Reflecting on the kindergarten readiness program

A- has been going to a two-hour kindergarten readiness program three times a week. It’s a drop-off program, so it was a good opportunity to test how she would do in a group situation. I knew that she could separate from me because she was happy to play with babysitters, and she was familiar with different activities and centres because I’ve been taking her to the EarlyON drop-in centres. I wasn’t sure about committing to preschool or daycare, though, so the 10-week kindergarten program I found was just the right thing for testing things out. It actually runs four times a week, but we skip Mondays to go to music class instead, and that’s been all right.

The first week went smoothly, but the second and third week were tough for A-. She cried at drop-off and didn’t want to go to school. I had to peel her off me a couple of times. Still, it was a good opportunity for her to learn how to calm herself down. The teacher was amused by how she quickly got the hang of the “cooldown couch,” going there when she was crying and joining the class when she had calmed down.

When I talked to A- afterwards, she told me that she didn’t like school because teachers sometimes told her what to do. She wanted free play time with Mama instead. I told her that life is like that. Part of the time, you need to follow other people’s instructions, and part of the time, you can do your own thing. The better you get at doing what people want you to do, the more freedom you get to do what you want to do.

I really liked the way A- and I can talk about how she feels about school. When she said that school is boring, I asked her why. We talked about what she found easy or hard, and how doing what the teachers ask her to do shows them what she can do and can lead to more interesting challenges.

Another time, A- told me that she didn’t like school because the teachers told her what to do. I asked her what they tell her to do, and she said that when she finishes the craft, they tell her that she can go and read. “But I don’t know how to read yet,” she said. I clarified that it was okay for her to look at pictures. We also came up with the idea of donating one of her books so that she had something familiar to look through if she wanted. She picked “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” so we gave that.

She also mentioned that she didn’t like school because they didn’t sing Wheels on the Bus during circle time, so I coached her on speaking up when teachers ask if anyone wants a particular song.

The following week, A- mentioned how she didn’t like it when teachers called her name and told her to do something. After a bit of probing, I found out that she was talking about when they’re being called one-by-one for pick up – she didn’t want to interrupt her playing to see me!

A- generally liked snack time. Asking what she had for snack and if she liked it was usually an easy way for us to start talking about her morning. She could sometimes tell me what they did for craft time or if they sang her favourite songs at circle time. If I asked her how school was, she just said, “Fine,” so it was good to ask about specifics.

We’re 8 weeks into the 10-week program, so the teachers have been doing evaluations. The main teacher told us that A- is highly verbal and happy to contribute to conversations. She understands the games and activities that the teachers explain and is usually one of the first to join in. They’re working with her on getting better at tracing letters on worksheets.

I feel pretty confident that A- will adapt all right to kindergarten. We have a morning routine that gets us out of the house at a reasonably early time. She’s been great at giving her ocular prosthesis to the teacher if she takes it out. She can talk to us about what’s going on and how she feels about it. We haven’t tested what it would be like for her to be in a group situation the whole day, although she’s happily been with babysitters for eight hours at a time. She’ll probably get the hang of it quickly.

As for me, I’ve been using the time to read parenting books and resources, take notes, update my journal, write down or draw my thoughts, run errands, chat with other parents, catch up on email, and compile Emacs News. It’s not quite long enough to get deep into programming or consulting, and I don’t want to lug my laptop around anyway. A Bluetooth keyboard makes writing things like this post much more comfortable, though. It’s been nice having a frequent 2-hour break to do those things.

Time to start planning what to do after the kindergarten readiness program ends. I’m okay with not doing worksheets. Going to drop-in centres usually results in lots of interesting new activities that I can sneak math or science into. A- is fascinated by books and asks me to read quite a lot of them, so I’m not worried about that either. I think we’ll do fine by just going to drop-in centres, with Saturday babysitting and maybe the occasional extra babysitter session if I need to catch up. We might do another kindergarten readiness program during the summer before school, since there are a few full-day options then. I want to get better at scaffolding A-‘s learning and appreciating her growth, and I’m glad I’ve been able to read more about early childhood education while A- was in class. I’m looking forward to trying out those ideas!