Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kindergarten transitions

I'm starting a thread on kindergarten transitions. How are your children dealing with the transition? Any tears? How are you working through the tears and meltdowns? Are your kids eating their lunches? Any tricks on getting kids out the door on time in the morning? Please share your stories and tips.


  1. Transition was relatively smooth for us since a kid from my daughter's preschool class is in her K class AND we had a number of playdates over the summer. Two playdates were organized by the PTA and 2 more by the incoming K parents who found each other on this blog. We also met separately with a handful of parents who were trying to (and ultimately did) set up a new aftercare program. On several occasions we hired our own babysitter so the kids could have a playdate while we worked on this project. Finally, we had attended a couple of PTA meetings at the end of last year and at her school (Starr King) the PTA provides childcare so she had even more exposure to some of the other kids. We also had a pot-luck at her old preschool (Little Bear School) so while she was missing it during the first couple of weeks of K, I could remind her that we had plans to go to that. I think that helped too. She has consistently come home reporting "great" and "fun" days, she gets up excited to put on her uniform and get to school, and the last couple of days has insisted upon getting there early enough to have breakfast there. Several of her classmates do that too. The principal puts music on a boombox out on the blacktop where the play structure, basketball and hula hoops are so it's like a huge party every morning. She loves it. So do I.

    Eating lunch is another story. Packed lunches came home half eaten, and since my daughter has decided she wants the school lunch I have no idea what she's eating. I'm guessing the stimuli in the cafeteria, short time period, and general chaos is adding to her already disinclination to eat. Plus, one day she came home reporting that the school lunch included a cupcake. That can't be right, can it? Starr King has a salad bar and she has reported eating "a hamburger you can put whatever you want on top of" where she's chosen "salad." Whatever the case, I could tell three or four times when I picked her up from afterschool care that she was starved (despite our private aftercare program providing a healthy snack). So, we have some adjustments to make around the whole lunch thing. I'm not forcing the pack-a-lunch thing yet but may at some point.

  2. My experience last year was that after a few months of not eating much lunch things improved. There are still days when the lunch box returns home with an untouched sandwich, but these are rare. I think it takes awhile for kids to adjust to the excitement of eating in the cafeteria with a bunch of friends and other distractions.

  3. We're having some trouble with the packed lunch thing, too. One day, only one bite of the sandwich was gone, the rest of the whole lunch was untouched.

    The last couple days he has been buying lunch. I think he's eating it, but have no real way to be sure. I'm OK with him buying lunch, if that means he'll eat something. But yes, he is starving when he gets home. (But he was like that at preschool, too, and I KNOW he ate huge lunches there, so...)

    A cupcake with lunch can't be right. At Paul Revere, they sent home a full lunch menu for the entire month. It must be posted on the SF USD website somewhere... I'll look in a second.

    Other than the usual, "I don't want to go to school today," which is followed shortly by, "Where's my uniform," there has been no real morning drama. We're trying hard to get there at 8 am, but reality is, we get there more like 8:15.

  4. I don't read every thread on this website but someone e-mailed me directly about the "cupcake" with school lunch at Starr King and I thought I would respond.

    You are right to be skeptical - a cupcake would NEVER be part of the school lunch. However, as part of the salad bar, schools also get an assortment of whole grain bread and muffins to put out, and there is a yellow cornmeal muffin that, to a child not yet able to read the wrapper, might look very much indeed like a yellow "cupcake". I think it even comes in one of those pleated paper baking cups. You might ask if there was "frosting" on the "cupcake"; if the answer is no, then most likely your child enjoyed a cornbread muffin.

    About the uneaten lunches coming home, this ia always a problem with children this age. If you send them with money to buy the school lunch, they may be so excited to get to choose their own saald bar fixings and eat at a big table with friends, that not much gets eaten. If you send the packed-by-loving-hands-at-home lunch, it may come home barely touched because of the many distractions/social opportunities that come with lunchtime. My children used to just eat whatever was left in the lunchbox as soon as they got home from school; if the leftovers didn't look like they had survived 7 hours out of the refrigerator, then I made them a hearty snack like soup and they were fine until dinner.

