To the Parents Newly Entering the School System: You’ve Got This

I spent many years going to school to become a teacher. More specifically, a public school teacher. I wasn’t opposed to private or charter schools, but I did feel more of a draw for public schools. Maybe because that was my school experience, so that’s what I felt the most comfortable with? 

During my undergrad, I was able to spend time in around 5 different public schools and 1 public charter school in the Cache Valley, Utah area. It gave me a good look into the amazing, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our public school systems. 

When it came time to register my oldest for kindergarten, I was excited for her to start in a public school that I felt so drawn to! (For the record, I was open to her attending private or charter, but it’s not a feasible option in our current location.) We walked into the halls of the school on a mid-May day and could hear students practicing songs for their end-of-the-year program. We could physically feel the spring itch everyone had, ready for school to be out for the year so that summer vacation could officially commence. It made me so excited! We took the registration papers from the front desk, filled them out, and received all of the information we needed to know about the first day of school in the fall. 

The summer went on with constant excitement and conversation about starting school. I realized that as the day came closer and closer, the more nervous I felt. I tried not to let this show to my daughter, she was just one giant ball of excitement, and I knew if my nerves were showing, she would take them on herself, and that was something neither of us needed. 

Our school allowed parents to request teachers, but we were new to this town we were in and didn’t even have anyone we could ask for their opinions on which teacher to request! I assumed all four kindergarten teachers were probably amazing because it really takes an amazing human being to choose the profession of a kinder teacher. But when it came down to it, the reason I had so much anxiety about sending my daughter to school was the amount of control I had to give up as a parent. 

I’ve tried really hard not to be a helicopter mom to my kids and allow them as much independence as possible, which can sometimes be hard to do when you just want what’s best, easiest, and safest for your kids! However, research article after research article will tell you how important it is for children to have independence, opportunities for decision-making, and even moments of failure or risk. 

What ended up being the hard part for me was the fact that I had complete control over who was taking care of my children at any given time in their lives. Anytime we had babysitters, extra help with our kids, had to leave them overnight for something, or even just child care during work hours, I was always able to have a very large choice in the matter. When we chose a daycare for our kids, I took the time to tour and interview various daycares near us to choose which one I felt most comfortable sending my kids to. 

When it came time for my oldest to start public school, it wasn’t a matter of “tour various locations and interview many people to make the best possible decision.” It was a matter of, “This is where the boundaries say your child should go to school, so this is where you will go. Furthermore, we will assign teachers to the students.” 

Okay, it wasn’t that harsh. A lot of school districts will allow you to change schools and/or districts if you go through all of the right steps and paperwork. And they did allow requests for teachers. 

But in a large way, I really did feel like I was giving up so much of my voice and control over who my child spends time with and what she is exposed to all day every day by sending her to public school. It was daunting and anxiety-inducing. 

However, we are almost three months into it, and I’m realizing that it’s okay. 

It’s okay for her to be around a good diversity of safe adults within a public school. 

It’s okay for her to choose who to play with at recess. 

It’s okay for her to choose not to eat her lunch sometimes. 

It’s okay for her to grow and develop a relationship with her teacher, even if I didn’t handpick that teacher. 

So to all you parents that are new to any school system. Yes, even those that homeschooled for years and years and made the jump out of homeschooling and into public, private, or charter school. 

I see you. 

It’s hard and overwhelming to make this huge adjustment to your life. It’s overwhelming how many decisions are being made that you just cannot be a part of. It can be fearful to wonder what happens in those school hallways for all of those hours that you’re not there with your child, especially if you’ve been accustomed to staying home all day or most of the day with them. 

But it’s also so, so good. For both of you. And it’s okay for both feelings to exist at the same time. You’ve got this. 

Photo by Vlad Vasnetsov

Playing Preschool Round ✌🏽

A few years ago I started Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum with my oldest. She was about three years old at the time and I wrote my review on the curriculum here. 

And now I’m back in the same position with my second child, utilizing our Playing Preschool guide once again! We trekked down to our storage room in the basement and pulled out the tape, dot stickers, pipe cleaners, and paint. We even dedicated a little corner in our home and call it the preschool room! 

