Parents Trailing the School Bus (and Other Back-to-School Excesses)

Hi Folks! I have a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal:“When ezfndnekyr
Separation Anxiety Goes Overboard.”
 It’s about the way the advice-o-sphere manages to turn the first day of school into a super-dramatic, super-traumatic event that requires the kind of preparation once associated with storming the beaches:

“Practice how you will say goodbye,” urges one of the zillion or so websites featuring first-day-of-school tips.

“Goodbye!” Hmm. That just doesn’t seem very difficult to me. Maybe I’m heartless. In fact, I know I’m heartless, because I never bought a “Nesting Heart.” That’s a toy made by a company called Kimochis that is meant to “help ease the separation” when you drop your kid off at school.

How does it work? “Your child can take the inner Heart to school and you can keep the outer heart at home,” says a Kimochis news release. “Create a playful ritual for separating the hearts at drop-off and putting your hearts back together at pickup. Reassure your child (and yourself!) that the Nesting Heart keeps you connected even when you are apart.”

Oh yes, how incredibly reassuring it must be as junior watches you—playfully!—break your heart in two. But at least this psycho-toy lays it on the line: Mommy is incomplete whenever she’s not with you, and you are incomplete without mommy. Got that? Now go have a great first day!

One of the things driving parents, and of course kids, crazy is the way every childhood event has been elevated into a difficulty only to be surmounted with products, classes and heaps of expert advice. Back-to-school now proudly takes its place in that pantheon, alongside babyproofing the living room and the Decameron that is packing for camp. – L

P.S. I know the link only gives you a few paragraphs, at least for the first 30 days. But if you’re a subscriber, you can read the whole thing. Very sorry it’s not visible to all!

Yes, some parents actually follow the bus to school, to make (telepathically?) sure their kids are safe.

104 Responses to Parents Trailing the School Bus (and Other Back-to-School Excesses)

  1. Melissa Jeffrey September 5, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    While I think it is ridiculous to buy one… I really appreciated the “kissing hand” a kindergarten teacher helped make with one of my kids. Its from a book if the kid or mom get sad about being apart they can put their hand that mommy kissed up to their face. And mommy can put her hand up to her face…

    But no, I would never follow the bus… and didn’t take pictures of my high schoolers on their “first day” of school…

  2. backroadsem September 5, 2012 at 2:41 am #

    Having taught 1st grade, all I can think about the Heart toy is how it will probably wind up in my desk after Junior keeps playing with it instead of listening to me. Great job, parents. Keep sending toys to school when the teachers don’t want them there.

  3. Mike September 5, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    To see the full article, go to google, search for:

    When Separation Anxiety Goes Overboard

    Then you can read it all.

  4. C.J. September 5, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Wouldn’t a toy so you won’t miss mommy draw more attention to missing mommy? If we make a big deal out of them going to school and missing us they will miss us more and not be happy. Even if a child does cry at first most of them stop after mommy leaves. They get distracted by the other children and the fun things the teacher is doing. Having a toy to remind them of mommy will just distract them from learning and the fun they could be having.

  5. therese September 5, 2012 at 3:01 am # I have followed this lady for 5years now. This recent post with all of the pictures and her decriptions made me think of you and wanted to share!!!!

  6. Suze September 5, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    I used to go to a coffee group every Tuesday morning at a local church. I remember the women who ran the group had an only child and some of the other women were talking about how it had just been this women’s child’s first day of school (JK) They also mentioned that she got in her car and followed the school bus. The next comment was “oh well, he’s an only child”….

    I’m the parent of an only child and neither my husband or I did anything like that albeit our child walked (we didn’t want him taking the bus as it was only two blocks and either of us were there in the morning to do it plus we thought it catered to laziness living that close to the school) Not only is following the bus helicopter parenting gone crazy, it sure doesn’t make the parents of only children look very good and stereotypes us 🙁

    @ Melissa….. the only pictures I took of my son going to school were his very first day of JK and then I stood him on the exact spot on the step his very last day of high school and took his picture. I’m with ya, sistah !!!! 😛

  7. Lisa September 5, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    How long until the nesting heart gets recalled for being a choking hazard?

