When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, it was the one time in my life that I felt somewhat prepared. From birth and baby classes to parenting books — I absorbed all this new information to help me get ready to be a parent. Everyone from friends and family to strangers at the grocery store would offer advice on how to best prepare for her our new arrival. As it turned out, we needed every bit of that information. Bringing home a new baby is hard!
And the newborn stage is not the only time parenting is hard. As parents, we need all the help we can get at every stage of the game. My youngest child entered kindergarten this year, and I was reminded just how much can change as kids transition out of the preschool years and head into elementary school. I didn't receive nearly as much advice for this stage as I did for the baby phase. Looking back at when my oldest started kindergarten, there's so much I'd have done differently.
In the spirit of sharing collective knowledge and experience, we asked you, our readers, to share your advice about what you wish you'd known before your kids head into those important and change-filled elementary years. We've collected it here and encourage everyone to read — and pass it on.
1. Get involved
"Be involved in school functions, set a consistent volunteer schedule and be in the classroom.
If every parent could volunteer just one day for a few hours every other month the teacher would have extra hands and eyes every day." — Candice Ransom
"Get as involved as your schedule allows. My kids have loved seeing me at the school regularly and have learned about how much background work goes into all the fun events they enjoy." — Dianna Bailey
"Connect with the PTSA! They aren't scary, they are YOU. They can help answer questions and make you feel more like part of the school community." — Kristen Dorwin
2. Stress less
"Your kid will likely be just fine in kindergarten. Even if he’s used to eating eight times a day, he will adjust. He doesn’t follow directions or sit still? He will learn. He doesn’t know all his letters. He will get there. They learn so much from their peers, kindergarten is scary, but most do okay and they learn how to do circle time and independent play, how to eat lunch quickly and how to make the most of recess." — Julie Sindora
"Science fair projects aren't the end of the world. It just feels like it." — Rhonda Rowley
"Take the educational goal posts of the school with a grain of salt. They were so worried about my son reading in kindergarten. I pushed him and in the end, he got there at the same age that I did (end of third) and is now an amazing reader. With my daughter, I chilled out. LAP (Learning Assistance Program) is great but no reason to freak out." — Keigha St. Clare
"School is important but so is being a kid and so is being a family. Some kids need mental health days, too. Just like adults do. (It's okay to play hooky.) There is no right way to do anything. There is just the best way for you." — Misty Taylor
3. Parents have power — and choices
"It's okay to hold your child back. You have to tell the school because they will push them through regardless." — Amanda Consiglio
"If you suspect your child has a learning disability, don't wait for the school to bring it up; most teachers know very little about dyslexia and related learning disabilities, and "balanced literacy" curriculum that most schools currently use does not work for one out of three of kids." — Kate Carlson
"Consider dual language kindergarten. It’s not for everyone but [it's good to] know that it’s an option." — Angela Lee
"There are so many other options beyond traditional schooling, and kids don't legally have to be formally educated until the age of 8 in Washington. As moms, we are pressured so much about school and we are made to feel like they must be put in school at such a young age! This simply isn't true, and it isn't necessarily in the best interest of the kids — but nobody tells us this!" — Lisa Marsh
"If you're considering multiple schools and agonizing over which school is right for your child, take a deep breath and bear in mind that you can always change course. Yes, it seems like a monumental decision and you want to get it right, but I know parents who started private and then went public. I know parents who've done the opposite. Schools change, kids change and not every school or learning situation is right for every child, so don't worry about what your friends, neighbors or co-workers are doing with their kids and do what's best for your kids and your family." — Renee Drellishak