Preparing for Kindergarten

430_4125188Preparing for Kindergarten

With summer fast approaching, I can’t help but think about all the things we have done, and still need to do, to prepare for kindergarten. We are first timers in the school enrollment process, and as with most things I have recently endeavored to accomplish, there is so much more involved than one would initially imagine.  From forms and dates to supplies and new people, school is no joke. If your little one is getting ready to begin the thirteen year journey, make sure you know these five things to help get them off on the right foot.

1. Enrollment.

You must provide five documents in order to enroll your child into CMS- The New Student Enrollment Form, which can be found on the CMS website, Birth Certificate, Proof of Residency, Immunization Records, and a Health Assessment from your child’s doctor, performed within the 12 months prior to entry. According to the NC State Law, children must be immunized to attend public school. The current required vaccines include- 5 doses of DTP/DTaP/Dt/Td, 4 doses of  Polio, 3 HIB, (not required if the child is entering CMS for the first time after the age of five)  3 Hep B,  2 MMR, and 1 Varicella. If your child’s immunization records are not provided within the first thirty days of school, your child will be excluded from school. These documents can be submitted to any CMS school, any CMS Learning Community Office, or the CMS Student Placement Office by May 15, 2015.

2. Dates.

The most important date is your child’s birthday. They must have turned five on or before August 31 in order to be able to attend kindergarten. This has been a hot topic of discussion among my family and friends. If your child’s birthday is near the cutoff date, it is up to you whether to enroll them, or to wait another year. My son missed the cut-off by three weeks, so this has never been something I have had to ponder, however for many parents it can be a serious decision. Some of the biggest factors to consider include their preschool teacher’s recommendation, your gauge (because mother knows best) on their mental, physical, and social maturity, and whether you have a boy or a girl. Of course every child is different, but these things may help guide you in the right direction. Among the reasons to enroll are- your child is at the high end of maturity among their preschool peers, and their teacher says holding them back could delay their growth, bore them, and potentially lead to behavioral problems. Reasons to wait- Your child is of average, or below average maturity, the teacher says you should probably hold off another year, or your child is a boy. Scientific studies have shown that boys’ brains start the process of reorganization and maturity later than girls. As a teacher I see this almost every day. Girls tend to be less rambunctious, more empathetic, and capable of focusing for longer periods of time. Boys have their own set of advantages, but when it comes to the classroom, waiting another year may help them lead happier lives. When any child is pushed too far beyond what they are mentally or socially ready for they can become frustrated, resulting in disruptive behavior or avoidance. No parent wants their child to dread going to school, and no parent wants weekly phone calls from the teacher, reporting “bad” behavior.  Although saving $6,000 or more on childcare sounds tempting, or necessary, if your child isn’t ready, find a way to make it work for one more year.

846_3849275Other Dates-

New students may begin enrolling for the 2015-16 school year:  mid October 2014

First day of school- August 24th.

3. Transfer/Reassignment and Lotteries.

If you are not fond of your child’s home school, or feel a Montessori or magnet school would be a better fit, you can enter the CMS school lottery. The first lottery has already come and gone for next year, but the second lottery application period begins March 9th, and lasts through June 5th. Notification letters are then sent home in late June. If you do not get into the school you were hoping for you can then request a reassignment. Reassignments and transfers are only considered if there is a medical need, if you are a CMS employee, if there is extreme family hardship, or if you are requesting your home school. Documentation is required to prove these things, and placement is still not guaranteed. Additionally, sending your child to a school other than home school can come with other rules and potential problems to consider. For example, a student must remain in good standing according to the Code of Conduct to stay at the new school, it can affect athletic eligibility, transportation is not provided, and many schools do not accept any transfers due to over-crowding. Also, from a parent’s perspective, a child may be unhappy not being at their neighborhood school, with their neighborhood friends.

Request for Transfer period for current CMS students and students who future enrolled by January 12, 2015December 5, 2014 – July 16, 2015

Request for Reassignment Period for the second lottery:  June 22, 2015 – July 16, 2015 (Once families receive their Student Assignment Notification letters, they may go online to submit a Request for Reassignment/Transfer)

If families wish to be considered for placement in a school other than the home school, they must submit a request for reassignment within 10 days of enrolling.

4. ASEP.

Another thing to consider is before and after-school care. CMS offers an After School Enrichment Program, provided at most schools. This program provides homework time, physical activity, clubs, games, art and music, and more. There is a $25 registration fee. The price is $76.00 a week if enrolled in both the before and after school programs. Depending on your child’s school’s bell schedule before-school care only can range from $20-$50 a week, and after-school care only ranges from $35-$65 a week. These fees include all activities and a snack.

5. The Teacher. Butter her up. Trust her. Appreciate her. Ask her questions. Empathize.

If your child has been in preschool, it may not seem like as big of a deal for you to entrust the care of your child to someone else for 7-10 hours a day, because you’ve already been doing that. However, once their official schooling begins, teachers are responsible for a lot more than play time and snacks. Your child’s kindergarten teacher can pave the way for the rest of your child’s journey. She can set the tone for the remainder of their school days and instill in them a love of learning. She assesses their ability to read, do math, and interact appropriately with their peers, among many other things. She can recommend testing for, or placement in, gifted child programs or tutoring. While many of us remember kindergarten as a time for coloring, stories, recess, and naps, these days there is much more weight placed on early childhood development. The first state End of Grade test is given in third grade. If students do not pass this test they may be recommended for retention, or slated for remedial classes. By sixth grade students are often placed into English and math classes based on previous EOG scores, grades, and teacher recommendations.

430_4125139(1)Whether your child ultimately ends up in pre-college programs, honors classes, or foundational level classes can sometimes be traced back to the education they receive at home, and in their early school years. With all of that being said, trust your child’s teacher. I have never met a teacher who went into the teaching profession because she liked to see kids struggle. Teachers do the best they can with what they are given. If your child’s teacher calls or emails home to let you know your son or daughter is having a hard time working well with others, trust her. If she says your child seems to have trouble processing information in traditional ways, trust her. If she says your child seems bored, anxious, scared, aggressive, rambunctious, or timid, do not blame her… trust her. It can be hard to hear not-so-positive things about the centers of our universe, but sometimes teachers see a side of our children we never knew existed. Sometimes being in a new environment, with new children, and a new adult can bring out an aspect of their personality of which we were unaware. Instead of brushing it off or assuming that with 20 kids in the classroom she must just not really understand your child, ask her more about it.

Public schools often get a bad reputation for not seeing students as individuals; for treating them as a herd to move along steadily until the next herd shows up. But in my experience, this is not accurate. I personally teach 91 kids and I feel like I know every single one of them as individuals. I know something personal, something unique, about each of them. So for a kindergarten teacher of 20, I am fairly confident that they see your child and understand your child better than you may think. If she says something you think sounds odd, or off, set up a conference, ask questions, explain what you see at home, and together figure out what is going on. You must adopt a teamwork mentality with teachers if you want to best help your child succeed. Also, start the year off right by attending Open House, and Back-to School night events. You will gain valuable insight. And bring a box of tissues. Not for you, well maybe for you, but more for the 20 grubby, dirty, messy, germy, little delights your child will be sharing a room with all year. Teachers love tissues.

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Alyce Aiken

Alyce Aiken

Alyce Aiken is the mother of a charming, rambunctious five year old boy. When she is not taking care of him, she teaches English to her other 91 kids! Originally from Ohio, she has called Charlotte home for nine years now. She loves food, live music, red wine, good books and bad television.