    One more suggestion - there will be a hot breakfast, featuring things like pancakes, waffles, a breakfast sandwich, french toast sticks, and other goodies kids love with are also quite filling, available beginning in October; currently only cold cereal is offered for school breakfast. If your child eats some hot breakfast followed by some lunch a few hours later, he or she really won't starve to death. If your child tends to be a big eater and eats the whole breakfast, it won't even matter so much if only a skimpy lunch is eaten.

    The excitement does wear off eventually. Just be happy that your child is so involved in his or her new life that eating is taking a back seat for now.

  5. After already three weeks, our daughter seems to start appreciating the Spanish Imm. at Alvarado. The first two weeks were hard on her as she did not speak any real Spanish. She is now singing in Spanish, counting clearly to 20, saying her colors,... and not describing school as "boring" anymore. Her new teacher, Ms Herrera is great.

    She likes the GLO after-school program very much. Being the oldest in her class, she seems to be bonding with kids from 1st grade, some of whom she met through the YMCA camp at Alvarado this summer, which really helped her getting used to her new school.

    On the other hand, we are still adjusting to the 7:50am school start, always such a rush... There are so many new things to do, the PTA, the extra activities... it is a new world...

    All in all, we are very happy.

  6. My kid's now in middle school. The transition there has gone VERY well, thanks to great attention to orientation by the 6th grade teachers, really all of them including PE, art and the core academic team of two. Everything is explained very clearly to the kids and the are taking responsibility. Plus, my kid already had a lot friends going in from both elementary school and many other activities around town. Even kids we knew way back in preschool. I guess I would say too, having gone through the transition to elementary school already, we (and she) were ready to roll with it.

    Biggest issue: whether or not to get a cell phone. Most of us have made the choice for yes, which has set off massive texting-madness--not in school, but before and after. Homework is fine so far, and they are teaching organization and planning along with the core subjects. She and her friends are loving the new feeling of independence, and are very happy with the school. I'm so glad--I used to have nightmares about middle school!

    Re transition to K--a wise older parent told me, when I expressed how overwhelmed I felt with the new routine, the hours, the lunch issues, the PTA, all of it, that I should expect it to be like that for about two months and then the fog would clear. We would be in the new routine and sailing along. Turned out to be true.

  7. I was amazed at how easy the K transition was for us. Our son did not even know he was going to K until a month before he started so we had little time to prepare him. However, most of his preschool friends were older and going to kindergarten and he was happy to be moving up with them. We took him to summer session for about an hour so he would be familiar with the surroundings. I also tried to let him make any decisions he could responsibly make, such as selecting a lunchbox, a backpack and work folders, to help him feel like this was his adventure. He was excited to choose a lunchbox and have Mommy make his lunch. The uniforms gave him an immediate feeling of being part of the school community. The school he went into was sensitive to the situation and gave him lots of support. He struggled for a while making friends within his own class but older kids and teachers took him under their wings so he was generally happy, though he made a bit of noise for a while about wanting to go back to preschool. He's now in his second year. This year he says he loves all his classmates and the academics are suddenly starting to click for him. Good luck to all with this, and do try to be patient and not jump to dire conclusions. These are generally kids between four and six years old. When I think about the trivial things my son still blows up into major meltdowns at home, I know his sense of reality is still very much that of a five-year old.

  8. The best tips I can offer so far are:

    1.Go to sleep in the next day's clothes

    2.Early bedtime (6:30-7pm)

    3. Get up early enough to read a story and also not have to rush through breakfast, etc.

    4. Validate their emotions. It's the best way they can learn to soothe themselves during difficult transitions.

  9. There are still days when the lunch box returns home with an untouched sandwich, but these are rare.

    Rarer still when they instead figure out how to give it away to the kid who will eat anything.

  10. I've noticed that the amount of lunch returning in the lunch box varies depending on how much my daughter like the snack that day! The snacks are healthy, so I think it all comes out even.

  11. My child's transition has been fine. Mine on the other hand...

    I must have just been in denial about what a 7:50 start time actually means. Especially since my daughter and I have been getting up at 7:30 for the last 4 years. Sometimes later. My job starts between 9 and 9:30. Her preschool started at 9.

    Fast forward to thursday and I am completely insane!!! I hope she brushed her teeth today - and I can't even remember if I brushed mine. We have never been an early to bed duo. Last night I went to bed at 10:30, which is super early for me. She went to bed at 8:30. Today we are zombies.

