We all had an idea of what sending our kids to elementary school would be like.  A lot of things are probably the same as our school days, but a LOT of things are so different.  Now that my three kids are well into the system, here’s what I found most helpful.

First up: gradual entry for kindergarten…  Each time one of my kids started kindergarten I groaned as they will start attending gradually.  Your child won’t be going to school every day for a full day until at least 2 weeks in.  Groaning aside, this is a necessary time for kids.  Kindergarten is NOT daycare.  It’s NOT preschool.  So even if your child has been in daycare or preschool, there will still be a transition time.  Your child has to get used to a completely different set of rules and less supervision – they’ll go from having 2 or more “teachers” or caregivers to just one (bless that teacher).  They’ll also be with children who may  have never left their family at all.

Just when you get used to a regular schedule and everyone is on track, you’ll have a professional development (Pro-D) day.  This is for teachers and staff to gain additional education.  It will seem like they pop up every few weeks – they do, there’s usually one Pro-D day a month. It’s often tacked on to a holiday so you get another mini-break.  Which can be nice, but for many, we’ll have to find and pay for child care arrangements as well as switch up the routine.  (Oh, and then there’s a few ‘early dismissal’ days).

Speaking of the calendar, there’s a lot to remember.  There are lots of themes and holidays in school, hot lunches and library days.  Then there’s the stuff… you’ll need extra shoes, extra clothes, extra socks not to mention bringing special things on special days.  (Notice the panic in the grocery store when we’re all looking for graham crackers to make gingerbread houses at Christmas time).

THE PAPERWORK.  So much paper to complete, read, return, check boxes, sign, tear off, keep this part… Much has moved online but there is still a lot of paper communication to manage at most schools!

Field trips, volunteering, supplies and fundraising requests.  I know the money has to come from somewhere but I had an idea I’d be buying maybe $10 worth of pencils and those exercise books.  It’s usually around $60 just to get started, then there’s school fees, fundraising, field trips, and guess who’s driving on those field trips… or paying for buses!

Lunches.  Most of your child’s lunch will come home.  There are definitely different ideas about whether the kids should eat and then play outside, or play outside and then eat, but I’ve had it done both ways and it didn’t make a difference.  They usually come home starving!  (But not for what’s in their lunch).

You may already know this from other child care situations but your child will act different at school around a completely new set of all different kinds of people than at home.   I was shocked and horrified when my easy-going son started drawing on everything with a Sharpie – including another mom’s minivan!  (He’d never even drawn off the paper before that little spree so I had to ask “are you sure it was MY son?!”)

There are so many surprises and changes happening as you enter the school years.  It is definitely quite taxing and even if it seems easy, your kids will be a bit more tired and even emotional for the first few weeks or months, so go easy on yourself!  Don’t over schedule yourself or your kids, September feels like a time to get back into routine but going to school for 6 hours a day and then heading off to a different activity every night might just be too much.

Good luck!  Please share your “revelations” with us on our Facebook page and WELCOME to all the new families entering the school system!

– – Jen