Our kids have been in pre-school since they were six months old. While the first few years were mostly like daycare, as they started pre-k last year, the experience became more like what I expected from public school. Their assignments, daily curriculum, and activities started to look more like what I thought they’d be doing in Kindergarten. So when they started public kindergarten this year, I figured I knew pretty much what we’d be getting into. What I didn’t anticipate was everything else around their classroom time.
Initially, we weren’t sure if we would actually move them from their private preschool to public school for kindergarten. Last year, because of the pandemic, our public school did half days and spent a good portion of the year virtual. The pre-school, on the other hand, spent about two months closed down, but after reopening, didn’t have a single shutdown or outbreak. We debated for a while because we thought the private kindergarten might be more likely to stay in person and would have a few kids that they already knew from pre-k. We ultimately decided to move them to public school though because some of the kids in their class were also moving over and we wanted them to get used to the school and start making friends sooner than later.
They’ve now been in school for the last two months, and we have a pretty good indication now of how things work, what they do, and what they don’t. The school day isn’t all that different from what they had in pre-k. They do most of the learning earliest in the day - though the later start means a new morning routine for us - and then move on to special classes like music, art, and gym in the afternoon while they’re a bit more amped up after lunch. After school ends, they even have an after-care program right at the school which makes it very convenient for our pick up. The school is also right next door to us, so we get to walk over in the morning and back home at night. The structure and convenience allows us to actually focus on work during the day and we know they are having a great time because we periodically get glimpses of them out at the playground.
We were initially a little worried about the level of curriculum because they had a pretty good head start at pre-kindergarten. They had already been learning to read a good number of sight words, do some math including counting up to 100, and writing every letter and number. When they spent their first week in kindergarten writing numbers 1-5, we thought they might get bored. However, the review of these topics has actually helped them gain confidence and improved their penmanship to the point that it’s better than mine.
They also really seem to love their teachers. To be fair, they loved their teachers at pre-k too, but each one has seemed to find a perfect way to approach each kid and they come home so excited to tell us about everything they did. While we don’t get photos throughout the day through an app like we did for pre-k, we do get periodic reports and notes sent home to keep up with the latest and get feedback.
Another reason we ended up moving to the public school for kindergarten is for all of the socialization and meeting people through the town. Our town is very tight nit with many of the parent seeming to know each other, many from older kids in various sports and other teams. We knew a few parents in town from pre-k, but now we’ve already met a ton of other fellow kindergarten class parents through the PTA, school events, and of course soccer on the weekends. Our house is along the route many families take to walk to the school for drop off, but we didn’t know the majority of the families before. Now, thanks to school, we’ve met a good number of them and end up chatting each morning.
There are also the planned social events for the kids, and of course the parents at the school. We’re only two months into the school year and we’ve already had a welcome night, an unofficial playground meetup organized by other parents, and a social night with field day type activities like tag, parachute, and egg races. The playground also seems to be a popular hang out spot for families after school, so we occasionally met other parents there too. It feels like just about every week, we have a reason to meet more of the kids in their class as well as their parents. It’s no wonder it feels like these kids know every single kid in town as they yell their names across what feels like every store, in front of our house, and at events like soccer. It also feels like we can’t go anywhere without running into other parents we’ve met now, nor can I run without at least one parent waving or honking to me.
We’ve already embraced it too. We’ve joined the PTA and my wife is acting as a class parent, organizing events, collecting funds for class events, and sending reminders for all the stuff going on. This has enabled her to get to know the other parents, have regular conversations with the other class parent, and even the teacher too. We’ve also arranged some play dates, mostly on the playground at the school, and have ended up meeting up with other families a few times now. All together, it feels like in the two months we’ve had at the school, we’ve already reconfigured our schedules and social circles a bit.
With the shift to school, we’ve also felt more pressure to engage in other activities around town to cultivate these friendships for the kids, keep them active, and establish a presence in town. On Saturdays, we do soccer, probably the largest social event in the town with the vast majority of their kindergarten classes participating as well. It’s also a chance for us to talk to other parents to see what’s going on, or like this week, to apologize for a biting incident in class. Then on Monday nights, we have learn to play hockey, though it’s in the next town over and most of the kids are older, so none of their classmates are there. Soon, we’ll have skating lessons on Tuesdays and in the winter, as soon as soccer ends, we’ll start basketball in our town which it seems many of the other kids do too.
The other biggest change with public school was the schedule. Since they don’t start until 8:30 - their preschool started at 7:00 - we have to get more done before they get up and go to school. We each get up earlier now so we can sneak in our workouts before they get up and start getting ready. With aftercare, we have to get them by 6:00, which is about the same as their preschool, but we tend to actually get them a little earlier so we have more time together as a family at night. It’ll become even more of a stretch when the youngest moves up to kindergarten and they move up to the next school which starts earlier.
So far, only a few months into public school, it’s been a different experience than we expected, especially with everything that takes place around the actual school day. As a connection to our community and the town, public school has gone way further than we imagined. It’s helped the boys build new friendships and meet more people, while also allowing us to feel more connected to a good proportion of the town parents and feel more neighborly. These friendships have also enabled them to have a great time with their friends at sports like soccer and seem to know everyone in town regardless of where we go. As much as we loved their private preschool, I’m really happy with our decision to move them to public kindergarten this year after our move to town because it’s helped us feel even more at home.