• Thu, Jul 31 - 5:30 pm ET

14 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Kid Started Kindergarten

getting ready for kindergartenI started thinking about kindergarten pretty much as soon as my kid was born. It’s not that I was anxious for her to get out of the house, it was more that I was envisioning her adorably toting her too-huge backpack to my most favorite place in the world: school.

Projecting? Sure. Fortunately she loves school and also looks adorable with big backpacks, so there was no disappointment there. Thinking about kindergarten and getting ready for kindergarten are two totally different things, though, and there’s a lot of stuff that I wish I’d known before that fateful late-summer day.

1. No One Is Going To Come Find You

The first thing you have to do for kindergarten is get registered. Some schools do a kind of a public service announcement, but ours didn’t. You’re going to need stuff like proof of residence and you might have to sleuth out attendance zones and bus routes yourself.

2. The Office Staff Reigns Supreme

Seriously. Get to know the people up front, because they know what’s going on and where everyone is and how to get stuff done. Bring in some cookies and get ready to suck up.

3. Your Kid Will Have To Know Stuff Before They Go

Sometimes the school district will have a list of “kindergarten readiness” skills, like cutting with scissors, knowing letters, knowing colors, etc. None of this was a huge deal for us, since my daughter was a little older than her peers, but it’s good to know anyway. Besides that, if your kid is still a little afraid of the sound of the toilet flushing like mine was, you might, um, want to work on that.

4. It’s A Fine Balance Between Being “That Parent” And Being An Ally For Your Kid

One of the toughest parts about kindergarten was not wanting to be “that parent“–the one that is a thorn in the side of the teacher and probably shoots themselves in the foot by being so annoying–and wanting to be involved and an ally for your kid. Find it. The teacher is not the enemy.

5. Get Ready To Party

Christmas. Valentine’s. Boxing Day. Birthday party after birthday party after birthday party. All with stuff to buy and supply.

6. There Are Other Ways To Volunteer

I won’t join the PTA. I will never be room mom. If you’re like me but don’t want to be totally removed, offer to laminate stuff or make copies or cut crap out at home. That way you’re being helpful but you can do it while watching True Blood.

You can reach this post's author, Theresa Edwards, on twitter.
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  • Linda Rupp

    my roomate’s mother makes $81 every hour on the

    computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her income was

    $19151 just working on the computer for a few hours. read review WORKBUCK.COM

    • Shelly Lloyd

      Sweetie, maybe you should go back to school and learn some basic math. So your aunt makes $81 an hour. And in one month, she made $19, 151–and you say this is for a “few hours” Bull Shit. Let’s do the math. $19,151 divided by 81 means she had to work 236.43 hours in one month. Now maybe that does not sound like a lot of hours, but if the typical work week is 40 hours times 4 is only 160 a month. To get close to working 236 hours is basically working almost 60 a week. If you consider a typical work week is 5 days, 60 hours a week are 12 hour work days. Or almost 9 hours a day. Every day no days off. For a month. I’m sorry, but that is a freaking lot more than just a “few” hours a month.

    • Kelly

      You’re my new hero Shelly Lloyd!

    • guest

      Yea I tried telling them the same thing a few days ago-I don’t think they read/care about replies to their spam.

    • Zorbs

      makes me glad to be unemployed.

    • Boozy Shark Lee

      These people aren’t even waiting until there are other comments anymore??

  • Lindsey

    Don’t do teacher gifts. Do teacher gift cards. My mom was a preschool teacher and she always got so much chocolate and so many mugs and so many candles. Either give something you know she/he wants or needs for the classroom or a gift card. Otherwise, they just have to give away the majority of the gifts.

    • Katherine Handcock

      I always try to get something perishable that I know the teacher would enjoy (if I know them well enough) – flowers or some food substance OTHER than chocolate. But I always get my son (my daughter’s first teacher experience starts with preschool this fall :-) to “make a card” – even if it’s just some fun colored scribbles and a heap of glitter glue – and tell me something about the teacher he wants me to write on it. I think it’s a good way to show him this teacher gift thing isn’t something I do, but something WE do to thank his teacher.

    • ChickenKira

      A teacher friend of mine got an end of year/Christmas (because that’s the same time here) gift from one of the parents of a little sample box of different flavoured teas. As a heavy tea drinker she thought it was the most amazing present ever and told us about it about 100 times.

    • teach

      Yes, all of the tea!
      I had a tea party with my grade 12s.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Two years ago I learned that my son’s preschool teacher and teacher’s assistant loved shortbread, so I bought them shortbread cookies. I’m pretty sure they had to restrain themselves not to rip them open right then and there :-)

    • Rachel Sea

      Give something you know they want…like wine.

    • Lindsey

      Make sure they drink first…

    • Justme

      We ALL drink.

    • Teach

      I don’t.
      And all my peers stare when I tell them that… (I also don’t smoke or do any kind of drugs) But I freaking love me some chocolate!!
      There is NEVER enough chocolate (especially in high school)

    • Justme

      And I don’t like chocolate very much at all. Reese’s only.

      It was a tongue-in-cheek joke, really.

    • teach
    • Hibbie

      Are teacher gifts an end of the year thing? Or is there a teacher appreciation day?

    • Justme

      Depends on the age of the child – many elementary kids get their teacher a gift for Christmas and the end of the year (which oftentimes coincides with Teacher Appreciation Week). Once they get to middle school a child can have up to 8 teachers a day so it’s a little harder to buy something for every teacher…but I bet most middle school teachers will accept a $5 gift card to Starbucks or Sonic.

