What a Difference a Year Makes: Starting First Grade

September 6, 2013

This time last year, we sent Gavin off to Kindergarten and we were all nervous. This week, we sent him off to First Grade, and we were all excited.  To put it in blog terms, I wrote four blogs about the two-day week that started Kindergarten. This year, I am writing one – and it’s the end of the first week. Hahaha – what a difference a year makes, right?

I think the transition from pre-school to Kindergarten is a big one…kind of similar to moving from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, or in the case of private schools, from grade school to high school. With all of this upward mobility, kids share a common ground: there’s a sea of unknowns. And that’s scary at any age!

In Kindergarten, you’re the youngest kid on the block, everyone else in the school is older than you and it’s a whole new environment filled with unfamiliar experiences and faces. Sure, there’s the excitement of what’s ahead, the potential of a new start, etc., etc. But I think for a lot of kids – Gavin included – the fear of the unknown trumps the promise, excitement and potential a new year holds.

Once you get past Kindergarten, you’re a big First Grader. You know what to expect: you know what the school looks like, where everything is – from bathrooms, to the cafeteria, to the gym, etc., you made friends / met a ton of kids in Kindergarten, got to meet the staff and other teachers, and basically know the deal with how school days work. So even if things will be new and different with each changing grade – the ground level familiarity has been established, and by our accounts, that is hugely comforting for kids.

Honestly, nothing has made me happier than seeing Gavin get visibly excited to go to “Meet the Teacher” night last week and then literally counting the minutes until he could board the bus on Tuesday. (Lesson learned last year: parent drop off doesn’t work for him. It just gives him more time to work up some nerves and freak himself out. Throwing him to the wolves – I mean other kids (haha) – is the best strategy for his personality.)

Similarly, from a parent perspective, we felt pretty much clueless when Kindergarten started. You might as well have stuck me in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a sailboat and told me I had to navigate my way home. (No, I don’t sail. And I haven’t been on a boat in the ocean since I was in my teens. That’s how clueless I felt.) Quite frankly, the school district and school-level communications are pretty much non-existent or extremely late, so by the time you get the official word (if at all!), you’ve already resorted to quizzing your neighbors or other parents so intensely that you can practically see the “Freak show!” thought bubble form above their heads.

When Kindergarten started, it felt like I was kinda sending Gavin off into the unknown and crossing my fingers that everything would come together in the first few days. I remember thinking how calm the moms of older kids seemed about everything and I tried to play it cool, but I was freaking out inside because I felt like I didn’t personally have an understanding of what was going on. Simple things like – does he pack a lunch? an afternoon snack? if I drop him off, can I walk him to class? etc., etc. We found that once the teachers themselves come into the picture, communications improve and we felt more confident about what each week holds and so on. Heading into First Grade, we, too, feel more prepared and know what to expect since we’ve been to this rodeo before. Experience creates wisdom.

Overall, it’s been a great week for the big guy. He’s happily back into a routine (THANK GOODNESS!), has started Fall sports and has already finished his first chapter book. (Whoever decided putting “underpants” into the title of a series of kids’ books is a genius. Gavin read one of those books in two days. It was 176 pages. Sure, there were illustrations, but that is a lot of reading for a new First Grader. Genius idea. A superhero named underpants. Instant draw for young boys (and probably girls!)

So now we gear up for the big one: Grace starts Kindergarten on Monday. (Yea, not this week. They told us two weeks ago that Kinders started the week after the rest of the school. That was totally awesome because she finished pre-school a week and a half ago, so plenty of notice for working parents to come up with a plan B. Ugh. So annoying. I will never understand how they can tell me what school supplies she will need in JUNE but cannot tell me that she starts school on September 9 until late August. Ridic.)

She’s VERY excited about Kindergarten when she’s at home and thinking about it. She’s been talking incessantly about everything she’s going to learn and do and play and …etc. However, at “Meet the Teacher” night, we had to coerce her into the classroom. At her assessment this week, her teacher had to pry her off my leg. Yay. That’s always my favorite. She left holding the teacher’s hand and grinning ear-to-ear, so part of me questions whether she’s just playing me for a fool. It’s a strong possibility. She’s a real peach that way. So, Monday it is. We’re looking forward to seeing how that goes, particularly because we’ll be dropping her off in her classroom for the first day vs. sending her on the bus. (Stay tuned – I am sure I’ll have good stories on that day – haha!)

If you’re interested in re-living my heart attacks about Gavin going to Kindergarten, I’ve compiled the links below. Enjoy! 😉


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