This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

Do you want to know something that has made me a little anxious lately?  We are talking about school options for my firstborn…for next year!  It seems crazy that we’re already at that point with my son.  He’s no longer a toddler, let alone a baby…he’s a full-fledged little boy!  The idea of sending him off to preschool and kindergarten makes me a little uneasy and sad…people aren’t kidding when they say that time flies!  Luckily for us, there are a lot of great options and resources available.  As we are looking ahead to this new phase in our lives, here are some of the things we’re doing to make sure we are ready.

Research.  We want to make sure that the place we send our son is safe, fun and will offer some good educational opportunities for him to grow and learn.  We are taking a look and multiple different preschool options and asking if we can visit the program in action so we can make sure it fits his needs best.  Personally, we want to start with part-time preschool so that we still have time with him at home, but also are giving him the chance to be away from us and start to learn what it’s like to be at school for extended parts of the day.  A great place to start this research is the Early Learning Hub’s Preschool Section here.

Participate.  As a parent educator I’m very lucky in that I get the chance to learn about and facilitate multiple different parenting education curricula in the community.  There are so many great insights and tools that I get from these classes (especially READY! for Kindergarten) that I get to take home with me and use with my own children.  These classes are available throughout Marion and Polk County and offer lots of great ideas that you can use as you try to help your children get ready for preschool and kindergarten.  The Hub has a calendar full of events nearby listed here.

Prepare.  My wife is amazing about setting up playdates and doing fun, educational activities around the house.  This helps prepare my son for the social and academic parts of school that he will soon be seeing every day.  We feel that it is really important to emphasize the social and emotional elements along with the academic skills when preparing for school.  It is really difficult to want to learn if you’re having trouble feeling comfortable and regulating your emotions.  The Hub has a great list of kindergarten readiness skills here.

While I’m still nervous about the idea of my son being school-age, I know that we’re doing all we can to make sure he (and we!) are ready to hit the ground running when the new school year rolls around.  Thankfully we don’t have to go it alone as there are so many great options and resources out there that can really help as we lead our kids on this journey.  

This is fatherhood…