Wednesday, June 21, 2017

School Days - SK Edition

Another school year has come and (is almost) gone.  The last day of school is next Thursday and most of the school days left are field trips, parties, and outdoor activities.  E had another great year at school with some challenges. (Senior Kindergarten is equivalent to Grade Primary.)

His teacher was great, a huge improvement over his first year, and we were impressed with her level of communication with us.  She actually sent us emails (group and individual) that let us know what was going on, she set up the Seesaw App where she posted photos and videos throughout the week for parents to see, and they did a lot more activities outside of the school.  E knew about half of the kids in his class when he started and then fairly quickly learned the rest of their names.

Even though we kept E enrolled in the before and after school care (otherwise we would be forfeiting our spot for September 2017) I tried to pick him up at dismissal twice a week.  Since I was in the school yard at pick up time, I got to meet a few more of the parents.  I also tried to walk him to school more often when we had the time and the weather was fine.  Maternity leave is great for spending time with the baby, but also a good opportunity to spend more time with your older kids if you've got them.

The Kindergarten curriculum is play based, which I'm sure you're all familiar with.  I have no problem with it in theory but for E, it meant that he did not spend time in school practicing his reading and writing.  For some kids, they will intuitively work on these things and catch onto these concepts in the play based environment.  We could see other kids' school work up on the walls in the classroom or through the teacher's posts on the Seesaw App, and that they were well ahead of E in terms of their reading level and writing ability.  It wasn't until the parent teacher interviews in February did we finally find out that parents are responsible for the fundamentals like writing letters and numbers and reading; the teacher is responsible for socialization and overarching concepts.  I felt like this was something that we should have been told when we started the year.  As I said, some kids will just figure this out on their own but for other kids, like E, with no one making him correctly practice his writing and introducing him to reading on a constant basis, then he wasn't doing it on his own.  The teacher said (and fair enough) that her curriculum does not allow time for her to give out pages of letters/numbers for kids to copy out and practice.  She did provide us with some good links for worksheets and we printed these off and E does them on an almost daily basis (full disclosure, and no shame, we totally bribe him with iPad games or TV shows if he does a sheet or two of writing practice).  We also started working on his reading, although not as much as we should be.  I wish we had started this last year or certainly at the beginning of this year but it had been my (wrong) assumption that he would be taught this stuff in school.

Although there are some tasks that everyone in his class has to do, it seems like there is a lot of the day where the kids get to choose what they want to do.  We were constantly seeing pictures of E building with blocks and other materials, but we didn't see participation in other areas.  There would be different artwork up on the wall but rarely any from E.  He didn't seem upset by it, but we thought he was missing out because he always had the choice of playing with blocks instead.  We would have preferred the teacher to direct him to certain activities.  I remember asking him why he didn't try out the sewing station when it was set up, and he said "because I'm not good at sewing".  I said, "but have you ever tried it?" and of course the answer was "no".  So that concerned me because he was choosing to only do the things he thought he was good at rather than being encouraged to try new things.  I know there are 30 students in his class, and the one teacher and one ECE can't work individually with every child, but I think this is a downside of the play based learning environment.  I'm hoping that next year there will be more streamlined activities and E can see that he is capable of doing a lot of things, not just playing with blocks ;)

This was E's first year taking French Immersion and he has definitely caught onto a lot of French vocabulary.  I was able to dust off my French and have basic conversations with him that he understands, even if he isn't always able to answer in French.  He really seemed to enjoy the language, which is good.  One of my concerns with French Immersion at such an early age was that he would get frustrated with not understanding, but he did really well with it.  I have heard from other parents that the expectation is for the kids to start putting together simple sentences by Grade 3 so we shall see how that goes.

Many people say the transition to Grade 1 is tough, even for the kids that can read and write well, so I will try to remember that next year and just try to stay on top of what's going on in the class so there are no surprises at the February meeting when the year is half over.

Overall, E loves going to school and being happy about school is more than enough for now!

You can read my post about our JK experience here.


  1. This is a great idea for a post! And yes play based learning has some disadvantages for sure. Love that they started him with a few French words. Will set him up well for grade 1 that's for sure!

  2. Wow--that's different from here in Saskatoon. Here, we have 1/2 day kindergarten, no pre-k (the same as when I grew up outside of Toronto in the 80s). Kindergarten is for learning letters and sounds. It is play based. Grade 1 is for learning to read (only in French, until grade 3), and it is taught in school (with reinforcement at home, of course).

    I think that the school should have been MUCH more up front with you about the expectations of work and home. And honestly, I think it's a bit ridiculous that there is an expectation that kindergarteners will have a certain level of reading and writing at the beginning of grade 1, but that it's not taught in kindergarten! That seems nutty to me--the school should be teaching those basics, not the parent. There should be little to no work at home outside of full day school for small children, other than reading. Augh! I would not be impressed.

    My oldest is in grade 2, my middle boy is in kindergarten. I now request information about how my child is doing much earlier in the year, after finding out at the end of grade one that my oldest was reading much below grade level. I had no idea it was that bad. I'm now much more proactive about understanding where my child needs to be academically throughout the year.

    As a parent who has no prior involvement in the school system, I don't think it's your fault that you did not know that you should basically be teaching your kid to read at home even though he went to school all day, every day, for the whole year. Honestly, I would be pretty upset.

    Good luck, school issues are nutty.