Today my boy started kindergarten. How in the world did he go from this to this?
2010 – his first year as a ‘Sprout’, the age 3-6 class 2012 – his last year as a ‘Sprout’. Kindergarten year.
As I watch friends with kids the same age go through this transition, I have to admit I felt a little something was lacking. There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to B starting kindergarten. He’ll continue to go to the same Montessori School he started at when he was 2, and he’ll be in the same class that he’s been in since he was 3 – it’s a 3-6 age group. Sure, he’ll go a few extra days as he moves from 3 half days to 5 half days, and he’ll have two new teachers along with one he’s had for two years. But it’s not that different. In fact, the term kindergartener isn’t even a very big deal for him. He knows he’s going into kindergarten because other people ask what grade he’s in, but at his school the term isn’t really used. The kids in his class are all Sprouts, and they avoid division in the multi-age classroom.
I started to feel a little left out with tales of kindergarten orientations and pictures of first rides on the bus. I started to wonder, was I depriving my child of something? Had I screwed something up? He wasn’t getting to go off into the new, scary, and exciting place that is kindergarten! Of course, there’d always be first grade when he’ll make the bigger transition into the elementary classroom, but he’ll still be in the same school. He’ll be in the same school where everyone feels more like family than classmates. He’ll be in the school where, each morning, he arrives into the home-like environment (that is actually a home turned school) hangs up his coat, takes off his shoes, and puts on his slippers before having a seat on the carpet much like we do at home.
My little boy who is a sensitive soul with an anxious heart was tingling with anxiety about this first day of school. There would be new kids and new teachers, and there would be much of the same. Last night, he said he was most looking forward to meeting new friends and helping them learn how things work in his class. This morning, he wasn’t tentatively unhappy about facing the newness. He hid under his blanket on the couch wishing away the first day of school. I coaxed him out and got him dressed, but he was not thrilled.
Happy little brother. Not so thrilled big brother.
Then the skies opened up, and the rain came down. His plans to walk to school with mommy, daddy, and Mema weren’t going to work. And he had to wear a rain jacket (which he hates because it makes a rustling noise when he moves). He looked outside and saw that his beloved sunflowers had been knocked over in the storm’s wind. The little boy who was using every ounce of his energy to deal with his nervousness was thwarted in every way. There was refusing to go to school, and whimpering in the car.
I imagine B felt a lot like these sunflowers look.
But we got there. We got there, and he put away his backpack and put on his slippers. He was met with a beautiful mixture of new and familiar faces, and he proudly handed out the homemade chicken and rice soup we’d made for his teachers. And he was ready to join his friends playing with Legos to wait for the rest of the class to arrive. A quick wave goodbye, and I was on my way leaving a happy, only slightly tentative, boy.
Sure, we might miss out on some quintessential kindergarten transition experiences, but I think this is the perfect place for us. This is the place where B can walk in with just the right amount of first day of school anxiety, the place where he can be excited to see new and old faces and where he can help his 3 year old brother who is joining the Sprouts class this year find his place at circle time. This is the place where with roots strongly placed back in the Seedlings classroom at age 2, he can continue to grow. Last year, his teachers mentioned his leadership skills as he helped other younger students with their work, and he is already looking forward to helping his new friends learn. This year, I expect his leadership skills will grow and be nurtured as he takes his place as the oldest in the classroom. I know he will be challenged and stretched academically and emotionally while also gaining the confidence he’ll need to make his way into the elementary classroom next year.
I think of our average, not raining buckets morning. We head out our back door through the backyard and cross the church parking lot before heading into the woods on a trail. These days both my boys scramble over the rock wall without the assistance they once needed. We emerge from the woods behind the school, passing the barn where my husband comes each weekend to feed the school’s animals and the organic garden where the sunflowers smile. Sometimes we’re greeted by the chickens wandering. Then into the school yard and on with the day. I think of it, and I feel so enormously blessed by the gift of this community both in the school and in our neighborhood and this safe place for learning.
Just as in our parenting, we believe that by giving them unconditional (well, limited by our human limits!) love and fostering healthy attachment we are building the foundation for independence, exploration, and separation, I believe that this educational environment does the same. We can’t make everything easy or take away the hardness of new things, but I think this community gives B the balance he needs so that those hard things can be softened just enough that he can actually learn from them.
Of course, now my 1 hour and 45 minutes of freedom are up for the morning, and I’m off to do lunch duty! I can’t wait to see how the boys are doing and get to know the new members of our community this year.
Here’s to a great school year!