Click here to edKinder transition is a really really big step for our littleones. Some are ready and busting to go and we know when they are. It can be a beautiful and magical phase for the child. But it is also ok if your child isn't quite ready. 4 is still really young! Like anything with parenting, "When your child is ready it will be easy". There is a broad range of when a child is ready. Some 5 or 7. I like the recent articles that Finland doesn't start school till 7 and they have the best results in the world. Here I open your minds and hearts to being prepared for a gentle transition with your littleone so you are not pressured on the day.
To be prepared:
You can prepare your child through reading a story book about a day at kinder. Or playing it out with cars and blocks and dolls.
Have a plan B. What will you do if your child is crying and doesn't want you to leave?
Pause and sense what you are comfortable with. . It is ok for a bit of sad feelings when mummy leaves. It's a big step and change. You know your child better than anyone. You can feel if it will be ok or not.
If the teacher asks you to say goodbye and walk away with them crying, how does that feel? Terrible? Gut wrenching? This is your heart, your intuition speaking quite clearly. It's not right. Don't feel you have to. You have spent years and countless energy being there for your child building their trust in you and the world. You don't have to change that today. Kinders should be accommodating and gentle with your child's emotional and transitional needs. Would you want your child in their care if they weren't? Do they take him off you while he is crying and walk away with him, him reaching for you? Sadly this has happened to friends and is not uncommon. Once again you know your child. Tune in to your tummy and heart to know what you are comfortable with.
Now being centred and grounded, calmly voice what you are comfortable with and work out a strategy with the teacher that you are both comfortable with.
If your child starts to have nightmares and big changes in behaviour during the term, there is a good chance there might be some issues he is having at kinder. Explore and observe for yourself.
There is no need to force your child into a stressful situation in the name of "socialisation". Your child does not need "socialisation" for 7 hours with 20 other children so many days a week. It's not hard for bullying to arise in this environment. Big or small. 2 hours 1-2 times a week with a group activity, play date or small group of 3-4 is totally fine to develop social skills. Comfortable and secure, not over tired and overstimulated, with nurturing parents nearby to guide. Lovely.
There are other lovely options. Family day care with a smaller group. Just call it kinder! Homeschool groups gathering in the Forrest (we would spend at least 5 hours in the Forrest! or at a river on homeschool group days).
There are also beautiful home programs like wholefamilyrhythms or oakmeadow kinder curriculum. Cook together Monday's, paint Tuesday's, Forrest play group Wednes, music or dance class thurs, craft fri. It's an art to set a lovely and nourishing family daily and weekly rhythm at home. Bread making, nature walks, play dates. This can be a lovely nurturing time at home for the child if you feel inclined for that. Siblings really bonding too.
Our kinder journey
I was lucky to move interstate and find the most beautiful kinder. I cried when I saw it. The teacher was very experienced, wise and gentle. The first year at 3 he wasn't toilet trained so we delayed a year. So glad we did! He was no where near ready. A friend planted a seed in my mind about homeschooling and I noticed I tended to mostly connect with homeschooling mums I met in this new city. I started to think maybe I was actually one at heart too. A new thought for me. My son started to be interested in the book "a day in the Waldorf kinder" the following summer and started to put it down, pause silently and then say "yes I think I would like to go to kinder". Before the day I had a "going through the motions feeling". A sign I know as not going with my intuition. At the orientation morning my husband looked and felt physically sick like he was going to be ill all day. That was his intuition shouting. But still our minds wanted to give our son the opportunity at the beautiful kinder and we were happy switch to homeschooling if need be.
The first day he was very brave. He was excited and solemn at the same time. I went through the motions as happy as I could. He knew to hang his bag and go play in the garden. I went to say goodbye and he was silent. He lent his head to mine and walked off to the sandpit to talk to another boy. I knew he couldn't bring himself to say goodbye but he knew what he had to do. I went away feeling so proud of him. At pick up there was a melt down. A release of emotions he had bravely built up in the day. The next morning he wanted to come home with me. I lingered in the garden and then the teacher told me to tell him I was going to the shops and I'll be back. He sat at the bottom of the garden, cried, pushed me away. The teacher told me to not look back. I did and he looked at me with the safest face. Both corners of his mouth pulled right down.
