This isn’t how any of us ever imagined kindergarten.
Kindergarten is a really special year. It’s the first time these little people are going out into the world, sitting for circle time, walking quietly in a line in the hallway, making friends on the playground. Oh, and learning to read and write and draw 10-frames too.
I’d been dreading sending my baby to kindergarten this fall. (And maybe a tiny bit thrilled to finally have the time to purge our closets and toy shelves.) All that changed when our district announced that school is going online in September.
Why not red-shirt him? It’s just kindergarten, right?
In March, we were caught off guard when schools abruptly shut down. We thought it was going to be two weeks, then just til the end of April, then it became the rest of the year. At this point, there’s no telling when it’ll be safe to go into school classrooms again. He might be the world’s oldest kindergartener if I tried putting off this year until “normal” life resumes.
But this time, at least we know what’s coming. There’s no way to replicate a regular kindergarten year’s experiences over Zoom, but there are steps we can take to be better prepared.
Online learning comes with a complete new set of skills that your kindergartener likely does not have. Veteran teachers spend the first few weeks teaching students routines in a classroom so that the rest of the year runs smoothly. Do yourself the favor and put the time in up front as well. Bookmark any websites your child might need to use, and demonstrate how to navigate to those sites. With some practice, your child may become more independent.
Set the stage
If you haven’t already done so, designate an area in your house where schoolwork is done. In this era of Zoom calls, it should be a place with lots of natural light. Keep folders, papers and school supplies in bins nearby. That way, when it’s time to do schoolwork, your child knows where to go and where to find stuff. When schoolwork is finished, ask your child to make sure it all gets returned to the same bin. This will cut down on the annoying “Dad, Mom, have you seen my…?” questions.
Build a schedule
It’s hard for kindergartners (or bigger kids!) to stay focused and complete all their assignments in one go. At school, teachers break the day down into chunks with small breaks in between. You can set one up in your home, customized for your child. Make a visual organizer by color coding a clock with blocks for reading, playing, lunch, writing, math.
Give plenty of positive reinforcement
Your child will most definitely give you a hard time. It’s hard to get taken seriously as a teacher when you’re obviously not the teacher, you’re the parent. Kids crave positive attention. Let’s use it against them. My rising kindergartener loves being praised for a job well done, and he knows how hard he needs to work to accomplish that.
The homework sitter swap
During a normal year, kindergarten homework mainly consists of reading together every day, and maybe a worksheet that takes two minutes. With online learning, the onus for completing schoolwork is going to fall to the caregiver (definitely not your 5-year-old, who are we kidding). And you are certainly not the only parent struggling to find time to oversee homework. So why not swap homework duties with another parent in the same class? This might give you a little bit of sanity back, especially if you have more than one young student in the household who needs help completing online assignments. Set up a Zoom meeting with another family during homework time, and take turns making sure the kids complete the homework. It’s like a virtual homework club!
Not what we expected
It’s laughable now, the things I worried about when I signed up my kid for kindergarten back in January. Remember January? Now I’ve got a cupboard full of completely useless new lunch boxes and water bottles, but I’m not stressing about multiple choice bubbles anymore. Standardized testing fell out the window, and good thing too. This is going to be the strangest kindergarten year ever. See you on the other side.