    • Rachel Sea

      In middle school we always gave to our homeroom teachers, and the teachers of our favorite electives.

    • liz

      We have a teacher appreciation week. I thin it’s the only time my husband gets jealous that I work at an elementary school.

    • jaynedough

      I started tutoring last year in an elementary school. During teacher appreciation week I literally came home with armfulls of stuff every day. My kids were blown away, especially since my kids’ district doesn’t do teacher appreciation.

    • val97

      Yes, it’s even better when the room mother organizes one giant gift card and all you have to do is send cash in an envelope.

  • Ashley W.

    Just wanted to say thanks for writing this article. My daughter is an only child and will be going off to kindergarten in a little over a week. I have terrible anxiety and am so worried about her going off somewhere without me. I have been a mess and would love to talk to someone about what to expect but am a little worried people will think I’m off my rocker with all the things I worry about. My mom passed away almost 2 years ago unexpectedly which is making it that much harder, she had planned on going to my daughter’s first day of school since the day she was born and I was counting on that support. Plus, just being able to talk to her and ask her how she dealt with the change would really help alleviate some concerns I think. I’m lucky to have my husband taking off work to be there and my dad is planning on going as well, but there’s nothing quite like asking your mom’s advice and hearing how she handled it with you.

    Sorry for the rambling, basically just trying to say I’ve been worried about a lot of the stuff you posted and it’s just kind of nice to know I’m not alone in that. I especially liked the last one, it was a much needed reminder. My daughter is super sweet and bright and funny and loves to learn but I have been so worried that if she can’t do everything perfectly for her ‘kindergarten readiness test’ that the teacher will think I’m a terrible parent. My anxieties at play, I know, but it was very nice to be reminded that it’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be.

    • Emil

      Nobody’s going to think you are off your rocker. It is totally normal. When my daughter started kindergarten last year I was freaked out about little things like what to pack in her lunch. I laugh when I look back on it now but I was a total mess.

    • Alanna Jorgensen

      Oh my goodness, me too! She starts August 28, and she has a readiness exam on the 10th. She’s never been to daycare or preschool because her dad and I work opposite shifts. She just barely made the cut off so she will be four for the first couple days of school, which will probably make her the youngest. I am petrified for the exam because she knows some letters but not all and I have no idea how proficient they expect her to be. Are they going to make me redshirt her if she doesn’t pass? She’s DYING to start school. I think it’s safe to say that I am stressing as well, haha.

    • RockoluvsMelba

      Coming from an elementary teacher I can assure you that we very rarely think that parents are terrible. Kids come to us at different levels and we are okay with that! Same with parents- we get some who have done this 10 times and others who are first timers (literally, I once had a student who was the youngest of a family with 10 kids). Just remember that we all want what is best for your child :-). Kindergarten teachers are totally used to nervous parents and first (and second and third) daystears from both parents and kids. It is totally normal!

    • val97

      When both my kids started kindergarten, they had already been going to daycare for years. That didn’t matter one bit. I was nervous for them, and I cried both times. It’s totally normal to be worried, but from everything I’ve observed (and my sister is a Kindergarten teacher), they all end up fine after a little period of adjustment.

    • quinn

      I can tell just by reading this that you are an awesome mom!! My daughter is getting ready to go to kindergarten in a few weeks too and I am also a little nervous because she is my oldest, so I don’t know how I’m going to feel. She went to PreK so I got a little taste of it, and I can tell you that the first few days are rough bc you just don’t know what is going on, but when you pick them up and see how excited they are and hear all about their day, you will start to relax a lot. Their personalities become more interesting and complex after they start going to school, and their confidence builds as they learn new skills. I’m so sorry about your mom, I don’t know how I would ever be able to deal with that. It will be nice to have the rest of your family with you on her first day. Take lots of pics, that will be a nice memory for all of you.

  • Katherine Handcock

    #10 – check with your school first! My school doesn’t do communal supplies (except for boxes of tissue and the freezer bags they use for homework.) They specifically ask you to label your kid’s stuff.

    Basically, never assume: just ask! Teachers and principals would much rather you do that.

  • CynicalMomof3

    So true re: front desk people! I have 3 in the school this Fall, and the front desk people have done amazing things for me- a little respect and kindness will do wonders for their willingness to go above & beyond. I also do the copies and laminating and cutting-out, although in our school, that’s PTA work, which I share with the president. All the glory, and almost none of the dealing with people. :-)

  • Justme

    Even as a teacher, I know that the key to my day-to-day happiness resides in my relationship with the front office staff!

    • kcore

      …and the custodians. I remember helping my mom (a teacher) bake tons of cookies every year to give to the custodians. It was a lot of work, but if a kid barfed in her room it seemed like clean up went much faster…

  • liz

    I’m planning to put my son in 4k at the school I work at. I adore his teacher so no problems there. I think I’ll have a bunch of other issues like when he sees me in the hall and trying not to peek in on him.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x3v28kU28k MissyCute
  • Courtney Lynn

    My mom wrote my name on EVERYTHING. AND she was a first grade teacher! WTF?!

    • PAJane

      My mom wrote my name on the bottom of every one of my socks for the duration of my grade school years. Socks last a long time. It was embarassing to explain in the middle school locker room.

    • Courtney Lynn

      I had my name on some of my socks, too. Because socks NEVER get lost!

    • AP

      We had to write our name on all of our stuff in school. It was school policy.

      My elementary school was trying to teach self-responsibility (keep track of your own things,) my sister’s just didn’t have any kids who couldn’t afford crayons.

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