Now that I have successfully gotten one child through elementary school I figured it’s a good time to share some insight on how to best navigate these years so you and your child have a good experience. That first time you drop your child off in someone else’s care is difficult (I cried, did you?), but you get used to it and so do they.
Elementary School is different as you lose that daily face-to-face contact with your child’s teacher. Suddenly you’re communicating via notes, email and <gasp> your child – who may or may not be able to give you complete details. There were many times I went digging through his backpack hoping there was a flyer or note from the teacher, because what he was telling me made no sense at all! It’s such a change to have your child begin to be “in charge” of things. With that in mind, here are my tips:
Figure out how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate with you. This might change year to year. Sure there will be parent-teacher meetings, but I’m talking about everyday communication. Ditto with the school, if there are email newsletters make sure you subscribe to them.
Your child will probably have a take-home folder of some sort, get in the habit of going through it and immediately dealing with as much as possible. If there is a permission form, sign it and put it right back in the folder. Field trip money needed? Go get it and put it back in the folder. Do it all right away…otherwise you’ll find stuff gets lost or forgotten!
In two grades my son had an issue with another child that was big enough to be disrupting to his school day. So I figured I’d tell the school counselor and see what she could do. Wow! It was so great to have a third party available! She spoke with the kids, during the school day, and then called me. My son had someone at school he knew he could talk to (and who listened to him), the teacher didn’t have to deal with it herself, and neither did it. What a fabulous resource. Do not hesitate to contact them if your child is having trouble with something or someone.
My son started first grade not knowing anyone. He made a friend the first day, then later decided he didn’t like him and he made other friends. In second grade he again didn’t know anyone in his class, made a new friend quickly, then decided he didn’t like him and made other friends. In third grade he started to keep his friends, but even then we started to notice their interests were getting more diverse and pronounced, which we knew was going to later drive them apart.
When my son was in second grade, and he was having friend troubles, a mom friend told me a wise thing – your child will change friends a lot, and he will have kids he is only friends with in school, and that’s okay. Don’t stress about it and just accept it as it comes. In fifth grade we started talking with him about the difference between a friend and someone you are friendly with. It’s important to be friendly with as many kids as possible, you don’t want enemies, but it’s okay to only have a few true friends. It’s not friends or enemies – black and white – it’s strangers – friends – friendly – enemies. You don’t want enemies, so work on being friendly with everyone (even if you don’t like them very much).
Figure out the best time and place to do homework, and do it that way consistently. When homework is done, have them put it in their backpack. When you have several nights to work on a project, make sure you get started on it early and do a little bit each day you work on it. If you need to purchase supplies, buy as little as possible. Use stuff you already own as much as possible, because after it’s been turned in and graded it’s most likely going in the trash when it comes back home! If you want to remember it take pictures.
Have a place in the house (i.e. bulletin board) to put long-term assignments. This is helpful for field trips too. You’ll want to keep the forms until the assignment/event is over, and if you pin them someplace they won’t get lost.
Figure out where backpacks and coats will “live” during the week and on weekends. Teach your child to put them there. Have a place for shoes. There is nothing more frustrating than running around the house looking for the $)*%* shoes when it’s time to leave. Talk to your kids the night before (dinner is the perfect time) about any specific needs for the following day. Do they have PE and need specific shoes? Is their homework in their backpack? Lots of parents also plan out the next days outfit/hair at bedtime as well. Anything you can do to help them make decisions (before it’s a rushed decision) is good!
Use Your Phone
There will be crazy hair days, and pajama days, and bring in $1 for <insert charity> days, class shirt days, picture days and more. When those notes come in, put it in your phone as a reminder. You will need it! I set mine up to go off around the time I’m waking them up, so in case we’ve forgotten there is still time. Cozi is a great free family calendar app I rely on daily.
Join the PTA
Pay your dues, subscribe to the mailing list, fill out the paperwork to volunteer. Do it. In my opinion there are three things that make a school great – the teachers/administrators, the students, and the parents. Your school needs you. If the PTA doesn’t offer volunteer opportunities that work for you, talk with your child’s teacher. They will come up with a way you can help.
Be friends with someone who has children one or two grades above yours (see Join the PTA). You will appreciate their wisdom when it comes to teachers, homework, projects, friend problems, carpool issues and more! Don’t rely on anyone too far removed from your child’s current grade as we all forget stuff pretty quickly sometimes!
When there is a school performance, go. If you get invited to a mom/dad thing in the classroom, go. Be there as much as you can. They will only be this age once. If you have younger children bring them along for lunch. Seeing my little kid sit with his big brother and his school friends is such a wonderful memory. Good thing I took pictures as my little kid has no memory of these outings!