My only child started kindergarten this year. It’s a milestone we started talking about together while she was in preschool, and we were both so excited for this next step. I loved the start of the school year as a kid and was eager to be part of it again; the school supply shopping, the fresh haircut, the new shoes.
My daughter had been learning about what was to come in elementary school and was ready for the giant backpack, school library books, field trips on the bus, holiday concerts, and recess. Obviously, this school year then started in a way none of us could have fathomed a year ago, and all of the plans we were excited for had to change. It was definitely a lesson in flexibility.
Our school year started fully virtual for the first few weeks and then recently moved into a hybrid model where my daughter is onsite half the week. As much as I understand and respect the need to make adjustments to how we are present in the school building, it’s still disappointing to have an exciting milestone be so drastically changed. I’m sad to not have the kindergarten year for my daughter I imagined, but here’s how I’m still making this year special and fun.
1. We’re bringing the classroom set up home
My daughter doesn’t get to spend as much time in her school classroom as we would have hoped, so we tried to bring the classroom to the house as much as possible. We set up a dedicated learning area equipped to be like an elementary classroom, with a comfy reading area, an easel and art supplies, a chalkboard, and some free time activities like puzzles and LEGOs. It makes the days a little more engaging than the laptop set up at the kitchen table.
2. We’re bringing the classroom celebrations home
I always thought one of the best parts of elementary school was being able to celebrate events with all of your classmates. My daughter turned 6 at the beginning of October, and her birthday fell on a virtual learning day instead of an onsite day. I know she was a bit disappointed to not be able to have her birthday in the classroom because it’s fun to have the extra attention for the day. We tried to replicate what the day would be like and let her choose birthday treats and a birthday activity, and we ended the school day a little early.
We will probably be around the house for more celebratory days, so we’ll continue doing activities to mark the milestones and break up the monotony of a computer day. I’m already starting to brainstorm some fun activities we can incorporate for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
3. We are enjoying spending learning time together
Obviously, this one is easier said than done. Personally, I ebb and flow with how I feel about this (and my stress level does as well). I’m working full-time from home and facilitating the learning day for a virtual kindergartener while having other important things to do has not been easy. However, during the calmer moments, I’m trying to embrace this extra time together and how involved I can be in her schooling.
In a normal circumstance, I wouldn’t be so involved with knowing what literacy and math activities she’s doing on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t be able to see her real-time progress so closely. I’m already familiar with her teacher and classmates from turning on the morning Zoom meetings, and I’m more adept at the workings of the curriculum that the district uses than I would have been in a normal circumstance.
It’s been nice to be able to debrief with my daughter about what she’s just learned about while I prepare her a snack or lunch during a break from activities. She can talk with me about her successes or what she found difficult about the lesson. We get to celebrate together or have pep talks about perseverance. I know during the remainder of her school years we won’t be eating lunch together on weekdays anymore, so I’m trying to absorb this time together since it will (hopefully) be unique to this school year.
I was initially understanding but still bummed about the circumstances of the school year. As we are a few months in though, I’ve realized this school year probably is more special just because it’s so different. I know I don’t appreciate it every moment—by the end of the day, I am physically tired and mentally drained—but when my daughter is older and we reflect back on her school years, this one will certainly stand out in both of our memories.