Making the most of the next three weeks of kindergarten readiness

A-‘s kindergarten readiness program will wrap up in three weeks. So far, the best uses of my two-hour drop-off sessions have been:

  • working on time-sensitive consulting requests
  • drawing and writing thoughts
  • updating my journal
  • reading parenting books and taking notes

After the program ends, I can shift back to taking A- to drop-in centres. I’ll move consulting back to Saturday babysitting sessions, and I’ll try to make time for reading and thinking after A- goes to bed or during independent play practice time. I can use the 1-hour drop-off music class for Emacs News and a little journaling, so that’s taken care of too.

What can I do with the remaining 18 hours more of drop-off focus time so that the next phase is better?

It’s been nice having some overlap with business hours when consulting and I enjoy developing my Python skills, but I can also accomplish that by moving babysitting sessions to a weekday. If I want to move the needle, I think I need something else. Thinking and writing, then. Sometimes it’s hard to give myself the permission to explore thoughts during my once-a-week babysitting sessions because there are so many other activities with clearer and more immediate payoffs, like working on client requests, tidying the house, or preparing food. If I invest the time into planning what I want to learn, thinking through my questions, reading key resources, and reflecting on how things are going, though, I think that might help me give myself permission to make more space for things like that.

E-mail, texts, and social media are still pretty far down on the priority list. I’m not quite at the level of feeling time affluence again, but I’m sure I’ll get there someday.

So, what do I want to learn more about?

I recently read Happier (2007) by Tal Ben-Shahar. It got me thinking about how to increase the present benefits and future benefits of my parenting-related activities, since those take up the vast majority of my waking time. I’ve also been thinking about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s research on flow and the interplay between challenge in skill. High challenge and low skill results in anxiety, low challenge and high skill results in boredom, and flow happens when things are just right. I wonder how to have more flow experiences while parenting.

I’ve been gradually reducing my parenting-related anxiety by checking my perceptions of challenges and testing how things really are. For example, the kindergarten readiness program helped me test A-‘s ability to separate from me, connect with teachers, adapt to classroom routines, and be with other kids. Her growing interest in playing with other people and her ability to tell me how she feels about her interactions reassure me that she’ll probably be able to make good friends. She’s still self-conscious about her eye, she hangs on to perceived slights for a surprisingly long time, and she occasionally resists having to do things for herself, but all those things are probably pretty normal and we can help her slowly work through them if she wants. She sometimes tells me that she’s bored, so I’m helping her figure out how to challenge herself. I think she’s going to be okay.

I’m finding it easier to not get bored playing with A-, too. Inspired by what I’ve been learning from textbooks about play therapy, Reggio Emilia, and other topics, I’ve been challenging myself to be a researcher trying to discover A-‘s interests, projects, and thoughts about the world. I’m working on stepping back, observing, making hypotheses, and testing those with questions and suggestions. I’m treating this as a chance to improve my mindfulness and creativity. I also want to make the most of the ways that parenting is different from programming, such as negotiation, co-learning, and surprise.

So, how can I use these short snippets of time away from A- to make better use of time with A-?

I want to invest some time in thinking about how to make daily space for me to update my journal and reflect on questions. It’s hard to do it after she goes to bed. Since I still snuggle her to bed (great for heart-to-heart conversations), I sometimes end up falling asleep myself. I might be able to stay awake and get a head start on thinking by reflecting on a clear question while I wait for her to fall asleep. Waking up early hasn’t worked in the past because she sometimes ends up waking up early too, throwing the rest of our schedule a little off, but maybe I can do it if I write on my phone while she dozes beside me. She’s also slowly getting better at independent play time, which gives me a little time to draw or write on a sketchpad. I don’t want to update journal entries on my phone then, since it just looks like phone time, but sketching thoughts on paper seems to be okay.

It might be interesting to see how I can get better at sharing that documentation with her. I bought a few books on pedagogical documentation that might be good to review. A- really liked the quick 4-picture collage I threw together in Canva and printed from my phone. She liked looking at the pictures and numbers, having someone reading the captions to her, and even pointing at the pictures and telling her own story. When we switch to spending more time at drop-in centres, I’ll be able to capture more of her interests. If I set a goal of printing out a sheet like that once a week, it might spark more conversations and follow-ups. If I spend some time on my laptop and make a Canva template that I can easily update from my phone, that might reduce the effort.

A- seems to like my little drawings in the calendar, so we could try adding that to our evening routine. Later on, if I want more space to draw or write in, a Hobonichi Techo or some other paper diary might be a good approach. I wonder if I can even glue small photos into it.

It might also be worth updating our list of favourite meals and researching a few things to try, especially ones that A- can help me prepare. If I can move some tidying into the week, that frees up some babysitting time too. And if I can think of ways to encourage J- and her friends to help around the house, or to take advantage of any babysitting time they can spare, that can move time around as well.

Structured activities are a bit of a hit-or-miss with A-, who often has a clear idea of what she wants to do. I like taking advantage of the activities at the drop-in centres, since other people have gone to the trouble of collecting materials and setting things up. It was nice trying out Playing Preschool’s themed reading lists and activities, though, so it might be worth spending a little time in the afternoon (maybe during independent play time) getting those ready. Also, if I read about the ideas behind activities, then I might be able to make better use of the activities at drop-in centres. I can also ask parent workers while I’m there.

So it might be good to use the time from kindergarten readiness for:

  • writing and drawing reflections on what A- and I are learning, so that we can build on that
  • thinking about how to improve our daily and weekly routines
  • learning about early childhood education, pedagogical documentation, and other things that can enrich time with A-
  • improving my photo workflow so that I can make something I can share with A-

At the end of the kindergarten readiness program, I think it would be wonderful if:

  • I’m ready to make the most of the activities at the drop-in centres by suggesting the right level of challenge, providing interesting vocabulary words, and capturing her interests for follow-ups
  • I’ve figured out how to update my journal at least weekly and maybe share my reflections on a more regular basis
  • We’re all set to cook together and do other household chores
  • I can make at least one photo collage a week, maybe even involving her in the process

Might be fun!