  8. Renee September 5, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    My youngest went to Pre-K today, he was in the same classroom for his IEP last year when he was 3. Now my youngest has a delay in development, he is about a year behind. I asked him, if he wanted to walk him into his room. He response, “NO!”

    I told his teacher at the front door, I was not coming in with him.

    So awkward as parents walked into the school with cameras in hand, and I left a four old (with developmental delays) to make it on his own to the classroom.

    We always had an open house/orientation, and they still do. It is unclear why parents feel the need to make such a big deal over their first day of school.

  9. pentamom September 5, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    Melissa — that “kissing hand” thing sounds like a great idea. The biggest advantage I can think of over this silly “nesting heart” thing (besides being free) is that the whole nesting heart thing assumes from the get go that there will be some kind of trauma (because you have to go out and buy it in advance), and it will be needed, and then you hand it to your kid and tacitly communicate, “Here kid, you’ll be traumatized, this should help.”

    The kissing hand thing is just a sweet thing to do, and doesn’t imply anything devastating is going on, and then if the child feels the need, he can remember the “kissing hand.”

    I also like backroadsem and CJ’s points — one, that you don’t want to give your kid junk to play with in school, and also that giving them something sets them up in advance to think they’ll need it.

  10. Emily September 5, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Ugh, following the school bus is just nuts. Not only does it obstruct traffic, thereby making it even MORE dangerous than just staying home and trusting the bus to get your child to school safely (especially when home and school are only two blocks apart), it could also destroy a kid’s self-confidence, to see Mommy or Daddy’s car following the bus to school, by giving them the idea that their parents don’t think they can handle travelling on the bus alone. Besides, even if everything isn’t okay on the bus (like, if a child is getting bullied or whatever), it’s not as if the parents can see inside the bu.

  11. Mimi September 5, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    I guess I’m heartless, too. I tell everyone that today (our first day of school) is the best day of the year. I often get comments like, “oh, I love my kids,” as if my comments means I don’t. I am regularly using the line, “I am teaching my kids to be more independent” whenever I get slack of letting my kids out of my sight.

  12. Emily September 5, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    ^I meant to write “It’s not as if the parents can see inside the bus,” but there’s a problem with the website–the blank for my e-mail address was partially covering the comment window, so I couldn’t see what I was typing.

  13. mollie September 5, 2012 at 3:27 am #

    “Mommy is incomplete whenever she’s not with you, and you are incomplete without mommy. Got that? Now go have a great first day!”

    Ha! Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell! (heartshell?)

  14. Andrea September 5, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    Seems to me that it would cause more problems than it would solve. I remember being young and being dropped of for kindergarten and my mom was perfectly nice about it, but it was clear that it was what was done, so I got on board.

    I feel like if she had given me some sort of “nesting heart” to “reassure” me it would have freaked me out that kindergarten was this terrible thing and a huge deal and probably would have made me sad. Instead my mom said she would pick me up in a few hours, so I thought, “Cool, see you then,” and went about my business knowing she’d be back to get me.

  15. Lollipoplover September 5, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    Mimi, I am heartless too. I break out the champagne after watching the kids ride off to school to share with neighbors and sing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. Stalking a school bus (we don’t even have one!) seems like a symptom of a mental disorder.

    As for the stupid heart thing, most of the teachers in our school have a firm NO TOYS rule starting in Kindergarten. There is a box they call the “June box”. They warn you once and if you bring in the toy again you won’t see it until June, when school ends.

  16. Chihiro September 5, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    I’m going to totally ignore the ridiculousness of the entire issue, but my question is…why the ever-loving frig would you get in your car and follow a schoolbus?! This doesn’t make the slightest shred of sense! Why wouldn’t you just drive them yourself?
    I’m sorry, I honestly can’t understand the logic behind this.

  17. Joy September 5, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    I don’t have any issues with a parent of little kids following the bus to school the first day or even the first week. Maybe they want some pics, or to meet the teacher, or just need to feel their child understands the routine. It certainly is less helicoptering than those parents who refuse to use the bus etc. Not everyone’s child is entirely confident and extroverted at 4 or 5 and able to navigate a busy new school alone that is crowded with back to school traffic. Is it somehow “anti free range” to want a picture of your kids going into there first day of school?
    Sadly schools and buses do make mistakes as we experienced with our 5th grader last week. He was told by the transportation monitor to get on a wrong bus. He told her he rode another bus yet she insisted and forced him to ride the wrong bus. Thankfully the driver brought him home (late) and I called the school and got an apology and had him assigned to the correct bus. It was a learning experience for a 10 year old and no harm done but for a younger more sensitive child not a great way to start the school year.

