25 October 2013

Practice Days and Big School

I've mentioned it a few (hundred) times here that the Little Man is starting his transition from peuterspeelzaal (toddler play room) to kleuterschool (preschool/kindergarten). In the Netherlands, school is compulsory once a child turns 5 years old but children can start attending regular school after their 4th birthday. Most people opt to send their kids to full time school when the child becomes a kleuter (a child between the ages of 4 and 6 years old). Every school is different, but it seems that at a majority of schools, once a child is enrolled as a kleuter they stay in the same class until they reach the American equivalent of Grade 1 (age 6 going on 7 during the school year).

To help a child make the transition to full day school, most schools have some sort of "practice" period in which a child attends their new class a few times before being thrown into it officially after their 4th birthday. That is where we find ourselves now as Little Man's birthday approaches in the next few weeks. He will have five practice days in total, and started the transition this Tuesday with a half day, and stayed for a whole day yesterday.

We've been talking up "big school" for weeks to help get everyone mentally prepared for this change, but that doesn't prevent the nervousness from setting in when it's actually time to start. Tuesday morning, we walked to school as a family and walked into the classroom. We introduced Little Man to his new teacher and found his coat hook and seat. You could tell he was nervous and starting to get a little teary eyed, but the teacher was great. She introduced him to the rest of the kids, asked if they remembered that sometimes it's scary to start at a new school (with a ringing response of little voices saying, "ja" (yes)), and said everyone was going to help be a new friend. When it was time for us to leave, Little Man didn't want to sit in his seat yet, so the teacher pulled him onto her lap as they started the morning routine. And we left (I was also a little teary eyed). When I picked him up at noon, he was doing fine and the teacher said he had a good first day, but I could tell he was exhausted. But a special treat of watching Curious George with lunch and a nap seemed to put him right for the rest of the day.

But oh, what a difference a day makes. Thursday morning came around, and while he was nervous when we entered the classroom, as soon as he sat in his seat he was fine. It was like he already felt he belonged there. By the time I picked him up, he was happy and excited about the day. The coolest part of the day? TWO sessions of buitenspelen (outside play/recess) and eating lunch AT school.

Seriously, who wouldn't be excited about TWO buitenspelens?
Image courtesy of  Apolonia - Free DigitalPhotos.net.

And while he had a regular session of peuterspeelzaal this morning, he is already looking forward to the next day of "big school."

So far, I have a good feeling about this. Little Man is excited, the teachers seem caring and positive, and the children in the class seem really friendly - after the first day, one of the little girls in his class recognized him at the playground and went running up to him. This would be a major change no matter where we are, but the additional language difference makes the whole experience a little stranger. I'm glad it's off to a good start, and looking forward to what the rest of the school year will bring.

What's you're experience with the transition to "big school?" Did you experience this change at home or abroad? Or are you anticipating a school transition soon?


  1. Yay! So glad it is going well. I cried and cried the night before B started. He wouldn't have friends! He wouldn't be able to talk to anyone! Ah, yeah. We all know how that goes. Good luck- hope it continues on a positive path. And yeah- lunch at school is awesome. Someday I will know what that feels like :)

  2. That is so sweet! Good luck, Little Man! :)

  3. How exciting! So glad you have good feelings about it and LM is excited!

  4. Really pleased to hear you have a good feeling - as a teacher, I would often have children a bit nervous at first but then as soon as they arrive they are fine. Even if there are a few glitches, it is all really normal! Will be thinking of you all!

  5. I'm hoping LM has the same level of success as B! It's just the start, but it seems good so far. Lunch at school is awesome. You'll have it someday, too =)

  6. Thanks, Deanna. I'm hoping the good vibe continues for a long time =)

  7. Thanks, Molly! Sometimes I think it's so early, but like you say, all those feelings and glitches are normal. And so far he's handling it well, so that's all I can really ask for.

  8. How did I miss this? So great he enjoyed his day. Kids are so much braver that us, go Little Man!

  9. Thanks! He really can't wait to go every day, which I'm really glad about.


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