about it.


Sleep. No matter what age, make sure your student is getting to sleep early. It makes a difference in their learning!


Okay, I'm going to take a stab at a slightly different perspective....

Back to School Thoughts for Parents from a Former Teacher:

1) If your family can afford to eat out once a week, please consider doing a good deed and buying an extra set of school supplies for children who can't afford them at the same time that you buy your child's school supplies. Drop them off to your child's teacher. There WILL be a child in your child's class who can't afford the supplies. Your child's teacher spends hundreds of dollars of her/his own money every year on class supplies, and anything you can donate discreetly will be greatly appreciated.

2) Please don't be upset or feel slighted if you spontaneously stop by after school and your child's teacher doesn't seem to want to talk for 45 minutes about everything that concerns you about the upcoming year. The first week of school is impossibly busy for teachers - I'd take home at least 5 or 6 hours of work every night and still not come close to finishing. If you want to stop in and introduce yourself, that is great! If you want to have an extended conversation, please make an appointment so your child's teacher can schedule his time and plan accordingly.

3) Please, please, please thank the teachers who take the time to meet with you for extended conferences. I usually taught a total of between 125 and 140 students a year. I only got one 45-minute planning period per day, and that was for all of my lesson planning, evaluation, grading, recordkeeping, and parent communication. Just spending one hour with every parent eats up my entire year of planning time. Teachers who show that much dedication are volunteering their time for your child. Please appreciate that.

3) Please do not treat an A- or a B as a crisis. A B is GOOD. A C is AVERAGE. If your child receives an A- on a paper, that is a great achievement. Please do not demand a conference and bring your educational diagnostician to argue that your child deserves an A.

4) If your child has 50 books in his bookcase at home and he only really loves 5 of them, please consider donating the other 45 to your local school. Every classroom is enhanced by a classroom library. If your child is not rereading a book regularly, another child would love to read it.

5) If your child is assigned a creative, fun, and interesting project that you think is educationally valuable, it probably took your child's teacher many, many hours to create it and prepare it. Teaching is a lonely profession with few extrinsic rewards. A quick email saying, "Hey, that was such a cool project! My son really enjoyed it!!!!" takes 2 minutes to write and will be remembered by your son's teacher for years.

6) Teaching your child to be polite, honest, and compassionate is the greatest gift you can give to a teacher. Forget the cheese balls and #1 Teacher! mugs at Christmastime. If your child says, "Please", "Thank you", and "Excuse me" and "I'm sorry" on a regular basis, you've already given us priceless gifts

7) If your child really wants to give a gift to his or her teacher, that is a wonderful thing. And believe me, we appreciate it. The greatest gift your child can give is a handwritten letter -- something like, "Ms. Maura, this is my favorite class. I really loved the project we did on X. I'm always going to remember you because of X. Thank you for teaching me X." Once I got a phone call from a student a year after I taught him from across the country where he had moved, just to thank him for teaching him grammar. That was one of the best phone calls of my life!

8) If you really want to buy a gift, please please please no cheese balls and teacher mugs or tchochkes or ornaments. The most appreciated gifts I ever got were books, office supplies, or gift cards to Borders and Staples. I spent so much on books and school supplies that those gift cards were very, very, very, very much appreciated and put to great use.

8) Again, if you can afford to take your family out to dinner on a regular basis, and you often purchase books from a bookstore rather than go to the library, please consider picking up an extra book of the same type and donating it to your child's school.

9) A lot of really awesome, incredible, motivated, inspiring teachers become burned out, dispirited, discouraged, and less enthusiastic over the years because their effort and hard work is not noticed or seems to be unappreciated, and the undone work, the staggering weight of the unmet needs of students and the problems in a school system become overwhelming. Worse, most parents only call school to complain, not to praise. If your child has a great teacher, someone he or she loves, someone who inspires a love of learning in your child, please help to invest in that person, not just for your child's sake, but for the sake of all the children that person might teach in the future. Go to school board meetings and advocate for better schools for your child. Support the efforts of teachers to improve learning conditions in your child's school. If your child's teacher takes the time to call home and talk to you regularly, thank them. If they call to tell you good news, thank them. Tell your child's principal when your child's teacher does great work.

10) Your child's teacher is a partner with you in caring about your child's learning. Treat them as a partner, not a boss or a servant.

(You can probably tell from my list why I chose to leave teaching after many years...after starting out as someone enthusiastic, energetic, creative, and full of joy in teaching, I slowly found myself becoming increasingly resentful, embittered, and frustrated by the isolation, the lack of extrinsic reward, and the overwhelming never-ending nature of the job, even when putting in 12-15 hour days and working on weekends.

When I left teaching to work in the "high pressure" work of the software industry, I was amazed by how much less stressful, less busy, less emotionally draining, and more extrinsically rewarding my daily existence was, even at a supposedly "high pressure" job. I finally had evenings and weekends back, even when I regularly worked more than an 8 hour day. Teachers try to make do with all the intrinsic rewards, but believe me you can make a BIG difference by taking a few moments throughout the year to recognize great work on the part of your child's teacher!


For Kelly: the age at which children start school varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and if your district has charter schools, those schools may well have their own cut-offs and programs that are different from the rest of the district. And the cut-off dates can change... when my son started preschool last year, students had to be three before December 31, but this year, students had to be three by September 30 in order to enroll. The length of the school day varies, too... your best resource might just be a local mom with a child a year older than your oldest.


One of my habits that I need to reinstate is laying out all the clothes for the whole WEEK on Sunday evening. It's helpful that my son's school has uniforms, but I don't see why non-uniform kids couldn't use the same system. (Big kids could help pick out the clothes, and I can dream that it might prevent some morning "I don't want to wear that" fights.) I just stack up five whole outfits, including socks, on the top of the dresser. It only takes a few minutes (assuming I've kept up with the laundry), it saves time in the morning, and it helps me ensure that he looks a little bit different every day so people know I send my son to school in clean clothes. Or at least that I TRIED to send my son to school in clean clothes, he almost always had oatmeal or toothpaste on his shirt before we leave the house.


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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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