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Preparing for Kindergarten

How To Help Your Preschooler Prepare For Kindergarten

When I became a mother six years ago, I knew one day I'd have to hit the books right alongside my daughter. Although I used to bring home straight A's, I had heard enough anecdotes from parents of teenagers who found themselves flunking their homework helper duties to know my outdated education wouldn't get me far these days.

I just didn't know I would start falling behind when my daughter was only in kindergarten.

Only a few months into her formal education, my daughter began asking me questions in her tiny little girl's voice that I had no hope of answering.

I soon found out that what stuck with me from those good old-fashioned school days was more fond memories of friends, the fun and the hallway folklore than the actual facts I was supposed to absorb. Sure, I could help my daughter with her phonics, reading and counting to 100. But science? Geography? Social studies? Forget it.

I found myself grabbing her homework assignments from her and trying to read up at night so I could reinforce her lessons and help in her learning.

If you find yourself in the same situation, learn from my mistakes:

  1. Get the lesson plan from the kindergarten teacher at the beginning of each week or month. Read ahead so you can be prepared to help your child in the classroom as she progresses.

  2. Get involved in the classroom activities. This is the best possible way to stay up on what your child is learning. Volunteer to put together activities, grade papers or even feed the frogs. Do whatever it takes to get yourself into the classroom and learning alongside your kindergartner.

  3. Find your own resources. I spent some time scoping out books and Web sites to help me help my daughter. A few gems out there to help supplement learning beyond basic math and reading skills: the Magic School Bus series for science, Encyclopedia.com for great lookup features on all kinds of facts, and the Schoolhouse Rock CD ROM series for lessons on sound waves, electrical currents and more.

By using a combination of those tactics -- both inside and outside the classroom -- I'm happy to say my daughter and I successfully graduated kindergarten. For me, it was even sweeter the second time around.

The Pre-Kindergarten Parental Entrance Exam

Test your wisdom out on these kindergarten stumpers:

  1. What is the order of the planets in our solar system? If you feel really good about that one, ask yourself which one has "stinky air" and which one is "so hot you'd bubble like pizza cheese if you landed on it."
  2. Why does soap make bubbles?
  3. What's the difference between a cocoon and a chrysalis?
  4. What's the Spanish word for peanut butter?
  5. Did dinosaurs live where our house is now?
  6. How do dolphins breathe through their blowholes? Why don't they have gills instead?
  7. What's the difference between a prairie dog and a gopher?
  8. How do you turn oil into gasoline?
  9. Do spiders sleep with their eyes closed?
  10. Where is the hard stuff that makes deer horns before it comes out of their heads?

Here are a few extras that you might not think are part of the kindergarten curriculum, but you might want to consider how you'd answer:

  1. When you chant during jump rope, what comes after "Cinderella, dressed in yellow?"
  2. Why do some people always bring fruit for their birthdays and nothing good like candy or cupcakes?
  3. How do you know whom to marry?
  4. Why do some people pierce their tongues?
  5. Why do boys go potty standing up?
  6. Why do helicopters go straight up but planes don't?
  7. Why do crabs walk sideways?

Now, go study!

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