Friday, March 13, 2009

Henry Kindergarten mom's doing fine, and son is too!

Well, I have navigated my way through a full 6 months as a parent of a kindergartner at C.W. Henry School, and I think it’s time I recorded some of my impressions.

We came to Henry School (transferring in, from out of the catchment area) without many other options. Our neighborhood school was not an acceptable choice for us. We had applied to several charter schools, and did not get in. As two self-employed parents with three young children, we were barely making ends meet, and we could not consider private schools. Some days I wished we could…. days when I heard other parents say things like, “well, we’ll be paying down loans till the end of our days, but you couldn’t ask for a better school for our child…” And there was always the nagging sense that we were being somehow selfish, not considering a second mortgage for our children’s education.

In the end, my upbringing won out. I was raised by two public-school employees, and I’ve always believed that the best way to help the public-school system is to send our children there, and to be actively involved.

We had sent our son to a co-operative part-time preschool. We worked in the classrooms, knew all of the other families personally,and came home for lunch each day. The leap to kindergarten felt immense. To send him into this giant building, close the door and not know anything that went on for 6 ½ hours… I was anxious. I worried over his clothes, his lunch, his homework assignments. But every day he seemed to come home excited and happy (tired, too!), from the full days of stimulation for his little brain.

As for our involvement, it has taken us a little while to get into the swing of things – I went to my first Home and School meeting last month, and we started volunteering in the classroom and the library a bit over the winter. It feels great to be in the school building during the day, feeling the energy of all the kids and teachers, learning how they spend their time.

Our son has learned a tremendous amount in these first 6 months of school, not all of it academic. They read, and write, and do basic math every day, and he loves these things. But the biggest thing he’s learned is independence. His kindergarten teacher taught them from the very beginning of the year to be self-reliant. They know how to pack and unpack their bags, button their coats, find their way to the lunchroom and the nurse’s office, and how to listen to the assignments she gives and follow them. She does not nag, chase, or hover over them. She has high expectations for their behavior, and the students meet them.

This lesson, of independence and responsibility, has carried over into the rest of his life. I now have a son who will disappear into his room for hours to read or play with Legos. He tries to solve problems himself. He learns things about the world and comes to tell me about them. He has become so much more mature, and capable, and confident, in such a short time.

My son loves Henry School, and feels that it’s his school. He loves being a “big kid” as he goes in every day. He loves his specialty classes – art, music, computer, gym, and library. He loves “choice time”, the free play time every day that the teacher gives them. The other kids in his class are wonderful little people. He is well cared for and loved at this school. What more could I ask for?

I have a few bits of advice for parents of incoming kindergartners this fall:

1. They’ll be fine. Really, really, really. And so will you.

2. Volunteer in the classroom if you can. Give them a few weeks to adjust, at first, but then ask the teacher when a good time would be to come in. It’s a great way to help, and to see first-hand just how fine they are.

3. Send notes (or pictures, etc.) in their lunchboxes. This can be very comforting to them, especially in the craziness of the lunchroom.

4. If possible, plan to stay for a little while after school each day to let the kids run around on the playground. After sitting and being on such good behavior all day, they need to burn off some energy.


The Grauke-Collins Experience said...

Nice post, Shana!

Julie Reeb said...

I really appreciate your post, and this whole blog. My family and I - two children, ages 5 and 3 - are in the process of moving to Philadelphia. We are looking for houses within West Mt. Airy. Since my eldest will be beginning Kindergarten in the Fall I am very concerned about making the right choice in terms of school catchement areas. It is so hard being from out-of-state trying to make these decisions! I have heard wonderful things about the community involvement in Mt. Airy - and that seems VERY reflected in the Henry School...and I am hoping that our focus on finding a house within the Henry catchement area is the right decision for us.

Anyway - thank you! And - if anyone has any thoughts/feedback for us on moving into the area - I would love it!!!