Our Melissa and Doug calendar is set up on the wall and we start off our preschool day with poems and songs just like we did in the past. 

This is my second time around with the Playing Preschool curriculum and I am impressed all over again! It truly is learning through playing. As Susie from Busy Toddler promises, there are no worksheets and nothing complicated. It’s just everyday supplies gathered and utilized to help little minds grow and learn. A few things I’ve learned the second time around: 

  • I’ve taken the pressure off of myself to accomplish every single activity outlined for the day. Some days we get through it all, other days I see that learning isn’t happening and we need to take a break for the day. 
  • The repetition of one unit for two weeks can feel really… redundant for adults. After the 7th day of the apple theme, I didn’t want to look at or talk about apples ever again! But the repetition for those preschool-aged minds truly is crucial for learning. 
  • One of my cons on my last review was the hard time I had finding books to use because the pandemic shut down a lot of resources for finding what I needed. However, this time around with libraries open, it’s been much easier. After going through each of these units a second time, I’m more aware of what the needs are with the books used and can change and adapt the books as needed. 
  • The most important part of the entire Playing Preschool curriculum is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong! 

Have you purchased Playing Preschool? What are your thoughts on the curriculum? 

Delaying Kindergarten for Boys? Does it Make a Significant Difference?

I’ve written quite a few posts on here about decisions centered around kindergarten, more particularly on when to send kids to kindergarten. There is so much research out there on what to do, especially for those late summer birthday kiddos. 

My second child is in a similar boat as my first, his birthday is in early August so he is right around the Sept. 1st deadline for starting school as well. If we were to send him to kindergarten when he is supposedly supposed to go according to these guidelines, he would turn 5 years old and then head to his first day of kindergarten just two weeks later. Some kids thrive under these conditions- i.e., my firstborn! For others, this sounds like an absolute trainwreck- i.e., my secondborn. 

We still struggled with the decision for a while, though. 

During our research, my husband and I ended up reading the book Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax, a great book full of advice for raising boys in the modern world. In the chapter about starting school, Leonard talks a lot about a study done on brain scans of male and female brains over the period of many years and the findings they had on how a male brain develops vs. how a female brain develops. When it comes to the part of the brain that has to do with attention span, reading, writing, etc., they found that the male and female brains develop at the same pace, but the male brain is roughly two years behind the female brain in this development. 

He is clear that this does not mean that one is smarter than the other, it just means they are different in how they develop. In regards to boys starting kindergarten he states, 

“Trying to teach five-year-old boys to learn to read and write may be just as inappropriate as it would be to try to teach three-year-old girls to read and write. Timing is everything, in education as in many other fields. It’s not enough to teach well. You have to teach well to kids who are ready to learn, kids who are developmentally “ripe” for learning. Asking five-year-old boys to learn to read- when they’d rather be running around or playing games- may be the worst possible introduction to school, at least for some boys.” 

He continues on with the subject and even states that more often than not, you’ll see the majority of boys starting kindergarten at six years old because parents are seeing the benefit of this “gap year” in their sons. 

This research seemed very interesting to me and in observing my own children, it made sense. At three years old my daughter was ready and eager to learn letters and numbers and how to write. At 3.5 years old, my son wants absolutely nothing to do with them and I am doing my best not to push anything on him until he is ready. 

What are your thoughts on sending kids to kindergarten a year later and giving them a gap year? Do you think gender, birth order, or other factors play into the decision? 

Cover photo from pexels.com

The Addition of Video Games To Our Household

When my oldest was born five years ago, I noticed a shift in how parents view screen time. Maybe it somewhat had to do with the fact that I had just entered the parenthood world, but since I had spent the previous four years very immersed in the school system as well as nannying for a local family, I felt like I somewhat had an idea of the screentime trends. 

I think what I was observing was 5-10 years ago parents started realizing the long-term effects of screens, smart devices, and video games were having on kids. I kept seeing movement after movement of, “screen-free summer!” and “let’s spend 10,000 hours outside instead of on our devices!” 

Which are not bad things to do! Spending time outside is a great investment. But where I find the fault is that we are blaming screens. 

