I held my breath when it was time for Adi, our middle daughter, to start preschool. When our oldest daughter, Wren, had started school for the first time, there was no doubt she’d be just fine. She was, after all, a rule follower and had already demonstrated a love for learning. Adi, on the other hand, was a button pushed, limit seeker, and spicy to say the least. We were’t sure how she’d respond to being in a school setting.
But after the first few weeks of preschool, I slowly exhaled as Adi showed us that she had followed in her sister’s footsteps and loved everything about school. She did promptly fall apart every day at pickup, but we thanked the stars above that she was able to hold it together during the school day.
Fast forward a year and we were preparing Adi to start kindergarten. Once again, anxiety settled in for me. Her preschool had been very nurturing and completely play-based. Wren’s experience in kindergarten had been the opposite of that. So as I watched the hours tick by until pick-up on day one, I worried.
Thankfully, when pickup time finally came, we were greeted by two smiling girls. Wren rattled off all of the details about second grade as we walked home. Adi remained tight lipped, not yet ready to talk about her day.
As soon as we got home, Adi asked to go to the playroom in the basement to get something. I saw her slip back upstairs a few minutes later with an Eric Carle book. I didn’t hear from her again, until she emerged in the kitchen where I was getting reunited with the packing lunches routine. She held up the book, began pointing to the words, and to my surprise read accurately. “Did your teacher read you that book today?” I asked figuring she remember the words from school since it wasn’t a book we read often.
“No. I just know how to read now,” she said before disappearing again.
A while later, my eyes wondered to the living room, where Adi was sitting on the coffee table, a small clipboard propped up on her knees. I listened as she coached her younger sister on writing letters and words.
Over the next few days, as Adi played, got dressed, or even used the bathroom, I would hear her reciting bits of songs and familiar books. “Trip trap trip trap,” she sang while getting into the car, a repeating line from The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Or, “wishy-washy, wishy-washy,” I’d hear her singing while coloring. I knew just what emergent story books her teacher was introducing to the class and my heart burst with excitement.
Then, today, Saturday-after the first full week of school, I went in search of Adi who had been far too quiet for far too long…usually a sign of trouble. I found her sitting at the small table in our playroom, her head resting in her hand as she worked on something. I tip-toed closer to see what she was up to and I saw that she had found a leftover writing booklet from Wren. She had drawn a picture and was stringing together letters and writing her words. I watched her for a few moments, her concentration was fierce.
In that quiet moment, I silently thanked her teacher for sparking this joy and love for learning and literacy so early in the school year.
This is my hope and dream for all kids.
This is the work of a school.