How to Ease the Preschool Transition

I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to ease the transition from Home-Safe-Home to Preschool for my daughters.  Every school has it’s own policies and recommendations for parents regarding the big “drop off” which can be equally painful for both mother and child.

We started our girls at a 5 days/week Montessori school two months shy of their second birthdays (both were born in October). Other families opt to keep their children home longer and when they do begin preschool, they choose schools with flexible scheduling — full days or half days and two, three or five days a week.  And still other families skip preschool altogether and choose to teach their children themselves at home.

The great beauty of living this life in the places that most of my readers are from is that we are all blessed with  options and have the freedom to choose what works best for our families emotionally, logistically and financially. Lucky us! Like I’ve said before, what’s best for your family is what’s best for your family.  🙂

During the beginning of my first daughter’s life, I worked very little and had the time and mental space to do all kinds of special things for her starting with her conception. I did everything I could to prepare myself physically and emotionally for pregnancy so that when she was ready to say, “Yes” to our conscious invitation to join us, her spirit would land in a body (mine) that was at peace and filled with welcoming love.  I practiced pre-conception yoga; I meditated and prayed for her; I received Mayan abdominal massage to ensure my uterus was in alignment; I walked in nature daily to connect with the divine Feminine.  You get the picture….

During her first two years, I collected hand-written blessings from extended family members and my step-daughter, a creative genius, put together a beautiful Blessing scrapbook; I carefully recorded all her firsts in an in-depth Baby Book replete with photos; and I prepared her for both the transition to preschool and the transition to having a sibling with picture books I wrote explaining what was about to happen.

With my sweet second little Love Nugget, my relationship with time and freedom and mental space has been quite different — starting with her wham, bam, holy-shit-I’m-pregnant-again conception to the stressful recession environment and health-challenged body she was born into. Most mothers aren’t able to match all they did for their first child with their second child. This reality compounded for me with the decision to go back to work full-time.

So bless my youngest’s heart (and mine), I still haven’t finished her baby book; I haven’t started her 1st birthday blessing book; and I didn’t put together an “Izzy’s Going to School” photo book for her.

I came close. Last week, during her school’s first parent meeting, I took photographs of her guide (Montessori’s preferred term for teacher), the guide’s assistant, and different areas of her future classroom — the tiny sink, the tiny toilets, the little shelves with objects for tactile exploration.

Instead of mirroring what I did for Sadie and putting the pictures on pages with accompanying text like, “This is the outside of Izzy’s new school called Butterfly Garden” and “Look at all the different things Izzy can explore inside her classroom” and reading her the little book for days leading up to her first day of school — I simply brought the photos up on my computer screen the morning of her first day and talked her through them.

Thankfully this school has given a lot of thought to what small children need emotionally — including their transition from spending all their time with their mothers (or fathers).

I’m so grateful for the process my girls’ school uses to help the youngest children transition to school with minimal upset.

  • First, they stagger the children’s start dates so that each new child has his or her own first day and can receive extra TLC from the guides if upset (versus having to sit alone and cry after drop-off because the guides are faced with ten upset children all coming to school for the first time on the first day)
  • Second, the lead teacher makes a home visit a few days prior to the scheduled start so that your child can experience her in the comfort and familiarity of family environment.
  • Then, the day before your child’s first day, they ask that you bring her to the school at noon when school is ending and when the children who have already started are walking with the guide from the school to their parents’ cars to reunite with their Mommies, Daddies and/or caregivers which is helpful for anticipating and knowing what will happen when she starts.
  • And finally, when it comes time for the First Day, they set up drop-off so that parents do not get out of their cars. During a fifteen minute drop-off time window, parents drive up to the designated spot in front of the school and wait in a line of cars for the assistant guide to come and in a very honoring way take each child out of his or her carseat and walk up the front yard path together to the classroom while Mommy or Daddy drives away.

Day one, little Izzers panicked when she realized that the guide was about to take her out of the car and away from me.  The guide carried and comforted her all the way to the school while she wept and I reluctantly drove away. One of the school’s office managers called me at work to let me know that she cried for less than a minute and was perfectly content the rest of the morning.

Day two (today), with nothing new to worry about, she proudly got out of the car, took the guide’s hand and wobbled up the path to the school with her gigantic bag on her shoulder.

Giant exhale from Mama.

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