School Days, School Days


I have no idea where the time goes but, somehow, my first granddaughter has started kindergarten. Or grade kindergarten, as she calls it. It seems only a moment ago that she was born and now she tells her mom she is ready to go to school because she knows everything. After her first day she said, “I want to go back tomorrow and the next day and the next day.” Obviously, knowing everything, she has caught onto an essential aspect of school – it is day after day.

I have watched the pictures appear on Facebook of children who are about to begin preschool, kindergarten, and grade one. Every one of them decked out in brightly coloured back packs with big smiles on their little faces. What will their experience of school be? Will the smiles remain as the years go by?

I started a draft of this post early in September. I’ve come back to it today and realize that the message is more apt now. School has been in session for almost six weeks, routines have become somewhat established and everyone’s had a chance to realize this school thing is for real.

I worked in an elementary school setting for years and that time taught me more than a few things. Based on that learning, I want to send out a message to all parents who are seeing little ones off into that great big system we call education. School is exhausting. Learning the routines and getting a handle on the social skills necessary to make it through the day is work enough. When you add to that, the actual reading, writing and arithmetic component, you have a fairly intense day. Make allowances for the fact that your child needs time and space to process the events of such a day.

Some afternoons, I listen to Emma up in her room, all by herself, talking her dolls and stuffed animals through the daily Kindergarten routines. They sit in circle time and she instructs them on how to do calendar and appoints someone to take the attendance to the office. She consoles a doll who is upset because she wasn’t chosen. As she plays, she solidifies her learning.

The world of children in 2013 is fast-paced. Activities pile on top of activities – strong start, preschool, school, hockey, swimming, and gymnastics, to say nothing of before and after school daycare. In every case kids are stimulated by other kids, teachers, caregivers, instructions, routines, and rules. Their resources are taxed to the limit as they work to conform.

I am a big advocate of down time. Give your child the opportunity to go off by themselves and play on their own for even a short period of time every day. This down time represents an important component of consolidating things learned.

And one more tip, especially if your child is going into Kindergarten. As a parent, you are going to be suddenly faced with the reality of walking back into a ‘school’ – maybe for the first time in years. Figure out how you feel about that. Own your stuff and don’t burden your child with the hang-ups you have left over from your school years. Allow your child the freedom to have his or her unique experience.

I’ll end this post with my all-time favourite parenting quote.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday