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Sep 29 2014

For The First Time in Nine Years, I’m Not Going “Back to School”

By at 11:05 am

Newborn-playing

As soon as I discovered I was pregnant at the end of last summer, I set the wheels in motion to take a half-year sabbatical from my job teaching music, theatre and English at Maine’s smallest K-12 public school. We’re allowed a full year at half pay every seven years, but my family wouldn’t quite be able to swing that financially. Besides, between my six-week maternity leave, summer vacation and a four-month sabbatical, I piled up eight months of time at home with my daughter Penrose. The second half of the school year might be a nice break from around-the-clock parenting.

The word “sabbatical” is derived from the word “Sabbath,” and it’s supposed to be just that–a rest. In an academic or ecclesiastic context, you’re supposed to do something wholly unrelated to your job. But a public school teacher’s sabbatical is a little bit different. I needed to come up with a plan for somehow enriching the school. Writing a book and caring for a member of the class of 2032 wasn’t quite enough, so I’m going to be working on curriculum mapping and taking clarinet lessons.

School started the Tuesday after Labor Day. Ordinarily I’d have already been in workshops for two days, agonized over a bulletin board (cutting out letters has never been my forte), and picked out a back-to-school outfit. Instead, I woke up on a pee-soaked trundle bed next to a happily kicking 4-month-old. We weren’t on a schedule and we didn’t have an agenda, so I cleaned up and moved us into my bed to get a few more hours of sleep.  Read the rest of this entry →

May 27 2014

When Your Kid Gets Rejected From Jewish Day School

By at 12:03 pm

duel-school-family

We are a “dual-school family.” Our daughter is in 6th grade at the local Orthodox Jewish day school while our son is in 3rd grade at a public school.

We often get asked how this came about. I enjoy replying that when deciding which child should learn Torah, we picked our daughter as a corrective step for generations of reduced access to Torah by girls. But that’s really just a line. As with most things in life, there’s a longer story behind this–and as with much of parenting, our intentions only played a minor role.

When we were first considering kindergarten options for our daughter, we chose the day school. We had seen the way that graduates from the day school can navigate rabbinic literature, converse in Hebrew, think critically about moral issues, and behave generally as mensches. We decided that this upbringing–which I think is a more appropriate word in this context than education–was worth the high financial cost. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 25 2014

I Won’t Let My Fear of Travel Hamper My Son’s Curiosity About the World

By at 12:26 pm

road-trip

Growing up, my parents liked to take Sunday drives around the scenic parts of Connecticut: to watch changing leaves, visit aging relatives, drive over covered bridges. During one of these outings, I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, I asked my parents if we were in Texas.

Their shock and horror likely prompted them to make the generous offer, some years later, to send me abroad my junior year of college: a last-ditch effort to provide me with some geographical context. I declined, citing a commitment to my position in student government. Obviously the Brandeis Student Senate would suffer mightily in my absence. I stuck with that story, even in my own mind, for a long time.

All that year, I received postcards from friends in Israel, London, Spain, Australia. They told tales of impromptu weekend trips to Florence, milking cows on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and late-night rendezvouses with strangers encountered in youth hostels. What could possibly make me choose “Robert’s Rules of Order” over these exotic adventures? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 11 2014

Navigating the Elementary School Politics of Valentine’s Day

By at 10:49 am

Valentines-1

My first experience with Valentine’s Day was a perplexing one.

At the age of 7, I arrived in the United States (from the Soviet Union) with my parents on January 19. I started school. Less than a month later, everyone in my class gave me a flurry of pink and red cards, some of them heart-shaped. I didn’t have anything for my classmates, and I didn’t exactly know what was going on, in any case. So I came home and taped the cards up on my bedroom walls, like decorations. For the rest of the school year, people would periodically give me other cards, this time not necessarily in pink or red or heart-shaped, but looking enough like the first set that I dutifully went home and taped them to my walls, too. It wasn’t until I learned to speak (then read) English, that I realized the latter were birthday party invitations I had never responded to, and that the former were for something called St. Valentine’s Day.

It was a Jewish Day School, by the way, but, in subsequent years, I got with the program, never giving a lot of thought to what the whole experience is like from a parental point of view.

I’m a parent now. And here is something else I’ve learned about Valentine’s Day. It is even more complicated than I could have possibly imagined. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 4 2013

The Story of Hanukkah, as Told By Kindergarteners in Massachusetts

By at 11:09 am

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah, which means it’s not too late for your kids to find out what the holiday is all about (besides getting Hello Kitty socks, of course). Thanks to Kveller contributor Avital Norman Nathman for sending us this video made by the gan (kindergarten) class at her son’s school, Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA. Adorable kids talking about miracles–what could be better? Enjoy!

