Kindie Survival 101: PAC Pressure

I will not deny that the Parent Advisory Council, or PAC, works their butts off every year to make amazing things happen for both the school and the students. Supplementing the school’s budget, the money raised by the school’s PAC volunteers allows our children to go on short field trips for little to no costs, have hot lunch programs, fun days, and more. I give mad props to our PAC for the work they do, so I’m not knocking them one bit.

All that being said, there’s a heck of a lot of pressure put on by the PAC sometimes to volunteer, go to meetings, and raise money. The latter, especially, is what gets me the most.

I understand that fundraising is the single-most important way to help our school acquire the things it needs, but the pressure is intense to pitch in and contribute. Whether it’s coupon books, flower sales, or coupon books, I personally feel compelled to at least purchase or donate something myself if I’m not going to hawk tickets and the like to family. (I hate asking people for donations most of the time as it is.) BUT – without raising money our school wouldn’t have many of the tools it needs to help our kids learn and grow. Whether it’s playground or gym equipment, tablets, or books, a lot of that isn’t obtained without putting a whole hell of a lot of effort behind fundraising.

There’s also a bit of pressure to volunteer your time, not just within PAC functions, but in the classroom as well. Having a younger child at home made for a convenient excuse, but there was always a bit of guilt when I couldn’t contribute.

I suppose that the point of this Kindie Survival post is to not feel pressured to do anything and everything when it comes to volunteering for the school, whether it’s in the classroom or for the PAC committee. Kindergarten is a huge learning process for both yourself and your child, and by no means should you feel pressured to do more than what you’re comfortable with. I ended up feeling satisfied with my contributions throughout the year, even though I didn’t raise my hand for every opportunity. I couldn’t chaperone field trips, but I pitched in a batch of cookies, veggies, and plates for classroom functions. I had no desire to volunteer with the PAC, but I did my best to help Isla sell raffle tickets.

It’s okay to take the easiest option if you want to, because even the simplest jobs are appreciated by the school and its PAC. Everyone really seems to work together as a community, and when that happens the kids benefit the greatest.

How involved are you with your child’s school? Or, if they’re not in school yet, how involved do you plan to be?





Kindie Survival 101: Birthday Bombardment

Once your child goes to school, gone are the days of simple, family gatherings celebrating your little bundle’s day of birth. Enter, you shall, the chaotic headache that is The Bombardment of Friends Sugar-filled Birthday Madness. Or something like that.

While policies and/or recommendations may vary on school and classroom, our teacher gently suggested that when handing out birthday invitations to please invite all children in the class if possible. If that wasn’t possible, hand invitations directly to parents instead of allowing your child to hand them out in class.

It sounds like a ludicrous request, I can understand where she was coming from. Feelings can easily get hurt, especially when a child doesn’t know why he or she wasn’t invited to so-and-so’s party. Their “best friends” also change on a weekly, if not daily, basis, so it’s hard to determine who’s “worthy” of that Golden Ticket.

But from the financial standpoint, it’s hard to invite nearly 20 kids to a party. For one, how does one host that many children all at once? Unless you live on a sprawling acreage, it’s nearly impossible. You could rent out a community hall, or head to a venue, but that gets costly and often has restrictions on how many people can attend. It helps on the whole “invite the whole class” issue, but what if your kid is a social butterfly and is (legitimately) friends with more kids than the cap?

Two, it’s expensive to feed that many mouths, even if you’re just planning on serving snacks and cake. You’ll doubt whether or not you’re providing enough food, but then again, are the kids going to stop socialized and playing long enough to even eat? (Answer: Most likely not unless it’s cake.)

Ultimately, who to invite to your kid’s birthday party is 100% up to you. Isla was invited to both “whole class” parties and “select few”ones and I never heard her question why she wasn’t invited to someone else’s. I’m sure this will happen one day, but I’m thankful we haven’t had to cross this bridge yet.

Another topic regarding birthdays to discuss is how to decide what to do if/when your child is invited to someone else’s party. Personally, it’s hard for me to say “No” to Isla attending someone else’s party unless there’s something else happening or she’s sick. Plus, Isla is always super sad when she finds out she can’t go to someone’s party. My solution is to try and open up her invitations and determine if she can go before she even knows what’s going on. While slightly deceitful, it saves headache and heartache down the road.

Also prepare yourself for getting more than one invite in a month. It’s up to you do decide if it’s financially and mentally worth doing. Much like hosting a party, attending multiple parties in a month is expensive if you spend $15-20 on a present per kid.

Everything about birthdays stressed me out way more than it should have, and I look forward to the day when my kids have a clear group of friends and I don’t have to worry about hurting a child’s feelings. I know there will always in inclusion and exclusion issues, but at least I will be able to pass some of that control over to my kids.

How do you think you’ll tackle birthday parties? Do you agree with the “Invite all” request?

Full disclosure: After numerous discussions and breaking down all situations, Kyle and I allowed Isla to invite her whole class plus a few close outside friends to her birthday. We hosted it at a venue and it was worth every penny because 16 kids attended and the craziness of that many 5/6 year olds was exhausting. We at least didn’t have to clean up most of the mess. Next year we’re aiming/hoping for a more intimate soirée.

