Saturday, September 7, 2013

The first days of school

For most students, Tuesday was the first day of school. For our oldest son who is starting kindergarten this fall, it was indeed his first day. Or rather, a partial day. In advance of school starting, we were sent a packet by our son's new teacher that outlined a "meet 'n greet" day. So the Tuesday after Labor Day would only be a hour and a half long for the kindergarteners. The students were divided into groups and then each group was given a time slot. The instructions were that each child should come with a parent/care-giver only. No siblings. Hrmm. As someone who has worked as a classroom teacher, I get the one-to-one ratio and I respect what the teacher wanted. As a mom with a 16.5 month old, I was a little put out. Luckily, Bry has a flexible enough schedule working from home (most days) that he could take a few hours in the morning to watch the baby. Otherwise, I'd have had to find somewhere for the little guy to go.

It was a (mostly) fun morning. There was a point where all the kids got to go in a classroom and have snack and play. While all the grownups had to go into a different classroom and watch a presentation. No snacks. To be fair, a lot of it was informative, it's just that there was an inundation of papers and paperwork. But that's a school for you, I've been on the opposite side of that. The most important thing though, is that the boy had fun. He likes the classroom and he likes the teacher very much. In this day and age of modern technology, Bry and I are in communication with the teacher via email. She sent a couple of updates this week, just to let the parents know how the day was going. It has been a good first week overall. Our son came home each afternoon full of excitement and tales of his day.

Wednesday was the first full day of school and the day he rode the bus for the first time. He was very excited to take the bus. He likes the bus a lot actually, but then he's always loved large vehicles of any kind. That's a little boy for you I suppose.
We said bye, and he got on and never once looked back. I was so proud. I've worked hard to teach him independence. I've never wanted to be the mom whose kid won't let go of her clothes on the first day of school. Mission accomplished. Now to start working on the little one.

Something new for me this school year is making lunches. Some of you may know this already, but I am a terrible cook. There are very few things I can cook with success and never an entire meal. In our house, Bry does all our meals, he cooks the family dinner every night. So lunches are a new challenge for me and even though it's only been a few days, I think it's going well. I've been preparing food the night before and freezing the whole thing. I get it out in the morning and by lunch time, everything has thawed; I don't worry about freshness that way. He actually prefers his food on the colder side so it works for everyone.

Why don't I just give the school some money so he can have their food? I looked into it and spoke directly with the school's head chef, and what I learned is that they can't meet our son's dietary needs well enough. In a previous post, I talked about our sons' food allergies. Additionally, we are a vegan family which means all our food is plant-based. The head chef told me that the school is legally required to make sure each child leaves the lunch line with what they consider to be a "protein food". So for example, a hamburger. For a vegetarian, an example would be a cheese stick or yogurt. We don't do meat, eggs, or dairy so the two options they could provide for our son would be peanut butter and vegetarian baked beans. Two choices for lunch for the whole year? That would get pretty boring pretty quickly I think, and it's not enough variety to make a healthy diet. So, legally, they do have a lunch option for our son, but we have declined. The head chef and I both agreed it was best if I just made a lunch and sent it. I have to give her credit though, she really looked hard into the foods available, and the ingredients to see what would be acceptable. I appreciated that so much. She understands food allergies and actually has a child with food allergy herself. I feel like our son is safe in her cafeteria.

What I am doing is following their lunch menu. The school provides a menu for a month at a time listing all the choices every day. So, on a day when they are offering a chicken patty on a bun, I am sending him with a Boca Chick'n patty on a bun. Looking at the whole month, I have a safe vegan option that closely matches the choice for most of the days. I also include a vegetable and a fruit pouch and a thermos of soymilk. Our boy has been very happy with the lunches so far. I sent him with a meatless hot dog on Thursday and when he came home, he asked me how I made it taste so good. So at least my efforts aren't for nothing.

Best advice: Teachers and administrators tend to "get the glory" if you can even call it glory, but the support staff does so so much to keep the wheels of education turning. The secretaries in the office who know everything, the food service providers down in the lunch room, the custodians who make sure the school is clean and functioning, the drivers on the buses who make sure our kids get to and from school safely. These people are vitally important. Everyone working at the school deserves recognition and appreciation.

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