Mrs. James offers advice for parents of kindergartners.

Dear Mrs. James,

You often say that education begins at home. My son struggled greatly in math and my daughter is showing the same pattern already. She just started kindergarten this year and I have been working with her every single day. However, I think I am overwhelming her. She's in school all day and I'm drilling her all night! What things should I be doing at this stage in her education to teach and support her but not drive her insane?

Sincerely,
Kassandra Bishop

Hi Kassandra,

I appreciate your honesty! In addition to saying that education begins at home, I often say that parents know best! If you think you are overwhelming her, you probably are.

Kindergarten is an amazing adventure, filled with new and exciting things! It's the beginning of her education and you want to start her off on the right foot. You don't want to discourage her or put unnecessary pressure on her, because that will only produce reluctance and anxiety later on in her educational career.

I love that you are working with her at home, but you've got to stop the boot camp! You can still work with her, but keep it simple, make it fun and incorporate it into your daily life vs. creating your own mommy school. At this point, you just want to wake up her mind. Get her thinking mathematically, if you will.

For example, let's say you're making a snack for your daughter and her playmates. Ask her, "How many crackers do we need so that each of you can have two?" This isn't drilling, but it gets her mind thinking in a mathematical way and she may not even realize she's learning. Play counting games in the car or as you walk the dog. "Let's count how many dogs we see between home and school!" Or, "Let's count how many trucks we can see on the way to the store!"

You can also create patterns out of objects such as buttons, stones, or bottle caps and ask your daughter to repeat them. Again, this just wakes up her mind and that's really all you need to do math-wise in kindergarten. If you need more ideas, e-mail me! I'd love to talk to you further. Until then ...

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

My son goes to kindergarten next year and he's never been to a preschool. I'm really nervous about his development because of that and it scares me that I could have made bad decision by not sending him. I worry all the time. What things can I do to help him adapt to kindergarten next year and when should I begin?

Thanks,
Seika Hashimoto-Hill

Dear Seika,

Don't be nervous, dear! Preschool is wonderful, but I know Harvard graduates who never stepped foot in a preschool. Relax.

Preschool can be helpful, but the fact that your son missed out on it isn't anything for you to have to see a therapist about! Relax. Trust me, he can totally catch up and he won't be the only child in his kindergarten class next year who didn't attend preschool.

I believe that the most important skills children need to learn before entering kindergarten are social skills. Children should know how to ask for what they need, express his or her feelings verbally and negotiate with other children. They should also be able to sit and focus on what the teacher is saying (at least for a while), wait their turn and share with others.

FYI-Your son may be able to do all of the above at home, but completely change around 20 other 5-year-olds. I think it's important that you work on these social skills at home and around others. Schedule play dates, send him to some day camps and get him used to being around other children. Many churches around the city offer a Mom's Day Out program where you can drop him off for the day at the church for activities, fun and socialization.

Try this for now and if you have more questions, let me know! Until then ...

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James