    I have done the lunch at night, and set out the clothes (for both of us) the night before. The backpack is packed. However...I am still running around in the morning like a chicken and she's a sleepwalker. We *just* made it by the morning bell this morning. I think I'm going to pack up the car at night. She wont sleep in her clothes. How does anyone get any 'house business' done at night like laundry and bills and such? Will my body adjust? I hope so! Happy to be where we are...just tired!!

  12. So we just got Grattan and today is the last day at the parochial we have been going to so unhappily.

    How do we make a smooth transition? I am worried that my child may associate getting bitten with moving to a new school.

    Any words of advice on how to explain the change of school before Monday? My child knew over the summer that there was a chance of another school - but I toned that conversation down after I had lost some hope.

  13. I am worried that my child may associate getting bitten with moving to a new school.

    helLO! shouldn't he?

  14. Just tell him you found a better school for him. Sounds like there won't be any love loss for the old place. Grattan will be very welcoming.

  15. I would try the "Guess what? I have great news! You're going to a new kindergarten on Monday!"

    At this age kids don't necessarily have a concept of "the school year" and that they go to the same school for many years, etc. Their expectations are not the same as ours, so your child may take it fine.

    Then you can go visit the playground, etc. over the weekend so he gets a little familiarity.

    Good luck!

  16. I am sure that if you mentioned your fears to the principal, she would make him feel very welcome. She is an extremely warm person and the kids tend to adore her.

  17. Jessica, is there any possibility of adjusting your work hours to reflect the new reality? My kids and I are night owls by default who have been dealing with 7:50 for six years. Every summer we revert to form with summer camps and vacations that give us more leeway, and every fall we re-adjust.

    Actually, this year my eldest is finally getting a 9:00 start time for middle school, and is soooo happy about that! Means she doesn't leave the house until 8:20....but my younger one still has to get up early, and so do I.

    So anyway, I have really had to train myself differently. I do all the stuff you mentioned, packing lunches as well as I can the night before, signing paperwork, putting backpacks by the door. After dropping off my younger kid (older kid now motivates herself out the door and is doing fine), I leave for work immediately and get to work just after 8am. What with eating at my desk, this means I can leave work at 4pm, pick up younger kid by 4:30and meet older kid within 15 minutes of her arrival home, well before 5pm.

    Bedtime for my older is 9:30, younger is 8:30, with a little time built in for reading in bed. This leaves time for dinner, homework, bath and even a little chill-out time for them on weeknights. Even a few extra-curriculars like music lessons and sports (I coordinate with friends for carpool rides to and fro). I do basic chores--clean kitchen, laundry (kids do their own laundry on Saturdays though) while they do homework--I call the bill-paying my homework--and still have an hour after oldest is tucked in to finish chores or even have a little chill-out time for me. I'm in bed by 10:30, read for 10 minutes until I fall asleep (max), alarm goes off at 6:30. Voila.

    This was *not* the old me. This is way organized and way early. But it works now. Wonder if it will stick when I am no longer in charge of three people instead of just one.

    --another single mom

  18. 1:05, that is a great idea to do my bills as 'homework' - since Cal is just in Kinder, that reality hasn't hit me yet. I have to take bart to work so I doubt I can get in early enough to get out of work before 5, but I am going to try to negotiate is at least one day working at home so I am not so drained. We need to start an 'efficiency' blog! thanks for all your advice.

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  20. The transition for our son has gone fairly smoothly. He was a little wobbly the first few days but now that he has made friends, he is getting into the grove. To add my two cents about what helps:

    1. Early bedtimes - 7:30 p.m.
    2. A clear morning routine so everyone is on the same page
    3. Lots of positive reinforcement
    4. Validating fears/anxiety
    5. Being around
    6. Reminding them that they will stay be in touch with their old friends
    7. Keeping the extracurricular stuff light.
    8. Going easy on them.

  21. We're also kind of shocked by the 7:50 start time. I try to get my son in bed by 8--not hard at first but now he seems less wiped by bath/bedtime so he doesn't pass out the way he did the first week or so of K. He would never sleep in his clothes so I get some choices out for him the night before. I also sign all papers, pack the backpack, put keys & purse & backpack by the door. I've been setting my alarm for 6 so I can get myself ready for the day, make his lunch, & start breakfast usually right as Charlie's getting up. His big gripe is not having play/chill time before heading off to school & he HATES it when I rush him. So with an earlier bed time he wakes earlier & has some time to play. I've been working hard to be cheery but on track so we get the next thing done without needing to rush. Sometimes it's tough to keep my cool though. Also trying to keep my waning sense of humor!

