Flashback: Taking the mourning out of mornings

I just came across this post written by Carly a couple of  years ago. I need these reminders now that we're back in school routines! With the possible and occasional exception of my husband, we're not morning people around here.  I think I've mentioned that a time or ten in the past.  And now that the Little Man is back to being on the school bus every morning at 7:40 am, not to mention being gone for a whole day and therefore needing more crap stuff, I knew I needed to get my bum in gear so that mornings wouldn't be a nightmare.

I've got two and half months before my maternity leave ends and I'm back to work full time.  That means two and half months where my only task in the morning (is it terrible that I shudder a wee bit inside every time I type the word "morning"?) is to get just the Little Man out the door and on the bus, clothed, fed and watered.  Come mid-November I'll have to add myself and the Baby Man into that mix.

Knowing this, I started planning ahead for that eventuality.  I may have a hate-hate relationship with mornings (shudder), but I love me some organizing.  Here's what we're doing . . .

1. Must-Do Posters Inspired by a similar poster designed by Kids in the Capital mom, Kim-Anh, I made these:

They're on the wall between the kitchen and the powder room and the Little Man loves checking them every morning and afternoon to ensure he's crossed his "must-do's" off his daily list.  My personal favourite on this list?  Choosing his clothes for the next day the night before!

2. "Make" Breakfast the Night Before We've all heard of making lunches the night before, which we do around here too, but Mr. Tree was quick to point out how much easier it would be for the Little Man if we set out everything he needs for breakfast before going to bed every night.

Since the Baby Man wakes up at the same time as the Little Man, and still needs a grown-up to feed him, I put out what Jake will need for his breakfast the night before.  Thankfully Jake loves a good, big breakfast but dragging stools or chairs to the necessary cupboard to get everything he needs out in the morning is time consuming and leaves us tripping all over each other.  So his bowl, spoon, cereal and honey are put on the table for him, and the milk is left easily accessible in the fridge.  Whenever possible, I get his fruit and yogurt ready to go as well.

3. Making use of the Powder Room Like most kids, Jake is an easily distracted dawdler.  Imaginary friends can suddenly and unexpectedly pop out of anywhere, urgently needing his attention.  Sending him upstairs to floss and brush his teeth every morning was taking anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes.  So we put a second toothbrush (for everyone in the family), toothpaste and flossers in the powder room on the main floor.  Amid the hustle and bustle of everyone in the family getting ready, Jake finds it easier to stay focused on the task at hand.

No running back upstairs (to get dressed or brush his teeth) also ensures he doesn't get sidetracked by the ALL! THE! AWESOME! LEGO! in his room.

4. No TV in the Morning This was a tough one for Jake, as there's nothing he loves more than chilling on the couch first thing in the morning watching a fifteen minute episode of pretty much anything on Treehouse or Disney Junior.  Like a lot of children (and adults), the Little Man has a hard time focusing on more than one thing at a time.  Even having the news on while he eats is distracting so we're working on limiting TV even for the grown-ups to the first 10-15 minutes after the hour or half hour . . . to catch the weather and traffic.

5. No Dishes in the Morning If it doesn't go in the dishwasher (we prefer to wash some of our kid-friendly dishes by hand), it gets left neatly in the sink to be washed later.  Right now I'm doing those dishes once Jake is on the bus, but I plan on teaching my recovering perfectionist self to just leave them there until I get home from work.  Sure it's not always fun to walk in the door to a sink full of dirty dishes, but since mornings and I already struggle to get along, this works for me.

And one of the very important reasons I'm choosing not to do dishes is because I want us to have . . .

6. Ten Minutes to Hang as a Family As I write this we're only on the second day of school and so we're still working on this one.  I'm trying to make sure we're setting aside ten minutes in the morning to just touch base as a family.  Ten minutes for Jake to sit on the floor and be goofy with Noah.  Ten minutes to read a short story.  Ten minutes to express our hopes for the day ahead or just talk about a crazy dream we had last night.

