In a few weeks, my 6-year-old son, W, will embark on the grand adventure known as The First Grade.
This is incredibly exciting for me because I have very fond memories of my own first grade year, and I’d love for W to experience the kind of magic and wonder that year held for me. My teacher, Mrs. Jones, was almost storybook in her whimsy. She had a delightful English accent, drove a turquoise Yugo, and her husband was a bee-keeper. I’ve been telling W about how much I loved first grade for weeks in the hopes that he will catch my enthusiasm.
He sort of has. But he’s also got anxiety.
Last year W attended a small charter school. Kindergarten was a lot of fun for him, but the school was very nontraditional. All of the kids in the school knew each other and he did well within their curriculum. I decided to keep W at the charter school, even when we moved in the middle of the school year.
And here we are, ready for first grade. There are two elementary schools near our new home, and we won’t know which school W will attend until the end of the month. They are both great, but they are both very different from what W is used to. It’s the size of the building, the number of students, the traffic around the schools, the cafeterias, the gyms.
I can’t instantly make his anxiety disappear, but I’ve been working on ways to get him ready for first grade. Nothing huge, nothing drastic, mostly foundation level work on which he can build.
1. Encouraging him to make new friends at camp
One way I’ve helped him transition to our neighborhood, and possibly these new schools, was to enroll him in a local summer day camp. All summer he’s been going to camp with kids he doesn’t know. Most of the kids seem to have grown up together and it has been a challenge for him to connect and make buddies, but he’s doing it!
I’m hopeful he will recognize “making new friends” as a skill and find comfort in that during the first week of school. It would be a nice bonus if any of his summer camp buds are in the same class.