  18. backroadsem September 5, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    “How long until the nesting heart gets recalled for being a choking hazard?”

    I suggest we start placing bets on this.

  19. backroadsem September 5, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    I have a vague memory of my first day of kindergarten. Keep in mind, I had a priveledged childhood where the elementary school, junior high, and high school were all within a couple of blocks of my house, no busy roads whatsoever. So yeah, special circumstances. However, the elementary school had a MUCH better playground than the one around the corner from my house so my friends and I were all quite familiar with how to get to and fro the school by the time kindergarten began. I believe my mother drove my brother and I the first day in order to preserve our new clothes for a precious five minutes longer, took a picture of us right on the lawn, and then we crossed that lawn and went in to the kindergarten classroom we had been shown on back-to-school night. I don’t think my mother walked three feet from the car. I’m pretty sure we made it to the classroom without too many hazards.

  20. Amanda Matthews September 5, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    My mother followed the bus once when I was probably 6. It traumatized me so much I still remember it.

    I don’t remember why, as it wasn’t the first day of school. I think she was going to the school too for some reason and wanted to see if the route I told her the bus took was correct. Several times I had told her the route the bus took and she said I must be wrong because that was so far out of the way. But this made her realize I wasn’t lying or stupid. You’d think that would make me remember the experience fondly… nope.

    You actually CAN see inside a school bus if you’re behind it, but I think the fact that they are focusing on their child instead of the road is probably dangerous.

  21. Amanda Matthews September 5, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    “Is it somehow “anti free range” to want a picture of your kids going into there first day of school?”

    I guess not (although I would say a little bit, because yes not every 4 or 5 year old knows how to navigate a school… but that is something they must learn. And they won’t learn it if mommy is doing the navigating for them.), but if pictures are what you want then drive or walk your child to school. Following the bus is silly, take pictures of the kid getting on the bus for the second day of school if you want pics of that too.

    The lesson that the people in authority at schools aren’t always right should be learned before 10, imo…

  22. Stephanie September 5, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    Couple years ago, my son’s first day of kindergarten was rough. We’re close to the school, so I walked him to his classroom, pushing his little sister in the stroller. Come time to go in, my highly anxious son was in a literal panic. Wouldn’t let go. His teacher spotted my issue (hard to direct a frightened kindergartener into the classroom while wrangling a stroller. The teacher asked me if she could simply carry him into the classroom for me. I let her, and told him I’d see him after school.

    Problem solved. He quickly just fine in the classroom and never had trouble going to school after that.

    As for following the school bus, I just can’t imagine doing it. Make sure they get on the right bus, sure, but once they’re at school, there’s lots of help and more experienced students if necessary.

    One thing our school did this year that I liked (although didn’t attend due to other plans) was have a spaghetti dinner the Friday evening before school started. It was a chance to meet teachers and find classrooms. I think that would help if your kids aren’t sure about finding their classroom on their own.

    My kids are old enough I don’t need to walk them to school now, but I still walk them the first day only because the parking lot and neighborhood streets are so much worse on the first day than any other day with all the parents driving in.

  23. Dulcie September 5, 2012 at 4:35 am #

    The few times I had to drive my kids to elementary school, I was flabbergasted at how many parents walked their kids into the school, with the parents carrying the kids backpack like some well-trained butler. And these weren’t all little kids either, I saw 5th graders marching through the lot with their personal valets trailing behind. This was well into the school year, so to me, they were telling their kids they felt they were too incompetent to find their way to the classroom.

    I always tried to treat my kids’ new experiences casually, mainly because I’m a huge chicken at life and didn’t want to pass my insecurities on to them. It worked, I never had a teary kid going off to school and I even managed to carry this on as they got older and managed to keep it together as my oldest, the Marine, got on a plane to Afghanistan and my 2nd hopped off to experience Uruguay on her own at 18. My theory of “if I assume everything will be okay – it will be” has serviced me well over the years.