I can't believe I walked away but I guess I respected the teacher so much. I asked another boy to go sit with him on my way out and he did. He sat on a rock all morning waiting for me.
The guilt I had after was awful. I couldn't do that again. The next morning in the shower I decided. I will trust my son. It felt so good throughout my whole body. Trusting him. If he chooses to have fun and makes friends in a lovely supported environment he can, if he would rather be at home he can. I trusted he would eventually choose having fun with friends. I went out and told him "I'm so proud if you for seeing what kinder is like. I'm sorry I walked away and I won't do that to you again. From now on if you want to come home with mummy you can. I went back and gently said to the teacher "I can't do that again, that's just not how I mother". She nodded and completely accepted my words. I then said I think if we spend time in the garden and go home and have a boring day he will love it and choose to stay. She said ok. And I respected her boundaries of when I could stay till and that I couldn't go on the morning walk or in the inside space. I then say in the garden each kinder morning. He would be sad when we arrived in the car park but then run out happily in the garden, despite no one playing with him and knew I was sitting at the door and would come back and check on me every now and then. Eventually with weather getting colder and painting in the mornings he was excited to go inside and paint. He let me go back to the car to get something. Then the school shop. Then when dropping him off toward the end of term and I said "can mummy go next door to the craft room?" He looked up at the sky paused and then said "yes" and ran off into the garden. We had got there. The next time he wanted to come home with me. I said to the teacher " it's always one step forward, two back". She gently smiled and said "but when he gets there it will really be consolidated. Unlike others that need to catch up inwardly". I'm very grateful for the space she held for us that term.
However, none of the children played with him, they called him annoying as he reverted to copy what children said in order to interact. "Don't play with him he's annoying" they would say if someone went to play with him. It was heart wrenching to see his polite attempts at making friends not reciprocated. "Hello. Would you like to jump with me". But still he was happy to go.
The next term week one, he was bullied. A group of boys decided to have fun with games that bullied my son. I was aware of the run away from him game, but he seemed ok and besides there was a slower boy running behind him. The teacher informed me of pointing and hissing at him at the bottom of the garden she put a stop to. Then I was watching like a hawk. They all had treasures from the garden with my son in the middle of the circle, offering them to him and not giving them when he reached. My son was smiling so I let it go a couple of minutes but then rolling him in the grass and taking turns dragging him in the grass was when I bolted for the teacher.
When I told my husband that night he said "he's just like his old man. I know that smile and what's underneath it" and he cried. He told me that little boys don't have epiphanies of let's be nice to him now and they will just get more sneaky. We met with the teacher and she agreed. She said he could see he was stressed by all the noise and stimulation in the room and he would take himself outside. Once I told her I was very happy to homeschooling she said she thinks that would really be in his best interest.
We pulled out and joined a homeschooling group. My son made a best friend which was so heartwarming and so did I in the mother. Our children adored each other for the rest of the year and we enjoyed play dates, dance classes and Forrest days with a lovely small group of mums and children each week. My son loved being at home last year and had a beautiful time with his younger sister.
It was a journey. The universe was guiding us. We found our way. I'm glad I could hold that space for my son. My son is now saying he would like to go to school. I know he would still find 20 children too stimulating and he doesn't understand 5 days a week. I tell him "Ok. I'm just waiting for you to be a bit older". And he says "ok mummy". Trusting in each other.
My daughter is completely different. She came and sat in the garden with me at the kinder. When we would walk out she would say "But I want to stay mummy and play with the girls". They have been gently parented exactly the same way. So please don't feel guilty if your child is not ready, as if it is something you have done or not done. Each child is just unique in their way