    I figure if they're getting to morning circle at least before the class files in, we're ok!

    About switching schools: I got the great advice to keep it positive & also just factual: great news! We got into the school we wanted most! I was fearful about the switch but Charlie really was ok with it. A few days in he asked me some questions & was a bit low, missing a few friends. By the end of his first full week though (just this past Friday) he seems very happy & (dare I say?) even thriving. Wow. I think the whole thing, because of my expectation of his fear & sadness, was maybe harder on me...?

  22. It seems to be about routine and consistency in our home. We're pretty lose with our schedule, normally, because Zoe is a savvy kid in public and around other adults. It isn't unusual for her to attend a dinner party until 11 or 12pm, for example. But those were the days when she could sleep in, which she did--like a teenager.

    A kid around 5 needs how many hours of sleep a day, on average, 10-12?

    We used to call bedtime as late as 9 or 9:30 regularly (when we weren't out.) That is why an early start school was out of the question for us. But now, even though school officiallly begins at 9am, we walk 1/2 hour to school every morning and cannot be late. It has become crucial that her bedtime be regularly 8pm. We get her into bed close to 7:30 and read more stories than before. Back rubs, and asleep by 8.

    She still complains a little at 7:30am when I wake her up, but so far there hasn't been a big issue. I have to sometimes offer her a cartoon or something...

    I figure we'll have to forgo week night events and dinners for a while. Once this new routine is ingrained in all of us, we'll start pushing the envelope a little at a time. Maybe one night a week. But for now, my sacrifice is to prioritize a solid, early night time routine so that she can enjoy kindergarten as much as possible.

    We're a week behind the public schools, but so far she's looked forward to, and has enjoyed everyday at KMS. Crossing our fingers....

  23. I don't think you can ever have your kids out until 11 or 12 on a school night and expect them to do well in school.

  24. Since she wasn't in school (ie. kindergarten) before, technically there were no school nights. our preschool allowed us to come at anytime, and she could nap if she needed to.

    Each kid has their own tolerance levels and needs. ours doesn't fall apart at night. even when she was a baby, we didn't experiene "the witching hour."

    she enjoys evenings. she's our kid, thru and thru, and an ocasional late night doesn't hurt her. but yes, i wouldn't do that on a real school night at her age. in fact, my point was that i don't even go out to dinner during the week, unless it's at 5pm, now that we have a school schedule to follow.

  25. Kortney shouldn't have to explain her kids' routine to a bunch of anonymous critics on a blog.

  26. transition update: child doing fine at 7:50 start time. I am slowly adjusting. I have to get up at 6:00 am to get out of the house by 7:30 looking *somewhat* together. this includes lunch made the night before, shower the night before, etc etc. all the things said here in the blog. I see these awesome looking moms at 7:30 in heels and I do they do it?! oh and by 10:30 am, I am ready for a nap.

  27. 5:23

    Thanks. I think we all need to remember that the blog represents snipets of the truth in our lives. Let's give the benefit of the doubt, ask questions, and help each other. Good lord, women need to help each other.

    I am thinking of starting an online resource and blog called Revolutionary.


  28. Right on, Kortney. There is way too much mother-guilt out there already.

  29. My daughter got into Grattan on the 6 day count and we have not looked back, she loves the school and her teacher. She gets to ride her bike to school every morning. It's an early start but she is doing great and doesn't complain too much!! I'm still adjusting!! In the morning we eat talk brush and go! We are very happy despite the efforts of the SFUSD to keep us out!!

  30. I'm with Kortney on the kindness front.

    As for 7:50am, we are faring much better than I anticipated, especially after my day two meltdown. But with the darker mornings and colder days, my resolve to get out of bed at 6:30am sharp is melting away.


  31. Lena, fortunately the return of standard time in November will bring back more light in the mornings. I have learned this over the last seven years with a 7:50 start time!

  32. whew, here is to November. Just finished making the lunch. The good news is, I now make lunch for myself, and save $. Little wins! Another good thing about early start schools: I can spend a half hour in the classroom helping the teacher. I had serious guilt because of my work schedule - thought I would be ostracized for not being able to help, but here i am, doing prep work at 8:00 am. I am happy.