10, 9, 8.... a few days ago, the countdown began. School was starting in a week or so and to add to the chaos, our new kitchen windows (at long last!) would finally be coming in from the factory. This is the last installment of our 9 months of work being done on the house. It's been worked on since January, from the inside out. Our bathroom got a facelift, our garage got new siding, the old boards on the house were replaced, small repairs made, our whole little bungalow now painted a cheery, bricky-orange color. The windows and a screen door for the back are the very last things on our once-long list.
And, of course, the work on the windows would start the day before school begins as well. Just because life is messy and doesn't like to shake out her linens much-- life seems to like things crumpled up and folded on each other instead of lying smoothly. Sometimes, I really do wish I could take steam iron to Life, press it flat and readable instead of being stuck with so much of it-- gobs of it-- that my arms just feel full trying to gather it all up and figure out what to do with it.
Enough with the fabric of life stuff... in any case, being that I am a planner to the nth degree and that I have learned that I cannot control people, but I can most certainly, all preschool-teacher-ish, control the environment, that is the direction I usually go in. The devil might be in the details, but if one is examining the details -- really questioning and scrutinizing--one might be able to flush the devil out. Or at least give him less hiding places.
I call this the pre-season season, because much like spring training for major league baseball, this progression to The Season has become its own event. My brain has been humming as my life is filling in the blanks to the question "and then what?" and my days have been busy as I act on the answers.
Here's a great example: the kitchen nook where we eat and do homework is getting a new casement window. Okay, this seems mundane but it is something to cheer about because I will now have a kitchen window that actually opens easily. (read: without swearing or sweat). That said, the crank of the window needs to be accessible, and so the chest of drawers we've had in front of the old, crappy window must be moved. To where? Good question. How about that spot in the living room, near the door? We can remove that other small two-drawer thing with all our outdoor clothes and put them in the bottom drawer of the chest.
But the chest has also got a lot of the things we need for homework. What about that? Thus, I begin to reevaluate the homework situation. Like many young kids, Kiddo is easily distracted and so sometimes homework can take a loooong time, mainly because we are looking out the window or the guys (our friendly carpenters) are walking through or we just have too much going on. So~ maybe the dining room is the place to do the homework? The table would face a wall which offers far less visual distractions than the big picture window. (I've had to close the curtains during homework time on more than one occasion.) And if we use the dining table, of course we'll need a protective cover for it, but we'll also need to center it to that wall, so that means we need to move the small 'nature' table we have... but move it to a corner where the stereo speaker is-- hey, set the speaker on part of it and there's enough room for a basket with pens, scissors, glue stick, etc.-- now we have a little area for homework supplies....
And so, all of this unfolds like an onion, layer after layer, moving things to solve one problem and then figuring out what other considerations must be kept in mind. This extends beyond the material as well... because it's not just the environment that needs my attention, it's also the structure, the routines of our day that also need review. For instance, last year Kiddo attended half-day kindergarten, which, in my opinion, was a good choice for our child and our family. But now he'll be in school a little over six hours a day. That's a long time for both of us. I have goals for this winter which I want to work toward: more walking, prioritizing a few projects, volunteering in the school library again and finishing a very large project there I began last school year. Plus all of that daily housework-type stuff. Plus, this summer I learned a very important thing about Kiddo, too, which is that he does fairly well with schoolwork if you sit with him and help him stay focused.
That, in itself, means that I have to imagine what our 'after school' time might look like. As I consider the expectations of the first grade teachers (reading 20 minutes a day, for a start), I realize that much of the time between school letting out at 3 and starting dinner around 5 is going to be gobbled up quickly. Lingering to play at school playground, the walk home, a snack, homework... all these things take time. Which means I'll be prepping dinners earlier in the day, no shopping or doing housework or anything like that. Just getting a (likely exhausted) Kiddo from point A to point B with the least conflict, stress or drama possible.
Honestly, I am expecting a couple of very hard months as Kiddo readjusts to these new expectations. I am expecting we will all go to bed a bit earlier because hard times for our children usually mean hard times for the parents as well. Everyone gets stretched and frankly, stretching hurts a hell of a lot at first. We will be more supple as we roll into winter, but autumn challenges me to think ahead, predict which areas of life will be problematic and to try to troubleshoot as we go forward.
It's Labor Day weekend and tomorrow is Monday, the last day before all the action starts. We'll be moving more furniture out of the way, the banging and hammering (and swearing, likely) will begin on Tuesday as the new windows find their new homes, then school begins the next day. Our school was getting a new roof this summer-- thanks to those who voted for that bond measure-- and those roofers are working on a tight schedule, so no Meet and Greet with the teacher the day before school. Kiddo is going in cold, but I'll pack him a tasty lunch and hope for the best.
The Pre-Season is winding up and the Season starts too soon. In the meantime, we are also prioritizing fun. Yesterday we went out to the country for a friend's birthday gathering: Kiddo played ball with our friends' dogs, built forts, and the adults just did what we often do-- hung out and just chatted, catching up after too long. Today, too, we're going to enjoy ourselves. I'm taking Kiddo to the nickel arcade and hopefully the afternoon weather won't be too oppressively hot so that we can enjoy the park on the way home. I'll be trying to schedule some fun into our upcoming days....
Do you have any secrets for helping kids transition from summer laxity to school time? Leave a comment and share your tips with us. We are all still learning, aren't we?