I’ve put two through elementary school and my youngest is right smack in the middle as a third-grader. These are the years of PTA/PTO meetings and field trips, room moms and lunch with your child. I was able to go into Ashley’s classroom last week to have a surprise party for their teacher. It was so much fun, but I could not help but notice how different it was than when I was in third grade back in the early seventies. Here are my observations on what things you can do for your child to make elementary school fun.
The thing you hear most about from moms is that dreaded first day of school. Mom may not be ready for the child to go, but if she makes a big deal out of it then her little one will most certainly feel her apprehension. Most children are naturally nervous about school also, especially if Mom has been able to stay at home and keep their child out of daycare. Whatever the case, make it easier for your child by keeping the conversation about school upbeat. Take advantage of “meet the teacher” day and take your child along. Nothing alleviates concerns and nerves like seeing the classroom firsthand.
You might live in a location where bus service is provided. For some parents, this is a necessity due to work schedules and travel logistics. For others, you have the luxury of choice. Do I drive my child to school or do they ride the bus? A couple of times a year we hear about an incident where a school bus is involved in an accident, but statistically speaking this form of transportation is much safer than your own car. My wife drives our little girl now just because it’s their preference, and they enjoy the time together each day. Some kids might like to ride the bus just to spend more time with their friends. Whatever you decide, this isn’t a topic that you need to stress about – both ways are fine.
You will be facing the school lunch decision – should I pack lunch or should I let me child buy lunch? Either way is fine, in my opinion. All schools have done a terrific job of paying attention to their meals and now serve an array of healthy choices that your child will be just fine with. They may be picky eaters, but they will eat when they get hungry. Sending a lunch every day lets you control (somewhat) what they get for lunch. If your child is like mine, there is a daily ritual of swapping grapes for chips, snack bar for apple, or sandwich for cookies. The biggest thing that you might have to worry with is if your child has food allergies; simply make sure your teacher is aware of this situation and that it is well-documented on your child’s enrollment forms. The only other thing you need to think about is what foods are allowed in snacks and lunches and what is not. Be sure to ask your teacher for guidance. It’s also a treat for your child if you can make time to have lunch with them occasionally. My wife does this from time to time and she is always entertained by what she sees.
When I was in school, I remember the wire-rack desks lined up in rows and a neat, well-kept classroom. Now desks are arranged workgroup-style, with six desks arranged to face one another making a sort of table that the children sit around. Kids are moved to other groups periodically to create different teams. The classroom was somewhat chaotic, with some kids moving about and other kids working on a variety of assignments. Many kids have a tough time in a rigid, inflexible setting so it was refreshing to see this kind of fluidity and loosely structured environment. Your child’s teacher may be different in their classroom, but I believe that this setting replicates the collaborative groups that are part of today’s information worker environment and is a change for the better.
In elementary school my children have enjoyed a number of field trips. There have been trips to the downtown science center, the “Pumpkin Patch” at Halloween, the zoo, the Golden Flake potato chip factory and the Bud’s Best cookie factory, the art museum, our symphony orchestra and the Children’s Theater. If you have the opportunity, sign up to chaperone your child to one of these events. Your child will feel special and you’ll have a ball with the rest of the children. This is also the time when they will be in programs and plays, and those will probably be wrapped around PTA/PTO meetings. Have fun with those, bring along the grandparents and make all sorts of videos and pictures.
I’ll sum this up by saying just enjoy these years. The kids are so sweet at this stage and their minds are thirsty for education. Make sure that you keep school fun by encouraging your child, being there at as many events as you can, and making a huge deal about their success and accomplishments in school. You are planting the seeds of that lifelong learner during this period.