Kindie Survival 101: Lessons in Lunch

As I celebrated the end of the school year, I was asked to share my thoughts on Kindergarten. By no means am I an experts, and everyone’s experience (and child) is different, but today I shall start a series that I shall unceremoniously call “Kindie Survival 101.” Part One shall be all about the dreaded school lunch.

The novelty of the hot lunch
In the beginning, there was excitement for packing lunches. I happily remember opening my lunch box when I was a kid and seeing all the delicious goodies my mom packed for me and rolled with that feeling. Fresh fruit, healthy sandwiches … Isla ate some pretty awesome meals, IMHO. I always made an effort to pack a healthy lunch without being too ridiculous because kids have their limits. (More on those “limits” later.) But lunch making gets old and the fun wears off in a damn hurry. Enter the amazing Hot Lunch program! Our school has a great one, and by partnering with various restaurants in the city I have the option to opt out of making her a lunch once a week throughout the school year. Except it’s DAMN EXPENSIVE. As in, $7-8/week expensive, depending on what’s up for grabs that week. While I felt compelled to let Isla have a hot lunch so she didn’t feel left out, there was no way, Kyle and I both agreed that we weren’t going to cough up that much for a weekly meal.

Our solution? We sat down with Isla and let her pick one meal for each month. (We had to preorder 3 months at a time.) We rattled off her choices for the month, and she picked out of the bunch. The beauty thing was that she felt involved and she actually looked forward to her hot lunch days. (And really, I did too because all I had to do was throw a recess snack into her bag and call it a day.) I don’t know how long we’ll be able to make this system work, but for her young, easily-influences mind, it worked like a charm!

Packing it up
I honestly didn’t do anything special in regards to how I packaged up her lunch, my main goal was to just keep things cold or hot. I even used the lunch kit she had during preschool and never really ran into any issues.

The best investment I made when it came to lunch kit gear was this LunchBlox system by Rubbermaid.* It fit perfectly in Isla’s lunch kit and the sizes worked great. I will, however, be searching for an alternative for her drinks as the popular reusable drink containers by the same company have silly rubber components that are very hard to clean. That being said – I do highly recommend using some kind of reusable drink container as tiny hands sometimes can’t manage straws & drink boxes.

I also bought a little Thermos for her to put the odd hot lunch from home in. Isla’s favourite? Ichiban!  I broke a puck in half and cooked it slightly at home before transferring it to her container and she loved it.

Another note: Have your little practice opening and closing their containers at home before sending them off to school with them! While classrooms usually have helpers during lunchtime, it doesn’t hurt to check!

No nuts/dairy/kiwi/fish/fun
I understand COMPLETELY the severity of food allergies, so packing an allergy-aware is completely understandable. Thankfully, there was no school-wide ban on any kinds of foods, but the school was nut-aware this year. There was a student with a nut allergy in the school, so while other classes could have nut products parents were asked to be mindful just in case. I did my best to make sure I bought peanut-free snacks for Isla, and never sent a PB&J sandwich to school. (Much to my laziness’s dismay.) The kindergarten kids were also explicitly told that they were NOT allowed to share food just in case.

If you’re not sure what your school’s policy is – just email your kid’s teacher or principal and ask. And if you’re still not sure, err on the side of caution anyway.

When they suddenly decide to stop liking certain foods
You know what’s great? When your kid, who has liked everything under the sun, suddenly decides that lettuce is gross and mustard is nasty. Kids will, without a doubt, become picky eaters and packing lunches will become that much more difficult.

Packing for picky eaters gets a lot more difficult if coupled with allergy bans on foods too. When I was a kindergartener a girl I went to school with ate only PB&J sandwiches. In today’s world, she’d probably starve. I think the thing to remember is, just pack things so they’re at least eating. If they only want cheese & crackers, then so be it!

Other things to note

  • Don’t ever think like you’re being judged for what’s in your kid’s lunch. Remember that other parents don’t see what you pack, just other kids. Isla came home one day and told me that Jimmy** had sushi for lunch “all the time.” I was impressed, mostly, but after chatting with Jimmy’s mom I learned that his dad is a sushi chef and can make a California roll in his sleep.
  • Start off packing more than enough food. They’ll burn lots of energy during the first couple of weeks and will likely be starving. When you start to see that food isn’t being eaten, dial things back and pack less.
  • Don’t get mad if they don’t eat. Kids get distracted talking with their friends and forget to eat, especially if they’re already slow eaters. I often had Isla eat the rest of her lunch after school if she was hungry. (Cold packs are a life/food saver!)
  • Make things easy to eat. Cut up fruit if you can, pre-peel oranges, etc. They don’t have much time to eat so any time spent on unpacking/peeling food is less time they get to actually eat before being kicked outside. Isla’s class ate their recess snacks inside before going out to play.
  • Toss drinks in the freezer for a 1/2 hour before throwing it in their lunch kit. It keeps the liquids nice and cold plus helps keep everything else cool too!

That’s all the advice I can think of – Feel free to ask questions in the comments below!

*Full disclosure: Opinions on products mentioned are my own and I was not compensated in any way.
**Name has been changed