Some school districts in our area offer free universal public pre-k, but those slots are usually very limited. Pre-k can be a huge cost savings if you’re paying for daycare, so we feel very lucky that we were able to get a spot this year (our zoned school is one of the few that typically has space). Charlie is finishing up his second week of school now, and it’s been going great! Since he’s the youngest and smallest kid in his class, I think pre-k is going to be a great way to get him used to a school environment.
We really had no idea what to expect since we don’t have any friends with kids who have attended pre-k. So I thought I’d share our experience for any parents who will be sending their kids to pre-k or kindergarten soon!
P R E P A R I N G F O R S C H O O L
We received notice in June of this year that Charlie got a pre-k spot. Since then we’ve been preparing him for the transition from the daycare that he loves and has been attending for the past two years. We regularly talked about how he was going to go to a big boy school the entire summer, and how all his friends would be going to new big kid schools too. I think this had a huge impact on getting Charlie ready because he talked about how he wasn’t a little kid anymore, so he needed to go to a big boy school.
We didn’t read any books about starting a new school (which is always a great place to start) since we traveled all summer, but we did let him watch several episodes of Daniel Tiger that focus on starting school which really helped. I love Daniel Tiger (targeted to kids 2-4) and definitely recommend the show to prepare your little one for all kinds of real life experiences like starting school, going to the doctor, etc.
T H E F I R S T D A Y
Once we were all dressed, Charlie kept rushing us out the door because he was so excited for his first day of school. He’d never done that before!
Mr. Bee and I both accompanied Charlie on his first day, which was a very short day. We filled out paperwork, met the other parents, and talked to the teachers (one teacher and one assistant teacher) while Charlie played with toys. The other kids played with each other while Charlie stuck by our side — so I was sure he was going to cry the next day when we weren’t there! We were allowed to stay in the class the entire time that first day. This was a really great way to get the kids comfortable, and I think the second day went much more smoothly because of it.
T H E S E C O N D D A Y
It is usually easier on the child if the parent the child is less attached to does drop off. So we decided that Mr. Bee would drop Olive off at daycare since she favors me, while I dropped off Charlie by myself since he favors Mr. Bee.
On our walk to school, Charlie started collecting acorns — something he’s done since he was a toddler. It has a special meaning for us because he would always put acorns in our pockets, and whenever we would randomly find an acorn in our pockets, we would think of Charlie. That morning I told Charlie to put an acorn in his pocket and if he missed us, he could touch the acorn and know that we were thinking about him and loved him.
We arrived at school and I anticipated a lot of tears because even over the summer Charlie would cry if we left him. A handful of kids were already crying. I put Charlie’s lunch away in his cubby, gave him a hug, told him I loved him and that he was a brave, big boy and left. Charlie didn’t even look back as I walked out of the classroom. I teared up in that moment because I realized for the first time just how grown up Charlie had become. I was so proud of him!
When Mr. Bee went to pick him up later that day, Charlie said that he didn’t cry because of the wishing acorn I had given him and recounted the story that I told him that morning. He also quoted a line from this episode of Daniel Tiger (“Grown ups come back”), which helped remind him that all the parents come back at the end of the day.
The first week we constantly talked about how proud we were of Charlie in front of him for being so brave and doing so well in school. He loves to hear us talk about him, and now he always talks about how he’s a brave big boy!
Charlie is finishing up his second week and it has gone better than my wildest expectations. I expected tears every day the first week, especially because he is extremely attached to his daycare teacher and knows that Olive still goes there. But Charlie has never said that he didn’t want to go to school or wanted to return to his old daycare. It only takes a little bit of dawdling or a little tantrum to throw us off schedule, and we were usually late every day at daycare. But he has been so great about getting ready in the mornings that we haven’t been late once (knock on wood!). I think it’s going to be a great year!
R E Q U I R ED S U P P L I E S
We were pretty surprised at how many supplies we were required to purchase — parents buy all the cleaning supplies and snacks — because we never bought any supplies when we were kids. But it was definitely understandable due to all the budget cuts. It’s way less than the cost of daycare though, so we’re not complaining!
- 1 double pocket folder
- 1 composition notebook
- 1 box of 24 crayons
- 1 box of Crayola washable markers
- 2 large glue sticks
- 1 pack of baby wipes
- 2 rolls of paper towels
- 2 boxes of tissue
- 2 large tubs of Clorox or Lysol Disinfectant Wipes
- 2 bottles of Lysol 4 in 1 disinfectant all purpose cleaner
- 2 large cans of Lysol disinfectant spray
- 2 liquid hand soaps
- 1 box gallon size Ziploc bags
- 3 packs of prizes (inexpensive dollar store packs like bubbles, pencils, small toys)
- $6 for children’s magazine subscription
- $12 for a trip t-shirt
- $5 for a trip book bag
- $2 for a teddy bear
- a recent student picture
- a change of clothes in a large Ziploc bag
- a flat sheet for naps/quiet time
- a family photo
- an art smock or oversized t-shirt
There was also a parent wish list posted in the class, mostly consisting of cooking supplies.
Parents are required to provide snacks and drinks for an entire week on a rotating basis. They go down the list alphabetically so it’s Charlie’s turn next week. That means we have to provide snacks and drinks for 18 kids for 5 straight days. I have yogurt, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and squeeze pouches planned so far!
F O O D
The school provides breakfast for free to all students, and lunch is free or paid on a sliding scale based on household income (the full price is $1.75/meal). Students do have the option to bring their own lunches, but most kids eat the school lunch. Then parents provide an afternoon snack.
Having Charlie eat the school meals would certainly be easier and much more affordable, but packing lunches would be healthier. I’ve been packing Charlie a small lunch every day, and he’s been picking and choosing what he wants to eat from the school lunch and from the lunch he brings. I hate the idea of wasting so much food if he doesn’t finish the lunch I pack for him, but he often doesn’t touch the school lunch either. I’d prefer that he ate a packed lunch, but I don’t want to stop him from eating the school lunch either when all the other kids are eating it. I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing in the long run.
S C H E D U L E
Pre-k classes in our district run for 6 1/2 hours Monday-Friday. For parents who work full-time, on-site after school programs are available where the kids are picked up from their classrooms.
They have mats for a 1 hour nap/quiet time each day (everyone keeps a flat sheet in their cubby), and they post a list showing who napped each day. Charlie has napped every day but one.
A C T I V I T I E S
On top of the typical reading, writing, and arts and crafts activities, the pre-k students have their own private playground. There is also an ipad computer lab in the school for younger kids, which I’m sure Charlie loves because they get to play learning games! And parents are encouraged to come in and teach the kids a special project as well.
C L O T H E S
Since the teachers don’t help the kids with the bathroom (my friend was concerned that her son didn’t know how to wipe!), I took a page from Mrs. Cowgirl’s book and have been dressing Charlie only in sweatpants so that it’s easy for him to use the bathroom.
And this doesn’t apply to Charlie, but girls are required to wear shorts under dresses.
. . . . .
It has required a lot more planning ahead of time now that Charlie and Olive are going to different schools. We have to wake up earlier, we split drop-offs whereas we used to do them together, I pack lunches in the evening instead of the morning, and we plan outfits the night before. I thought it was going to be a huge transition for us, but it has been much more seamless than I expected and Charlie has handled it all in stride. As a bonus, Charlie is so tired at the end of the day that he asks to go to bed early — this coming from a boy who used to sleep at 10:30pm! Overall our first two weeks at public school have been great so far!
In an upcoming post I’ll share the pre-k application process for anyone who might be interested!
Did your little one start pre-k or kindergarten this fall? How did it go?