This month, I will send my baby to kindergarten. She is the youngest of my four, which means for her, going to Jefferson Elementary each day is old hat. The morning scramble followed by the walk to school is something she has been doing since she was a scrunchy-faced lump in the Baby Bjorn. Only this time, she’ll be staying.
The first day of school really does bring with it a paradox of emotions. On one hand, summer is looooong. What started out as a welcome relief from the structure and requirements of school life, turns into a sibling version of American Gladiators, brothers and sisters battling for position in the final Joust. The freedom to chuck the “rules,” stay up late, and turn every morning into a cartoon-fest quickly degenerates into a house full of zombie-fied kids and parents, none of which can function at full capacity. You start out wanting to give them a break from the academic rigor, you know, let kids-be-kids and all that…and you end up turning everyone into the walking dead. It’s not pretty. And so we begin to long for the routine of school.
On the other side is the feeling of powerlessness that creeps in when school starts. Your life, it seems, is dominated by homework battles, reading goals, music lessons and soccer practice. You feel as though you no longer get to decide how the moments will be spent with your kids. So then, when you are with them, your alter-ego (let’s call her The Despot) takes over, demanding each second be purposeful and productive. It’s not your fault, after all…if The Despot were to put down her guard for even a moment, the entire machine would grind to a halt. Your children would become members of society who do not play the guitar or wear cleats, who sometimes get Bs and who read less than a million words in one school year…and we all know where THOSE types of kids end up, don’t we? The Despot cannot let that happen.
And so, we have the dueling emotions. The love/hate relationship with school. The desire to keep our babies home, where we can stretch out the rest and the play, and delay the machine that is school. And in the midst of that, there is the part of us that celebrates the routine, and imagines lovely mornings spent writing and drinking coffee, in the quiet of a house without kids in it (this magical house is also without laundry or dishes, of course).
Ready or not, this is happening. This month, I will send my baby to kindergarten. So I have opened up the trove of school-themed picture books and picked one of my very favorites to share with you today. And hopefully, it will help us all as we navigate both the delight and the dread we feel as we get ready for the big day by asking this crucial question…
IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?
Written By: Audrey Vernick
Illustrated By: Daniel Jennewein
Published By: Balzer & Bray, June 22, 2010
Suitable For: Ages 3 and up
Synopsis: (from jacketflap) “Your buffalo is growing up. He plays with friends. He shares his toys. He’s smart! But is he ready for kindergarten? (And is kindergarten ready for him?)”
How to Use this Book with your Kids: If you have a child who is entering kindergarten for the first time, this book is a great tool to gauge how they are feeling about it. You can talk about the buffalo and all the silly things he does, and then ask them how they would feel if that happened to them. The buffalo gets messy during finger painting! Do you think you might get messy if you painted at school? The buffalo doesn’t know how to use scissors! Do you think there might be things you don’t know how to do in kindergarten? And if you want to go even deeper with your kids, or use this in a classroom setting, Audrey Vernick has an awesome discussion guide on her website that has tons of fun ideas, including curriculum-based projects for primary grades.
Why I Like this Book: I love the approach this book takes in dealing with the emotions of kindergarten. It is able to take something that can be scary for kids and make it accessible through the silliness of a buffalo. There are some truly funny lines in this book, which makes it entertaining for parents too, which is always a huge plus. And for our kids, a few readings will put them more at ease about going to school for the first time. If a buffalo, who is too large to play hide-and-seek, too smelly to sit next to at story-time, and too picky to share your lunch with, can make friends in Kindergarten, then there will be no doubt in your child’s mind that they can too.
Image Source:// Book Cover// Other is Author’s Own