I'm a night owl at heart so I'm always interested in what works for other families.  What do you do to make mornings less mournful?

Carly has red hair and occasionally the temper to match.  She loves potatoes, rainy nights, photography, her husband, and her sons Jacob and Noah.  Probably in reverse order.

Preparing for the First Day of School

by Jayda

The first day of school preparations are in full swing. My oldest son, JWS, will start half-day senior kindergarten in September. Here, in Ontario there are two grades of kindergarten: junior kindergarten (JK) and senior kindergarten (SK). Junior kindergarten begins at age 4 and senior kindergarten at age 5. Since we did not live in Canada last year, this will be the first year JWS has attended school.

We are all having mixed emotions about this milestone.

Anxiety.

We are anxious about the unknown. For JWS this is the unknown of what to expect. He has never met his teacher, seen his classroom, or taken a school bus. He doesn't know any of the other children in his class.

For me,  it is the unknown of how will he 'do'. Will he like it? Will his teacher and peers talk to him and treat him in a loving, kind way? Will he be bored, discouraged, or will he be stimulated and eager?

What will the days look like, for LLS and I at home? Will LLS be lost without his big brother or will he embrace the time to himself/with me ?

Excitement.

JWS is excited to go to school to learn some 'stuff'. He has been counting down the days.

I am excited for JWS to experience school. I am excited for him to make new friends, learn new skills and have experiences independent from home.

Pride.

I am certain he will do very well at school. He is a confident child. He easily makes new friends at the playground. I am proud of him and the wonderful, kind, loving, inquisitive 5-year-old he is today. I am proud of us (his parents) for our parenting philosophies that I believe have shaped him and fostered his confidence.

Here are some of the things we did to prepare for the first day of school:

1. We made a routine folder. I took photos of JWS doing all the things he will need to do (eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, play, eat lunch, put on shoes/coat) in order to get ready for school. Luckily, this year, we have all morning, since he is going to afternoon, half-day kindergarten. I will let him choose the order that he wants to do them in. This will be a nice visual reminder of what he has done and what needs to be done. He is a visual learner.

2. We attended our school district school bus safety course for first time riders. JWS is still undecided if he want to take the bus to school or not. I wanted him to be prepared, whatever his decision. He was very excited about the bus. This course alone relieved a lot of his anxiety.

3. We went school shopping (supplies and indoor shoes), just the two of us. To my surprise he is very possessive over his supplies and very happy to use it everyday. He likes to practice writing the letters, something he learned on his own.

4. And finally, we drove the bus route to his school and played on the playground and spied in the classroom windows.

Are your memories of school influencing how you portray school to your children or how you prepare them for school? Sometimes I catch myself projecting my emotions on JWS. This is how I felt therefore he must feel this way to. I have to stop myself and allow him to have his own feelings, positive or negative.

What did you do to prepare for the first day of school?

Jayda Siggers is a Mom of 2 ( JWS, 6 and LLS, 4), a nutritionist, a coach at Clean Plate Cleanse, a master mediator living under a co-dictatorship, whole food advocate, trying to live a little greener everyday.

Full day learning in junior kindergarten

by Amanda My son J is turning 5 this month.  This past September brought about a huge change in his life.  He started junior kindergarten (JK).  His school was one of the first to introduce Full Day Learning in JK.  I was concerned at first that this would be too much for such a little person.  I was worried that the afternoon might essentially be a waste because he would be too tired to learn anything since he was used to napping for at least 2 hours in the PMs.  I have been pleasantly surprised.  Maybe for the first month this was the case.  Most of the kids seemed to be falling asleep on the floor during quiet time and so was he, until about mid-October.  Around this time, he stopped napping altogether.  Instead, he was falling asleep in his dinner!  This lasted maybe for a couple of weeks and then it was done.  The nap was gone and he was fully adjusted to going to school full time.

