Since I was five, “back to school” has meant my getting ready to go back to school.
I remember my mom making me try on all my fall clothes and then taking me to get new ones that fit my ever-growing legs.
I always got a new lunchbox, and when I was older, a new back pack.
I remember flash cards of words and flash cards of numbers and addition and subtraction.
There were spelling words to go over and multiplication tables to recite.
When I started teaching over a decade ago, I still bought new clothes and got a new bag, but instead of quizzing myself on facts and words, I was purchasing supplies for my own high school classroom.
These days I am not only getting myself ready to go back, but my three-year old, Eddie, is interested in school too.
There has been a lot of talk about school. He knows what school is because some of the kids at daycare go to school. He has even seen a classroom.
This year he begged for a backpack and he got one.
He was so excited about it that I let him pack it with “lunch” to take with him to my classroom while I worked to get ready for the school year.
We were not in my room 10 minutes before he asked to eat his lunch at one of the desks.
While he ate we talked about the things my students would learn. He was pretty interested in all the books we would read. That boy loves to read. So does his brother, Charlie, who is 6 months old.
My boys have been unconsciously preparing for school since birth.
Not only do we read a LOT, but in all our play we talk about how many of whatever toy we are playing with there are. We name the colors of toys. We pick out the biggest of the toys.
That is why stackers are so fun for the boys.
I can get both boys involved in this kind of play. Charlie likes to dump everything off the stacker while Eddie chooses the biggest, then the next biggest, and so on to put it back together. Both are working on special learning; both are working on fine motor skills.
Eddie also likes to count how many things have been stacked, tell me what colors they are, and tell me what the stackers look like (donuts, wheels, etc.). It’s an exercise in remembering facts, but also in using his imagination. Today he told me one part of their dog stacker looked like a yellow Lifesaver candy. I told him it was pretty big for that and he made up a little story about a giant eating it in church. So fun!
So while Charlie makes up stories and practices all his pre-school-type skills unknowingly, Charlie works on his fine motor skills by manipulating a bendy toy and a musical bell toy.
Or maybe he just decapitates the stacker dog when Eddie isn’t looking.
See? I teach them defensive skills too.
Next on my plan with Eddie? Sight words and simple addition and subtraction. And with Charlie…well, I’m just going to let him continue to try to sit up without getting a rug burn on his face.
What have you been doing to get your kids ready for school?!
Katie Sluiter is a freelance writer and teacher who should probably be grading papers or changing diapers but is more likely blogging, tweeting, or just overusing social media in general. She chronicles all this on her blog, Sluiter Nation.