Last week my kids went back to school. My son entered second grade, ready to learn “multiplication, division, and pretty much lots of math stuff.” He was hopeful that there would be ample time to read, and he was crossing his fingers that the rumors of hardly any free time were untrue. He got to play with Legos in kindergarten and first grade, so why should second grade be any different?
His sister was embarking on her elementary school career as a kindergartner, and with the confidence of a young sibling who had spent two years occasionally roaming the halls of the school with her mother, and had even eaten lunch in the cafeteria a few times, she bounded on the bus without looking back.
My girl’s number one goal for the year was to learn to swim better, which made me think maybe I didn’t properly explain what would be happening at school. I haven’t seen the curriculum, but the school doesn’t have a pool, so I’m not optimistic. She was worried that there would be more work and less snacks than preschool, and I assured her that her concerns were valid, but that she’s five now, and her spring birthday meant that we didn’t even entertain the idea of a third year of preschool. I’m thankful for two kids with spring birthdays, since preschool costs money, and we’re not rich.
If we were rich, maybe she could go to an elementary school with a pool.
The first two days of the school year my belly was in knots, and I thought about my kids all day long. What were they doing? Were they getting to the bathroom in time? Are they making new friends? Are those friends nice kids? Are their teachers seeing them as individuals yet, or are they still one big mass of wiggly bodies and enthusiastic interjections? Will these adults overseeing their education see how special my children are? Will they love them the way I want them to?
By day three, I was acclimated. The kids were coming home happy, but exhausted. Exhausted in mind and body, and completely weary of my interrogations.
“How was your day?”
“Who did you sit by on the bus?”
“Did you like your lunch? Did you eat it all?”
Last year it was easier to dissect the kids’ school day. My daughter came home at one o’clock from preschool, so she and I had two hours before her brother got home. Now I have both of them arriving home at the same time, and I want to know what their individual school days looked like.
I want to know what made them laugh.
I want to know what frustrated them.
I want to know what excited and intrigued them.
My generic “How was your day?” wasn’t getting it done, and it was time to switch tactics.
Now, I ask things like:
“Tell me something funny that happened today.”
“What work did you do today that was difficult?”
“Tell me one new thing you learned today.”
“Did you play with anyone new at recess? What did you play?”
“What did you talk about on the bus?”
“What is happening tomorrow?”
“If you could have changed anything about today, what would it have been?”
Some of these questions I save for the evening car ride when we pick their dad up from work. I get vastly more information from the kids in the car than I do anywhere else. It’s where our best conversations happen, and when they aren’t fighting over the broken McDonald’s toy in the back, I’m thankful for those 20 minutes every day.
Over dinner, we play a game called “High, Low, I.” We each share the high point of our day, the low point of our day, and something interesting that happened. We learned this game from some friends and their kids a few years back, and even though my husband usually hates having to go around the table and share (especially what he’s thankful for on Thanksgiving), he’s a willing participant in this sharing exercise.
I love that my kids are in school all day. I know that they are learning and growing and being challenged, and I think organized education is one of the most important things society has to offer. I thank God for the educators and school employees who make this environment possible for my kids, and I am happy to pay the taxes that fund our school system.
I just want a recap from my kids at the end of each day, and slowly, I’m figuring out how to extract that information as painlessly as possible. Maybe in a month or so, my kindergartner will even be able to tell me the name of her best friend.
Kindergarten, day two. Me: Who did you play with at recess? Daughter: One of my best friends. I don’t remember her name.
— Amy Flory (@FunnyIsFamily) August 28, 2014
How do you talk to your kids about school? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!