He has come a long way in his learning since starting school.  It has been a really good experience for him.  He had good skills going in, he could identify most of the letters, could count at least to 15, and had no issues with speech and language as a preschooler.  His language developed, in my opinion, normally, once he started talking, there was no way to make him stop!

The curriculum has been very appropriate for him.

They have covered the different seasons:

They have learned the days of the week, months of the year and all major holidays.

They learned about animals and hibernation, migration, and adaptation.

His class learned about a foreign country - Guyana, and students were asked to bring in socks and shoes to donate since those items are not easily accessed in that country.

He is also really enjoying French time.  His articulation is really good and he has an amazing memory, so he is retaining many of the words he has learned.  We have two cats so he is quite fond of the words "chat et lion".

Mon gars, il adore les chansons en français ie."Tête, épaules, genoux, orteilles", et aussi il a bien aimé l'histoire "Petit poulet" que l'éducatrice a racontée.  Their most recent unit was all about fairy tales.  They watched the movie Rapunzel and J particularly enjoyed The Three Little Pigs.  From a science perspective, the kids had a presentation from "Scientists in Schools".  They did their own dinosaur dig, and got to see some experiments done in their classroom.  They watched things change colour and change states of matter.  J was super excited to tell me all about it when he came home that day.

On the social side of things, he has made some friends, loves to play Transformers with his two buddies during recess, he attended one birthday party and will soon be having one of his own.  At this point in time he is an only child, so I am thrilled that he is getting the hang of being around lots of kids and learning to communicate with them and problem-solve their day to day issues.  They have learned about Kelso's Choices, a problem-solving strategy for kids to use.  His teachers are telling me that he is using these strategies when a conflict arises, so I am quite happy about that.

As the end of the school year approaches he is now able to read Level 1 books with only some minor difficulties.  He can write his name not too badly, and is interested now more than ever in making crafts.  Before starting school he definitely did not have the attention span for those kinds of things.

Overall, as a parent, I really think the full day learning has been really good for my son. He was ready to go to school.  He is a like a little sponge and he just takes things and runs with them.  And he remembers what he has learned.  Like any other kid he needs some help and some prompts, but I am really glad to see that he has progressed this far and am very hopeful that SK will bring a similar experience.

*****

Amanda was born and raised in Ottawa where she continues to live with her husband and son “J”. Amanda is bilingual and interests include reading, blogging, socializing, and advocacy on children and teen issues.

To School Or Not To School

by Nicki Do I send Liam to junior kindergarten or not?  That is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time.  For many parents there really isn't a decision to be made.

My son was born on Christmas Day, 2008, this means that Liam is eligible to start Junior Kindergarten this September at only 3 years and 8 months old.

For us, this makes the decision very difficult.  Do we send him this year, based on his age?  Do we wait another year?  If we do, should he start in Junior Kindergarten or Senior Kindergarten?

If he does go this year, I worry about it being too much for him on many levels at such a young age.  The structure, the independence in self help skills (including using the bathroom), the long days without a nap, can a three year old cope with these things?  Not to mention such a small child riding on the school bus.

If we do wait until next year, which is what we are leaning towards right now, where do we put him?  JK where he will be the oldest and in theory most advanced in the class?  Or SK where he will be the youngest but still with kids born the same year as him.  Will he be too advanced and bored if we start him in JK?  But at the same time, he could be too far behind if we start him in SK.  Either way, our decision will effect his whole school career.  Thinking way into the future, if he starts JK this year as a 3 year old, he will be due to go off to college or university at only 17! Looking back, there was no way I could have gone off to college at 17!!!

Really, I know there is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma.  it is one of those things that every family with an end of the year baby has to make for themselves.  However, I would love to know how other people have handled this issue.  Please share your experiences as a parent or as a teacher!

Nicki is mom to 3 year old Liam.  She is an ECE,  who loves to garden, scrapbook, write and take photos. She blogs about the randomness that is her life at Perils of a Working Mom