Parenting children

N.’s First Day of School

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Today was N.’s first day of school! In our part of the world, school starts at the end of October.

Also, since kindergarten here isn’t considered real school (although they do learn their letters), their first real day of school is first grade.

N. was pretty excited, and I have to admit – so was I! She had a great time picking out her Strawberry Shortcake backpack, and she was over the moon about the matching water bottle. She’s so happy about the smallest things: her new crayons, eraser, pencils, and pencil sharpener were precious even though they weren’t especially fancy.

She’s always happy with even the plainest things. She spent the next hour saying “Thank you Mommy for the new school things!” and giving me kisses.

I couldn’t help looking at her hefting that weighty backpack on those thin shoulders without thinking about how much she’s been through, and how far she’s come.  I kept glancing at her, thinking, “Could this be the same girl who 2 years ago didn’t even know what a slide, or a bathtub, or a cat, or a tree looked like?”

And even though we still have a ways to go, I’m so thankful at how much her determination and will to succeed have brought her to where she is now.

I’ll of course continue to work with her, since I know she’ll need help. But sometimes she surprises me. When she came home from school, she already knew all of her letter sounds. She’d learned the names of the letters in kindergarten (I personally don’t like that method, because it’s often harder for kids with LD to learn the alphabet that way), but I didn’t imagine she’d catch on so quickly with the sounds.

Mainly my job now is to get her used to doing homework at a regular time, and to teach her how to unpack and pack her backpack, so it will be ready to take back to school after she finishes homework. Right now she can’t wait to do homework – she’s actually been “finding” homework to do just for the fun of it. That won’t last long, I’m sure J.

The other thing I’m working with her on is teaching her to walk to school with her little sister without me.  Where we live it’s the standard that any child over the age of 4 goes to school by themselves. Last year all of her friends went to school by themselves, or with an older sister. It’s safe, and they generally ask someone to cross them.

Still, being an American, I can’t possibly fathom letting her go alone. She seems- is!-so young. But I recognize that it would be good for her to be more independent, so we’ve reached a compromise of sorts. For now, I let her pick up her sister from her classroom, and walk one block (which is a closed street). I’ll meet her at the end of the block, and take them the rest of the way home.

Little by little, I’ll use backwards chaining to teach her how to go to school on her own, though I’ll probably insist that she walk with a group of girls. And maybe I’ll walk secretly behind…

Here’s how it works:

First, I’ll let her walk one block on her own. That means that I’ll walk her most of the way, then watch her walk that last block on her own. BTW, if you’re also teaching an older child (or even special needs teenager) how to travel on their own, you should always work backwards, gradually increasing the distance they go as time goes on, and you see they’re more proficient.

One or two walkthroughs is certainly not enough, and I wouldn’t let a child go on their own anywhere (putting aside the problem of kidnappers, molesters, and other hazards) until your child has made several runs with a “tail” checking out how they do.

Then we’ll work on crossing the street. Since I’m not letting her cross the street on her own, this means that she has to ask an older student or an adult to help her cross. I want to make sure she asks, and doesn’t assume she can make it without help, and I want to review stranger-danger rules as well. She still has boundary issues, and is sometimes too friendly.

At that time of day it’s fairly safe, since there are hundreds of girls going by at the same time, and the older children naturally watch after the younger ones. Still, I’m not taking any chances.

After that, I’ll add on a half a block at a time, until we cover the whole distance from home to school. Once she can do that well, I’ll do a few dry runs, where she’ll walk to school with me a good distance behind her (but within shouting distance).

As I said before, she’s only 6, so I’m not letting her go by herself, yet. But I do feel it’s important for her to at least know how to walk to school on her own.

How are you helping your child become more independent? Share with me in the comments below.




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  • Rachel Nov 6,2011 at 8:33 am

    Yes, we do. I remember walking to and from school with my little brother, and having the crossing guard help us cross. It’d be nice if there was one here, but there isn’t.

    Of course when we lived in NY, I didn’t ever let my kids out of sight. What a way to live!

  • Laughwithusblog Nov 4,2011 at 5:10 pm

    You must live where it is very safe. I’m probably overprotective but I won’t even let them play in the front yard with the neighbors unless there is an adult watching them. 🙂

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