  24. mmeller September 5, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    I have two very different sons. The older just started Kindergarten. He rides the bus. I didn’t even think about following it to school. His first day of preschool, at age 2 1/2, he didn’t even say good-bye when I dropped him off. He walked into the room and didn’t look back. He was excited when I picked him up, but he loved it.

    My younger son is very different. He has always had big brother there to help him. He had a rough start to preschool, when he was suddenly left ‘on his own’. “The Kissing Hand” was recommended and he still does it in his second year of preschool. ( I kiss his hand, say good-bye, and leave. The preschool requires us to walk them to the classroom door and pick them up at their room.

    All kids are different and some do need a little reassurance. But the heart thing described above just sounds creepy. The whole point of the kissing hand is that they can do it on their own. That Mommy still loves them, just like they still love Mommy, but that they are separate people. Because isn’t raising independent children our goal?

    For the record, we take a picture of each of our boys on the first day of school (at least for now), but before we leave the house. For the first day of Kindergarten, I took a quick snap with my phone camera as my son stepped onto the bus.

  25. Pam harris September 5, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    Enjoed your article in WSJ today.

  26. Jen Connelly September 5, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I’m obviously heartless, too. Today I made my 7th grader standing in the front yard to take pictures then she surprised me with a hug and off she went. Then 40 minutes later it was time for the younger kids to leave. I made each one stand for pictures then got a few of them together with their baby brother (2). Then they left. My 1st grader stood there for a second and asked why I wasn’t coming to the bus stop.

    I did that last year when she started kindergarten. Just the 1st day so I could get some pics of her getting on the bus. I also went to the bus stop the first year my kids were at this school because it was all new (2 of them had never ridden a school bus before and we had only lived here like 2 weeks at the time).

    Once they were off and walking today I went back inside and cleaned the kitchen and then me, hubby and the 2yo went out for breakfast to celebrate, lol.

    When we lived in Chicago the kids went to a Catholic school. The older two were in 2nd and kindy when they started (a week late). The first day there we all walked together and the principal came out and escorted them in since they were scared and confused. I had never been in the school before that and never stepped into it for another couple weeks. We were at that school 3 years. All the kids lined up in the parking lot or out front before school and the teachers walked them in (which is how they did it when I was in school in the 80s) unless it was freezing outside and then the kids went right inside and lined up in the halls.

    The only parents I ever saw going inside the school were the preschool ones. The preschool was for 3-4 year olds. And that was only the first week. After that they were encouraged to not go inside as it wasn’t healthy for the kids and created a distraction. Otherwise parents weren’t allowed in the halls unless they stopped in the very tiny office first and had a legitimate reason to walk to the classroom (wanting to drop junior off was not a good reason).

    The school here (public) strongly discourages parents walking their kids to their classroom. It creates too much chaos in a small school with 500 kids. Especially since they all have to sign in at the office. Still parents do it and skip sign in and just do whatever the hell they want. I feel bad for the principal. Every year he has to send letters home to remind parents to not come in the school and not idle their cars out front.

  27. Jen Connelly September 5, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    I will say that all through my school years and since I’ve had kids I only remember 1 kid every really having an issue with being left at school and it was when I was 5. I was in PM kindergarten and every day as we were walking to the school I’d see this kid in the AM kindergarten walking home in tears. From what I heard from the adults around me the kid cried every single day from the moment his mother left him until he got home.

    The next year the kid was in my 1st grade class and it was true. From the moment he walked into the classroom each day he cried. Not just sniffling at his desk. This was all out wailing and sobbing all day long. It was irritating and we couldn’t get anything done. He regularly cried until he threw up (a few times a week) and his mother would have to come get him. When she’d show up he’d really get worked up and would cling to her. This was a 6/7 year old.

    I’m pretty sure he got pulled out of school mid-year and I never saw him again.

    My middle daughter had some trouble starting preschool. The first day she was happy right until I said I was leaving (after chatting with the teacher a moment). Then she grabbed me and started crying. I expected that and it was the reason I sent her to preschool. She started in January and was already 5 and I knew we were going to have an issue in the fall with kindergarten if she didn’t learn to cope. So preschool it was. She actually had a play group type thing for an hour before school. I stayed in the building (it was a park gym) until the class ended. Her face was red and tear streaked but she was much calmer. After a minute I told her it was time for school and I would be walking around the park until she was done. She went back in, still teary, but determined.