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Nov 5 2013

The Tooth Fairy is a Drug Pusher & Other Lessons from Kindergarten

By at 4:07 pm

tooth fairy

This week is Red Ribbon week at my daughter’s school, where they educate the kids on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She is in kindergarten. It had not yet occurred to me to talk about this at home, as she is 5 YEARS OLD–but she came home yesterday with some interesting things to say.

She was given a red bracelet with the red ribbon logo on it. She told me she was not to take this bracelet off or people would try to give her drugs. She also said she had to wear this bracelet while she was sleeping, or the tooth fairy might try to give her drugs as well. Hmm, when did the tooth fairy turn into a drug pusher? Things sure have changed since I was a kid.

Some parents in the class were upset that the school was teaching the kids about drugs at such a young age, and before they themselves had a chance to broach the subject. But I was used to it. When my daughter was in full-time daycare, the school did many things with her first before I did them at home; things like weaning from the pacifier, sleeping on a cot, and toilet training. I saw the teachers as experts–after all, they have training in this; I am just an amateur. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 18 2012

My Kindergartner’s Going to Teach Me All About the Torah

By at 10:16 am

alina adam's daughter's consecrationThe email read: You are cordially invited to your child’s kindergarten consecration ceremony.

“What’s that?” my non-Jewish husband asked, peering over my shoulder at the computer screen.

“Uhm…” I, his allegedly Jewish wife, replied, “I think that’s what Abraham did to Isaac on Mount Moriah.”

“How come they didn’t mention that in the Jewish day school brochure?”

“I need to do some research,” I said, followed by, “Good news!  According to this link: Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 15 2012

My Third Child Started Kindergaten (and I’m Over It)

By at 10:13 am

Adam's three childrenI recently sent my third child off to kindergarten. My only girl, my last baby, looking all grown up with her hair in a ponytail, wearing a backpack, clutching a lunch box. And I’ve got to admit, I’m feeling kind of… bored by the whole thing.

When my oldest went off to preschool for the first time, I read the handbook they gave us like it was The Holy Grail, terrified of making a mistake (oh, no, did I build the wrong kind of art smock?) and veering his entire educational future off-course for want of sewing ability. I attended every parent meeting and curriculum night. I volunteered for field-trips and saved his “report cards.” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 17 2012

Riding the Diversity Ticket All the Way to Jewish Day School

By at 12:12 pm

My daughter passed the grueling tests, and got into kindergarten!Last fall, I wrote about the hoops NYC parents jump through to get their children into kindergarten. We’re talking IQ tests, essays, interviews, applications, lotteries for applications, and then more IQ tests, because God forbid they should all accept the same IQ test.

The entire process lasts from approximately September of the year before your son or daughter would enter kindergarten through to the following spring, when private and public schools announce who’s been accepted–and who has been “shut out.”

My two sons attend an Upper East Side private school that is traditional and rigorous–and boys only. Which means, no matter how generous their sibling policy is, my daughter was out of luck. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 13 2012

Teacher’s Skirt is on Fire

By at 11:52 am

fire extinguisherEven by the standards of Waldorf School emails, it was serious. Something called “The Garden of Light” was coming. And to prepare for it, “children were not to wear loose flowing dresses and long hair should be tied back.” My daughter is pretty much basing her identity on long flowing dresses and her hair at this point, so this was not going to be an easy sell.

In addition to the ominous email, I was asked several times by Ronia’s teacher if I was going to be able to go. In general I feel like a slacker Waldorf parent, so any opportunity to curry favor is good. Plus it’s nice to see my kid during the day.

Before I left, I reread the email one more time. It was more ominous than I even remembered, directing us to sit apart from our children to maintain a festive atmosphere. My enthusiasm dimmed a bit; this would mean I would be sitting with other parents. Also, it seemed to imply that I should have dropped Ronia off as normal, instead of keeping her home and cooking pancakes to the 9:40 drop off time. Fortunately the previous Garden of Light was running late, I was able to get Ronia to class and hurry up to the queue of parents. I sat down on the only available chair and checked my smartphone email.

When the appointed time came we were led into an auditorium lit only by candles. The floor was covered in a spiral of pine branches, or as the email got me thinking, kindling. Read the rest of this entry →

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