The Insider's Guide to School

1st-grade Priorities

First graders

By Meagan Francis, mom of a preschooler, a second-grader, a fourth-grader, an eighth-grader, and a tenth-grader; Saint Joseph, Michigan

Don't Stress Over:

Friends When my son Isaac was in first grade, he nonchalantly (but repeatedly) told me he had no friends. Then I visited his classroom and found that he was swarmed by buddies. The lesson I learned: First-graders are still figuring out what friendship means. When my fourth child, Owen, was a first-grader, I noticed his "best" pals changed from week to week, and I was wise enough to keep to the sidelines.

Missed days We'd planned an exciting trip two years in advance for the one week that our extended family could all go together. I felt sheepish about pulling Owen out of school for it, but his teacher reassured me that family comes first. (Having older children, I can also tell you it's a whole lot easier to make up missed lessons in first grade than it is in fifth grade.)

Chapter books Owen learned fast in first grade, but I knew better than to feel smug. Despite all the flash cards and phonics worksheets I forced on my older son Jacob, now 15, Jacob didn't read well until he was 8, at which point he became a voracious reader.

But Do Consider:

The party-invite tsunami Big birthday celebrations at bowling alleys and laser-tag centers are a Huge Deal to 6-year-olds. I should've stocked a closet with inexpensive gifts. I also would have been wise to tell Owen early on that it's okay to sometimes say, "No thank you." Now, when Owen receives a party invitation from a child he's never mentioned, I know that the event probably isn't important enough to disrupt our weekend family time.

Team sports If your kid has a strong desire to play, it's smart to get him started in soccer, hockey, baseball, or lacrosse now. This is especially true if you live in a sports-minded community. Owen is our most athletic child, so he is trying out a variety of organized sports.

An evening routine With three older kids, I should have known better, but I didn't carve out time for Owen to read his "book bag" books and complete worksheets until October, when unfinished reading logs and missed assignments had piled up. I'm making a note to remember to do so starting from Day 1 when my youngest child enters first grade.

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