While it’s still quite hot out (at least in many places) and it feels like it may be summer forever, we all know what’s right around the corner: the first day of school. For some kids (and parents!) it’s the VERY first day of school—when your little one, who you recently called a toddler, has now somehow tripped and fallen firmly into being a little kid. Today is my daughters first day of Kindergarten. My baby is getting on the bus headed to big kid school. Regardless of if it’s your first or last baby, it’s kind of a big deal. So, how do you prepare not only your kiddo, but yourself, for this milestone?
I know, it’s easier said than done. But, if you want any hope of this going smoothly, it’s a necessary step. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the preparations. Do you have your child’s necessary medical information handy? Do you even know what information you need for enrollment? Do you know what school they’re going to? Do you know what school you want them to go to? What should you be looking for in a school to even make that decision? What school supplies do they need? Why do you suddenly feel like you’ve forgotten everything you ever knew about anything?
Tackle the basics
Research your area’s schools. If you’re reading this, it’s a reasonable assumption you’re online…unless I’ve been published in book form. If that’s the case, go me! That wasn’t even a goal of mine. But, let’s get back on topic. The internet is obviously an awesome resource for researching schools. Brainstorm what’s important for you in a school. Are you looking for public schools? Private? Religious? These are probably the most basic considerations to think of when looking for schools. This day and age, most schools have their own websites, which are often a fountain of information about the school’s teaching style, beliefs, faculty information, curriculum, and special programs. Read reviews, ask friends. Tap into your community.
The next steps
Once you have a short list, or even one school you’ve decided on, go meet the principal in person. Find out if there’s an open house. There usually is, at least in my area. If you haven’t found out the school’s requirements online, ask now. They very likely will have a nicely assembled information packet for new students to simplify things for you. Be sure you’re giving yourself a reasonable buffer to meet these requirements. If it’s a public school, planning a month in advance is probably enough, but it can’t hurt to begin around the end of the previous school year. If it’s a private school, religious school, or a non-government affiliated preschool, definitely start talking to them around the end of the previous school year. If it’s a school in high demand, the earlier the better.
Once you’ve honed in on the school, use your handy dandy information packet to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. For example, some districts, cities, or states may require wellness medical exams for children. There’s always requirements for immunizations, so make sure you have those ready. Or, be prepared with the necessary exemption paperwork if you’ll be utilizing that option. All the paperwork that goes into enrollment may seem daunting, but a well-organized school will make the process easy.
Prepare your child
Get them involved in the process. Get them excited. Take them to the school. Let them meet the principal and their new teacher before the first day of school. Let the faculty guide you. They have plenty of practice knowing what will help your child feel comfortable so they’re looking forward to being there. Your little one will also likely be excited about shopping for school supplies. Paw Patrol supplies? Shopkins supplies? My Little Pony? Yay! The information packet the school gave you will have a list of what you need. Follow the list. Don’t get carried away buying a bunch of stuff they don’t need and that isn’t required or suggested. They may not have room for it in their desk, and there’s likely a reason the school, or district, decided those were the appropriate items for their grade level. If you’re struggling to purchase the items, don’t be embarrassed to ask the school for help. You won’t be the first parent who needs a little extra help, you won’t be the last, and they are totally prepared for this.
You’re very likely going to be emotional when you see your child off for their first day of school. Mentally prepare yourself for this ahead of time so you don’t turn into a basket case when the time comes. You’re also likely to find yourself with some extra time in your day, unless you have younger children at home still. Figure out what to do with it. Whether it’s work, education, or hobbies, or just finally being able to keep up with your house, do something. It’s a new chapter for both of you. Embrace it.