Lynn Easton.

Early On: You aren’t losing your baby

Kindergarten parents have homework this month

Most of us are slowly sliding into 2019, but some local parents are already gearing up for another New Year tradition that’s still nine months away – the first day of school.

These parents of children born in 2014 are staring down multiple decisions and deadlines as they prepare to sign their five-year-olds up for kindergarten this month. I’m sure many are excited to send their kids off to the big school, but others are likely a tad overwhelmed.

I understand their angst. The February before my oldest daughter began kindergarten, I was ignorant about my role in preparing, or even registering my child for the ‘Big Day,’ oblivious to all attempts to help me organize her entry into the school system.

It’s possible I missed all the conversations, notices and emails. More likely, I was in denial. I was not ready to give her up.

Oh, she was ready. She’d already memorized the bus route and picked out her plastic purple lunch kit. She was more than a little eager to head off into the world with the big kids.

I was the one dragging my feet, worried she’d become just a cog in the ‘Big Machine’ of the school system that expected me to fill out all those dang forms. My willful neglect meant that we missed all deadlines to register at our local catchment school and ended up stressed and unsure whether there’d be a space for us in September after all.

I don’t recommend this technique.

Eventually, we met the kindergarten teacher. She was a pro and guided me through conversations about those first days of school. Before long, my daughter and I were listing our fears and hopes for the next year. We talked about how we’d miss each other, about the new friends she’d make, about what to make for lunch, – all the important stuff.

Eventually, we were both ready for the September new year celebration.

Now, as I look at the growing list of kindergarten choices and pre-kindergarten prep these days, it’s as if someone at School District No. 42 was given the task of figuring out reluctant parents like me. And they did the job well.

Those clever school district folks now have ways of easing us anxious parents into the fray with a number of hands-on pre-kindergarten sessions. These Ready Set Learn events may look like they are for the wee ones, but don’t be fooled. If you have a child who turns five in 2019, sign up as soon as you can.

These one-night events begin this month and repeat during the spring in different locations. There’s even a handy-dandy booklet full of great kindergarten prep.

Seriously, though, this online information is a great resource that will put parents at ease and let them know their child doesn’t have to be a reading whiz or a math genius before they enter kindergarten.

In fact, the school district has all kinds of early learning programs and partnerships like PALS, StrongStarts, and Early Years Centres to ensure your child is finding joy in learning before they even open the doors to the ‘Big School.’

Parents can also register for schools of choice that might make a good fit for their kids. Programs such as Montessori, and the Environmental School Project are now offered along with the ever-popular French immersion.

There are still criteria and catchment areas, and forms but even I would jump at the chance for these possibilities. And you’d better jump because the registrations deadlines are imminent.

Choice school registrations are due Feb. 1-4 and general registration is Feb 12-19.

So as a former fretting parent of a five-year old, trust me, it’s going to be okay. Maybe make it a belated New Year’s resolution to embrace the unknown.

You aren’t losing your baby, you’re just beginning a grand adventure with them. And just think, it’ll be another seven years until you have to face those high school registration forms.

Lynn Easton writes for the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development Committee.

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