    2 hours later she came running out of her classroom with a big smile and demanded to know when she could go back. She never shed another tear when going to school and is currently starting the 4th grade. My other kids didn’t even bat an eye when they started preschool. They barely acknowledged I was saying bye to them, lol.

  28. Lisa September 5, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    My husband, now 48 tells of how he walked to the first day of kindergarten with his brother, who was in 4th grade. His brother told him where the K room was and left him. Hubby tried the classroom door and it was locked, so he went home, LOL. It was about 5-6 blocks and involved going through a tunnel under train tracks. Seems the kids were gathering in the gym for the first day. No panicing at home, just went back the 2nd day and the door was no longer locked.

  29. LRH September 5, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    I completely agree with the “parents following the school bus” article you wrote, Lenore. Me: as you said “call me a monster” or whatever, but from day one, once the teacher’s aide said “we’ve got your daughter from here, we can show her the way to class” etc, I was like “okay, see you later” and was gone like it was no big deal. I saw other parents doing the whole “scene” with their kids, when they saw me just trot off like it was nothing, they were like “how do you do that?” I don’t get all the fuss, frankly–your kid is growing up, and??? That’s what kids are SUPPOSED to do. It’s a PRECIOUS moment, yes, but not one to act all schizophrenic over.

    On a related note, if I can state a strong opinion I have, one that also has to do with school–parents helping with homework.. I agree with John Rosemond who in this Sept 2012 article stated that he believes homework is the CHILD’S responsibility, and NOT the parent’s. I couldn’t agree more. That is another opinion that, when I state, people look at me as if I’m the most awful parent in the world.

    No, I simply believe in being a NORMAL parent, one that lets kids enjoy childhood and yet also one that EXPECTS them to do what they are capable of doing themselves versus being compelled to do it for them. I don’t eat, drink and marinate my kids 24/7, I’ve got my OWN life to live even while they’re under my roof & I am responsible for them. You do your homework, I’ve got housework to do–and time with mommy as her husband, as she is my wife FIRST, and that relationship which, frankly, is the whole reason you my darling even EXIST, and we need to maintain it for it to, at the very least, survive, and hopefully thrive.


  30. Beth September 5, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    @Joy, are there really no people at your kids’ school to help with the routine on the first day or first week, that parents need to follow the bus to assist with that? At our elementary schools the entire staff is out helping direct kids to where they belong. It also seems to me that there are better times/ways to meet the teacher than after following the bus to school.

    I did walk my kids to the bus stop when they were little, not for any safety or sadness reasons, but I liked to get photos of them and the neighbor kids all waiting for the bus on the first day (we lived in a self-contained rural neighborhood). Then, after the bus was gone, the SAHMs and shift-work moms had coffee together, often with little ones playing underfoot.

  31. Julie September 5, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    We always take a picture of the kids on their first day of school, and they each hold a sign that says “My first day of __ grade” and the date. My oldest is in high school and he still gets a kick out of it. It’s a nice tradition and I have a cool chronological set of pictures of the kids. Of course, we do this at our house, not in front of the school … The picture thing became a tradition starting in kindergarten and we all really enjoy it. I would hate to think this makes me a hovering parent though!

  32. Buffy September 5, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    @Joy, count be as one of those terrible parents who refused to ride the bus with their child. I have no idea why I ever would have done that.

  33. Emily September 5, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    @Buffy–Do they even allow parents to ride the bus with their kids? Besides the obvious space issue, everyone knows that the world will stop spinning if kids are ever anywhere in the vicinity of non-background-checked adults, especially if they’re male.