I grew up in the 90s and we spent plenty of time playing video games and watching tv shows. We also spent plenty of time running the streets of our neighborhood until the street lights came on. That actually wasn’t a rule for us, but it felt very similar to how I grew up and fitting for the given situation. 

Looking back, maybe parents of the 90s would beg to differ, but I think we had a perfect balance back then. We were pirates and explorers by day, and Mario Kart racers by night when it was too dark or cold to be outside. The screens were not the problem! 

However, over time the use of screens changed and adapted and been used (and abused) more and more. So when my oldest was born, I felt such shame for using any amount of screens in her life. So much to the point that when we were visiting a restaurant one evening, their menu boards were big TVs, and as an 18-month-old she wouldn’t stop staring at them. I felt like a horrible mom for allowing her to do this. She wasn’t supposed to have any screen time! 

Looking back, I realize how ridiculous my thinking was. But with all of the propaganda out on social media (ironic, isn’t it??), I was sure any time spent in front of any screen for my child was certainly melting her brain. 

Over the years we tried many different approaches to screen time. My favorite was physically putting the remote in my child’s hand. I think the biggest downfall with this, though, was that there wasn’t a countdown or physical timer she could see that would indicate how much screen time she had left for the day, so she wasn’t able to properly time manage her TV access, which led to frustration. However, giving myself a break and allowing screen time in our home was a good thing overall for us. 

Around the time my oldest turned 5, the idea of video games popped up. My initial thoughts were, “No. Absolutely not. We don’t need those in our house.” But then I was introduced to an Instagram account that changed my thinking. 

@TheGamerEducator is changing the way we think and look at screen time and video games. She has shown facts and research on why video games are good for kids! She also promotes scheduled screen time and points out why kids are asking for screen time in places like Disneyland or the zoo, and why we don’t need to be upset about it. 

It gave me the right push to add simple video games into our home. And believe it or not, it did not cause instant tantrums or overstimulation. In fact, it caused A LOT of problem-solving skills to be utilized. It caused great fine-motor development. It gave my kids the opportunity to use their brains to move a joystick to control an object on the TV, something they’ve never had to do before, but something that takes a good amount of brain power in the beginning to use. 

And in the end, my kids are still spending the majority of their days outside running the streets and inside playing board games and toy trains. But they also have some fun, scheduled screen time as well, and it’s been amazing for our household. 

The amount of education kids can pick up from video games is incredible. However, please be wary and not buy into “this is an educational game.” If you want more information on what makes something an educational game or show, I would strongly suggest diving deep into @TheGamerEducators resources she has available because she can give you more information on it than I ever could! 

So let’s stop giving screens and video games a bad wrap. They’re doing so much more for us and our children than we even realize!

Are you a video game family? What does screen time look like for you?

A Kindergarten Decision

A while back I wrote a post about struggling with the decision of sending my late-summer birthday child to kindergarten this year, or holding her back for a year and waiting until she was a little older and more mature. 

My husband and I went back and forth on this decision for basically five years. No, I’m not even being dramatic about that, it really was something that from the time she was born until the day I sent her to her first day of school, we were going back and forth about when the right time was to send her. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that she would start kindergarten this year, the year she was technically supposed to start, not a year late. 

The majority of this decision was intuitive. We did look at research and listened to advice from friends and neighbors that had been in similar circumstances, but at the end of the day, we made a decision for what felt best for her specifically. In fact, a lot of the research you read online leans towards sending kids to kindergarten later/ when they are older, but ultimately it didn’t feel right for her. 

We even had a curveball thrown at us because initially, we were living in a school district with half-day kindergarten and plenty of familiar friends that would be in class with her so it felt safer. But through a turn of events, we ended up moving to a different school district and even a different state. The elementary school in our new location is full-day kindergarten, 4-day school weeks, and because of moving, no familiar faces. 

You would think it would be plenty of reason to delay kinder one year to give her and us time to make friends and time for her to grow and become comfortable in her new environment. However, at the end of the day, we still felt like we were making the right decision. I was nervous through the whole process, constantly wondering if we were making the right call. 

The first day of kindergarten came and walking her through the hallways of this new, big school, I still had the thought, “I could take her home right now. I can still put school off for another year. She doesn’t have to go to school right now.” Yet still, we put one foot in front of the other, and we were both as brave as we could be as we walked into that new classroom with a backpack full of crayons and pencils inside of her clear pencil box decorated with princess stickers. 

