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5 Lessons I’ve Learned from My Daughter’s First Year of School

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It seems like just yesterday I was putting my little girl on the school bus, waving good-bye as she rode off to her first day of kindergarten. After months of standing at that bus stop, often knee-deep in snow, blowing kisses at her departing profile, the school year is finally coming to an end. I’ve learned a lot from my daughter’s first year, as she entered the world of report cards, school lunches, and staff development days. Looking back, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from my daughter’s first year of school.

1. Teachers are superstars. Watching my daughter’s kindergarten teachers navigate Common Core, while getting 20 kids who suddenly all have to go potty to sit criss-cross applesauce, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And somehow, in the midst of all this chaos, her teachers have always found time to answer my questions and keep me abreast of her progress. Plus, they’ve kindly overlooked my daughter showing up to gym class in the equivalent of a ball gown and sneakers. They are nothing short of remarkable.

2. Nothing ever happens. Ever. According to my daughter’s teachers, she’s learning reading, math, and science. Her schedule says she attends art, music and gym classes weekly. And yet, every day, when my daughter returns home from school, we have some variation of this conversation:

Me: How was your day?

Daughter: I don’t know.

Me: What did you do?

Daughter: Nothing.

Me: What do you mean you did nothing?

Daughter: Can I have a snack? 

Clearly, the school has been lying to me, and the kids just sit in silence all day, like tiny Zen practitioners. I’m hoping first grade offers a little more action, or she may run off with a third grader with a scooter and a Mickey tattoo to fill the void.

3. Staff development days suck. Yes, I understand the importance of teacher training and development. But as a work-at-home mom, when I see a hole in my daughter’s schedule, I go into a panic. Do I attempt to meet my deadlines while a bored kid repeatedly asks me if I’ve seen her Elsa spoon? Do I try to guilt Papa and Granny into spending “quality time” with their grandchild? Do I take the day off and work all night to compensate? My stress levels used to be tied to demanding clients and toddler tantrums. Today, they’re tied to the early dismissals and blank spaces on the school calendar.

4. Mo’ kids, mo’ problems. From what I’ve observed, when kids interact one-on-one, things generally go smoothly. In groups, however, one kid calling another “Stupid-head” can trigger an epic spit battle rivaling an encounter between the Bloods and Crips. Any trouble my daughter has gotten into this year has been tied to some sort of group drama. Clearly we need to sit her down in front of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video so she can learn an important truth: if you’re going to engage in a group battle, it should at least be choreographed.

5. My daughter can do this. At a certain point during the year, my daughter struggled with reading. So I did what any parent would do: I read with her at night. I drew sticker charts. I bought flash cards. Yet all that seemed to come from these efforts was frustration, on both our parts. And then, one day, something clicked. Suddenly, my daughter was reading — and enjoying it. As with so many other things, she began reading when she was ready. Because beneath all that resistance, is a quiet thoughtfulness and determination that never fails to surprise me.  And so I’ve learned to trust her to work through her doubts, to solve problems in her own time. It’s a lesson that will hopefully stay with me well past kindergarten.

When I went to kindergarten orientation, I was amazed at the things my daughter would learn. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would learn over the year. I’ve gotten to know my daughter in new ways — as a student, an artist, a scholar-in-training. And I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my hopes and fears for the years ahead. And so, as we stare down first grade, I’m confident. Because if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s this: every day my daughter gets on that bus, ready to perform wonders. And every day I silently cheer her on from the sidewalk, knowing no matter what happens, she’s ready.

* * *

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25 Comments

  1. Wonderfully touching as always…

  2. I was literally forced to teach my daughter to read before she entered kindergarten by a public school that considered itself “the little university in the woods.” it is so much better when a child learns when she is ready. I predict your daughter will do well in school and make you even prouder of her than you are now.

  3. Haha, as a teacher, I can only tell you that staff development days are no picnic for us either, we get behind on our lesson schedule and the meetings are usually boring :) And the “how was your day” conversation is also universal. Your daughter sounds adorable – and good job at trusting her to work through it at reading. That’s wonderful.

    • I always wondered what those days were like for teachers. Doesn’t sound too fun. Thanks for the comment and for stopping by!

  4. I wonder how the world would be different if they really did teach our kids Zen stuff all day!?! “Epic spit battle” had me giggling! 😉 Good luck with the summer momma!

    • I taught my daughter how to meditate, and we do it at night sometimes. Never for more than a few minutes, but I think it has a good effect! Good luck to you too… something tells me we’re all going to need it!

  5. You certainly learned a lot this year. :) I know #2 so well. I love the way you described how all of sudden things seemed to click. That’s a good lesson in persistence and faith.

  6. So cool. My son will be attending this fall, so this was really encouraging to read.

  7. Hey there – Great post. When I read #2, it sparked a memory about this post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/25-ways-to-ask-your-kids-so-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-so-how-was-school-today_b_5738338.html Ways to ask kids how their days was so you get more than just “fine” or “nothing” :)

  8. So sweet! We learn so much from our kids. My little one always does “nothing” too.

  9. This is great….and great timing. My daughter starts this fall and I “think” i’m ready! :)

  10. Great insights! It is helpful to hear from people like yourself, who have already gone through your kids first school year. I have yet to experience it..

  11. Yes the first year of my son’s actual school was a major wake up call. My biggest realization was that our involvement was so crucial.. since schools can’t do it all! But with both of us working it is tough!

  12. This is great! Number 5 really got me. It’s so true, they learn in their own time. I have to remember that next year when my daughter is in kindergarten.

  13. I remember there being more group drama in kindergarten. The kids seem to mature a bit in the first grade. Loved your lessons!

  14. This post was both endearing and very humorous. I love these lessons you’ve learned, and will definitely keep them in my back pocket when my daughter finally starts school. Epic-spit battles and staff developments days aside, your sentiment about your daughter being ready is so true. I think every kid works at their own pace. Eventually they learn and adapt to what is needed of them, and as parents we just have to patient and trust in them and their skills. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post, Meredith. Hope you have a fantastic week! Lovely of you to host Manic Mondays!

  15. This is wonderful! I love your story telling! It makes it so much fun :-)

  16. Love this. My daughter is not going to school for several years yet, but this is still encouraging. It is amazing how much we learn from our children’s experiences.

  17. It really is incredible how much we learn from our children no matter what age or stage they’re in. I feel like I’m experiencing everything for the first time again with my 1-year-old. Thanks for sharing your experience—this was very endearing (and funny too)!

  18. I love the last one and how you ended this. We really do learn so much from our children. They evolve, we evolve, it’s such an amazing circle.

    BTW, I have a similar conversation in #2 with my son when he comes home from preschool. :)

  19. Oh, exactly! I’m going to kindergarten graduation tomorrow and I’ve realized all these things too. (Also how overprotective I become when another little girl tells my daughter “I don’t want to be friends with you”. Grrr….) But you’re right…they can do this. It’s me I’m not so sure about! 😉

  20. Haha…. I love it, “nothing ever happens.” My oldest will be starting kindergarten in the fall and am looking forward to hear what she has to say about school, her friends, teacher and what she learned. My daughter is usually a chatty cathy, but I wonder if she too will learn “nothing.”

    • It’s amazing, finding out about my daughter’s day is like pulling teeth. Maybe I should pretend her school day is actually an episode of her favorite Disney Jr. show. Then I’ll hear ALL about it! Thanks for stopping by!

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