The squeal and laughter of children splashing in the pool have given way to the laughter and squeals of children playing on the swings and running across the playground. The ding-a-ling of the ice cream truck's bell has given way to the ring of the bell announcing the beginning of the school day. Somewhere (but not in Southern California, it seems) leaves are starting to turn, the wind is picking up and it's fall. Back to school.
I meant to write this when Brooklyn finished her first week of school. Needless to say, I blinked and a month had gone by. If I am not careful and blink again, it might be Christmas. So finally, over a month after school started, here we are. (Brooklyn told me that she has had 20 days of school.) Of course it goes without saying that school is not the same as it was 30 years ago when I was finishing kindergarten and starting first grade. (Has it really been 30 years? Yikes.)
Here are just a few things I've noticed over this first month of being an elementary school parent. My apologies if you recognize yourself in these generalizations, or if I touch on any over-sensative nerves, I really mean no harm. :)
Homework - Yup, there's homework.... in kindergarten. At the beginning of each month, we get a calendar and each day has an assignment. At the end of the month, we turn in the packet and B gets a grade. The good thing is that B likes to do homework and asks if she can do it each night when we get home. But seriously.... homework... in kindergarten? Is this really necessary? The jury is still out.
Oversleeping - The alarm goes off and up we go. But what do you do if the alarm doesn't go off? ARGH! It took us about a week and a half before we slept through an alarm. I'll admit, the alarm is on my side of the bed, but in my own defense, I'm pregnant and don't sleep well. So when I can sleep, I take advantage of it. Also, we're getting up an entire hour earlier than we did for preschool. Somehow, the alarm either went off and got ignored, or didn't go off. Up we rushed (B actually slept in too) and ran to the shower, hurried through breakfast and lunch packing and off we went to school. I think I deposited B inside the gate just as the first bell was ringing. Phew! We made it, in about 20 minutes, start to finish. Not too bad for a couple of rookies.
Backpacks - Backpacks have changed over the years, just like fashions, but a couple of things strike me as just plain odd. The first is parents that carry their child's backpack. I'm sorry, but is it really that heavy? Is your child really that tired that they can't lug their bag themselves? (And let's review.... it's likely that a large majority of the students get dropped off within 100 yeards of the school - and then there are those that walk from home in the neighborhood.) Still.... let the kid carry the bag. Luckily, in kindergarten, there isn't much too the backpack. A lunch, a snack, some papers. In a year or two, some books, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, B carries her own bag. It's part of the allure of being a "big girl," one of those things she will just have to do for herself.
On this same page, we now have those bags with wheels. I can understand if the bags are heavy, you might want to put some wheels on them, so that the kids (especially those walking to school from around the neighborhood) don't put their backs out lugging around all that extra weight. But are all those wheels really necessary? I only ask because last week, as I was walking B up to the gate, several boys with backpacks on wheels went running through the cross-walk, tearing around anyone in their path- and then held up traffic when the backpacks flipped over on the back side and they had to stop to turn them back over.
Fundraising - My, how things have changed. I don't remember selling anything in kindergarten. My first recollection of fundraising was magazine sales in the 5th and 6th grade. After that, it was a free for all. These days, fundraising starts early. Some of you might remember B selling wrapping paper in pre-school, and now, the wrapping paper sales continue into kindergarten and beyond. On top of that, there's PTA memberships and scholastic books and spirit wear and all sorts of things. The beauty of it is that somewhere along the way, someone decided to give parents the option of just donating cash. Someone (dare I say, a genius?) figured out that some parents may not have the time or energy or even desire to peddle their kids door to door in the neighborhood, or to foist them on friends and relatives, and would prefer just to write a check. Someone figured out how much the school needs in donations per kid and parents now have the option to just donate that amount. Simple. Beautiful. Smart.
School Pictures - back in "the day," parents got the word about when pictures would be taken just so that they could dress the kids appropriately. Pictures were taken, packets sent home a few weeks later and parents would shake their heads in horror or disappointment over the mediocrity that was "school pictures." If you were lucky, a reshoot was made available for those really bad ones, but essentially, you were stuck with the pictures and whatever package Lifetouch offered. (And yes, I vaguely remember, it was Lifetouch who did school pictures.) It is still Lifetouch, but things have changed. These days (at least at B's school), we get a notice about a week ahead of time. The notice includes a website and the website includes options for packages. But even more than that, we now have background options - over 100 different styles! Suddenly, the school picture has morphed into so much more. I'm not sure I can handle the pressure. What happens if I buy a package and don't have enough pictures? What happens if I prepay for a package and B's picture isn't any good... and how on earth do I choose the backgrounds when there are so many choices?
I had more tidbits to comment on, but I'm getting antsy from sitting so long and so will have to cut this one short. Maybe next time I'll comment on the SUV brigade, the moms who drop off their kids dressed to kill in heels and a sundress, the event that seems to be drop-off (complete with the coffee clatch,) the parent valet volunteers, the kids still crying about going to school in the third week, and the green-yellow-red discipline system. I know you are all on the edge of your seats. Until then, you'll have to be content with the smell of paste and crayons wafting through the air and the whisper of misbehavior following along behind it.