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What Do I Need to Know About My Child Starting Kindergarten?

What a 25-Year Veteran Teacher Wants Parents to Realize About Kindergarten

For the baby boomers and early Gen Xers, kindergarten was less about academically challenging children and more of a way for kids to socialize. The theory for a long time was that kindergarten was a way to get kids prepared to learn the "real stuff" later.

Now, kindergarten is more like first grade. "With a lot of children going to preschool, the pressure is on for schools to provide advanced standards while at the same time acknowledging that a lot of students are not getting the same," Suzanne Hess, a 25-year veteran teacher who taught predominantly in kindergarten classrooms, tells POPSUGAR.

Certainly this is a special time in a child's life where a lot of fundamental developments are happening. Since parents put a lot of pressure on what children can accomplish during kindergarten, there are some things Hess wants parents to consider.

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1. Think about ways to get your child ready.

Regardless of whether or not a child has gone to some form of preschool or was homeschooled, Hess insists that there are some basic skills that will help when starting school. "It would be nice if a child can write their name, can recognize colors, enjoys story time, recognizes some letters, and has some experience with scissors," she began.

However, it's not all about academics when talking about whether or not a child is ready for kindergarten. "Along with academic readiness, parents should also look to see behavior readiness. Things like being able wait for turns, sharing, tolerating disappointment, and being comfortable in a new setting are also important when determining school readiness," Hess maintains.

2. Despite readiness goals, teachers expect a range of skills.

"Parents should understand that the class will have students from all socioeconomic and language-speaking families," she started. "Some children may have none of the experiences to display readiness, to no fault of their own." Socioeconomic disparities aren't the only reason children will have marked differences in their abilities; age also plays a factor.

"Children will be as much as 364 days apart in age, so they will fall into their age and size grouping anywhere from oldest and biggest in the class to youngest and smallest. Little boys tend to have less developed fine motor skills than girls and less control of their bodies at the same age," Hess states.

3. Make it easy on the teacher when considering clothing.

While those adorable Mary Jane buckle shoes really complement her pretty pinafore, Hess urges parents to reconsider. "Please select clothing that your child can put on by himself," she urges. "If your child cannot tie his own shoes, then get shoes that fasten with Velcro. Winter clothing should be easy to put on, and please put names in jackets for easy finding when left on the playground."

4. As hard as it can be, try to not compare one child to another.

Making comparisons to other children, while useful for understanding averages and basic skills, can be troublesome when thinking about kindergarten. Hess explains, "Children develop skills at different rates, and there are a lot of factors that can shift abilities." However, if parents are really concerned about a child's learning progress, she urges them to seek help. "If you have questions or worries, schedule a time to talk to your teacher about them. Your teacher is an expert and will quickly recognize children who are 'out of the norm,' and can refer specialists."

5. Depending on the school, necessary information might take a while to get to the teacher.

Considering that a lot of public schools are strapped for counselors and clerks, it's not unreasonable to think that your child's papers of accommodations and important information might not get to the teacher right away.

"It would be nice if parents informed teachers of allergies or peculiar habits and fears a child may have before school start," she says. "I've had a few who needed their stuffed animal or still sucked a thumb. I had a super shy kid who would wet his pants because he was too shy to ask to use the bathroom. If I had known these things from the beginning, it may have made for an easier transition."

6. Please remember that your child's teacher has other students.

It would be wonderful if all students received all the attention and individually designed curriculum. However, considering that class size can be as many as 30 children, some of the teacher's time is going to be split among other students.

"Your teacher has to provide a curriculum that meets standards while at the same time takes each child from where she is on day one," Hess persists. This means that some things may come easy to your child, but be careful to not assume that they're too easy for the grade level, because "some other child is benefiting and it's an opportunity for the more advanced child to help and get practice."

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