Okay, let’s be honest here. My daughter walked into that classroom as confident and excited as can be. I, on the other hand, was the one trying to put on a brave face. 

Even after leaving her at the school, walking out the doors, and calling my husband with a shaky voice on the verge of tears, I stood by my gut instinct that was telling me it was time for her to go to school. It was incredibly hard to have my brain, my heart, and my instincts all pulling me in different ways, where ultimately, all of them were the right decision. 

After the first week of school, I started feeling really good about our decision. And after a few months of school when we attended our first parent-teacher conferences, I approached my daughter’s teacher about the subject. I told her about our internal struggle of sending her this year to school or waiting until next year and was wondering how she was doing overall, not just how she was doing on her test scores. 

What she said next has stuck with me and helped me on the days that I doubt myself. She said, “You couldn’t have made a better decision for her. She is absolutely thriving in this classroom. She fits in so well with her peers, even if a lot of them are quite a bit older than her. Had you waited until next year, I don’t think she would have felt so at home and fit in as well. She would have been significantly older and struggled with friendships. And academically, she’s right where she needs to be.” 

You couldn’t have made a better decision for her. She is absolutely thriving in this classroom.

This was the validation I needed. I felt massive amounts of confidence after hearing this from her teacher. 

It was one of the hardest, more tearing decisions I’ve ever had to make for my kids, but I’m so happy I stuck with my gut and chose what she needed, regardless of what I wanted. 

Isn’t it wild that watching your kids get older and experience new things can be so sad and

I’m Back!

A family sits on a bed. A dad looks down at his daughter while a mom tickles her face. A son is seen in the middle, laughing. A newborn baby is held in the mother's arm.

Hello friends, I’m back! 

Maybe some of you didn’t even notice I was gone or missed me, and that’s okay. But to any of you faithful followers out there (we see you and notice you), I’m back! 

I took a break from writing for a short time this year while I had a lot of life changes I was dealing with. I gave birth to our third child in January, then moved to the state of Idaho later in the spring. 

For those that don’t know my background, I originally grew up in Eastern Idaho but moved to Utah when I was 18 to attend school at Utah State University. This is where I met and married my husband, Colby. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Language arts in 2016 and spent a lot of time substitute teaching in schools around Cache Valley after graduation. I obtained a long-term substitute teaching job in the spring of 2017 where I spent about 8 weeks teaching first grade. 

For the next several years I became a mom and went back and forth with substitute teaching when and where I could. However, for the past three years, I’ve been honored to be a part of the HonorsGradU team working on this blog and scholarship. This job has brought me so many opportunities to meet many other educators and learn from them, as well as become incredibly inspired by our scholarship applicants. 

I am absolutely honored to be back and writing again! I have great ideas and thoughts on new blog posts and series to write, so buckle up because here we go! 

Planting the Seed

Here is a brief list of book recommendations for early readers (PreK-2nd Grade). Stay tuned for more recommendations and more age groups!

Matilda by Roald Dahl

A cult classic for many, Matilda might be daunting for your littles to read on their own, but it makes a GREAT read-aloud! Trunchbull is a bit intense for some, however, so teacher/parent discretion is advised. Rewards for finishing the book can include chocolate cake and watching the equally classic movie adaptation.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

This book is a perfect way to teach kindness and friendship. After Jeremy Ross (or “#1 Enemy”, as he is known to the young narrator), moves in down the street, our narrator turns to his dad for help. The father has just the solution! A recipe for a pie that gets rid of enemies. But as it turns out, this secret recipe is much more effective at turning a best enemy into a best friend.

Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea

While it might sound like a potty-training story, Who Wet My Pants? is actually a story about how embarrassment can lead to anger, accidents can (and will) happen, and kindness is the best response.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

This book is required to be read aloud. No, really. The book starts off with, “Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. Side effects of reading this book can include uncontrollable giggles, choruses of, “Again, again!” from the kids, and not being able to take yourself seriously.

What books resonate well with your early readers? How do you encourage them to be excited about reading?