  34. Joy September 5, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    @Beth, Having a Kinder this year, I can tell you from our school that it was indeed the only way to meet the teacher. It is sad that a school makes it so difficult for parents but there is no Back to School Event, Meet and Greet whatever they call it. In my child’s class of 16 students it appeared to me that every child was escorted in by a parent and the teacher asked each parent to verify their child’s bus or pick up information and to give her their cell number for texts. They also needed to help carry the Kinder Mat, 3 boxes of Kleenex, Clorox wipes, as the child’s back pack was already full with many of the required school supplies (we were expected to provide 6 boxes of crayons, 5 liquid glues, 12 glue sticks etc the list goes on and on). Maybe this school just accepts the fact that Kinders will be accompanied by their parent and plans accordingly. That being said I walked her to her class once the first day and she now goes by herself because she had that moment to learn the routine and gain the confidence she needed. Walking your 5 year old into school the first day doesn’t doom you to 12 years of escorting your child into school. BTW those who have older brothers and sister to walk their little ones into school are lucky but really the older sibling is just substituting for the parent in that case.
    @Buffy, I have never heard of a parent being able to ride the bus with a child to school…how would the get home once the bus dropped off at school?

  35. Becca in Alaska September 5, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    My son started PK last year at 3 years old. He got to ride the bus to school. The first morning he cried and cried and it broke my heart of course but I said good bye handed him off to the aid and walked away. By the time he got home 3 hours later he had had the best day of his life and the bus became his favorite part of the day.
    Joy, I’m a little confused. At Our sons school the PK and K teachers would met the buses and walk the kids to their classroom. No one that young was wondering the halls by themselves. My son knew the way to his class but wow the distractions along the way, I dont think he would have made it.

  36. wendyww September 5, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    I will admit to following the school bus my daughter’s first day. However, the bus routes on the AF base where we lived were INSANE and the bus stopped at 3 other elem. schools before hers. I just wanted to make sure she got off at the right school, and she never knew I was there.

  37. Jynet September 5, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    It was in Gr10 my daughter asked me to go with her to first day – for the first time ever. All the other years, including kindergarten, and two years at boarding school (Gr8 and 9, her idea, not mine!) she didn’t want me to take her. So I didn’t.

    I felt silly and awkward at the high school waiting with her for her first class to start, but I did it… the lesson? Listen to your kids. Just because she needed a bit of support one day doesn’t mean she isn’t a free range kid. It just means she needs a bit of support.

    If she had asked me to follow the school bus I would have. But to do it because *I* was nervous? No.

  38. Debra September 5, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    We homeschool, so we don’t have this particular issue, but I have many friends, whom I consider to be free range parents, who do send their kids to school and take pictures of their first day each year and even get a little teary eyed after they leave. I just can’t agree that taking your child’s picture on their first day of school each year makes you a helicopter parent. It’s a nice family tradition and it’s neat to have that chronological pictures of your kids each year. I also don’t think that being a little sad on your child’s first day of school makes you a helicopter parent either. Some parents actually enjoy their kids company and miss them when they leave. That’s a normal loving parent. Now as long as they hold back the tears until after the child has left and cheerfully wish them a wonderful day, then it’s fine. If they follow them they whole way, sobbing, then you have an issue. You don’t have to be the type to celebrate the fact you are without your child for 8 hours a day to be free range. You can miss being with your child and still be free range because you choose to do what is in their best interest and encourage them to fly, even if it breaks your heart a little to see them go.

  39. Donna September 5, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I walked my daughter to class her first day of kindergarten – we drove so no bus following. She did not want me to but we made a deal that I would walk her until she could lead me to her classroom. The first day she got lost and couldn’t figure out which hall her classroom was on so I walked her in the second day too. The second day she got it perfect and that was that. I did walk in with her a couple more times but only because she asked me to come in so that she could show me something. There were, however, many kids who were walked to class every single day of kindergarten.

    We moved to the American Samoa half way through kindergarten. My daughter now goes to a small school that has 2 grades in each classroom. My daughter’s first grade class is the exact same as her kindergarten class. Same teacher. Same classroom. Same routine. And the classroom is 5 feet from the road. No big school with many halls and rooms. No halls at all since each classroom opens to the outside and there are only 6 classrooms. Still most of the parents walk their children to class every day. And hang out for awhile while the kid does the morning routine and gets settled. It’s weird. I think it is totally separation anxiety on the part of the parents.

  40. Katie September 5, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I don’t get all the hate for taking first day of school pictures. My parents did it when I was a kid, always in the same spot in the yard. It was a nice tradition. When I got married, I took a picture in my wedding dress in the same spot – a different kind of “first day”! And my parents were pretty far from helicopter parents.

    (My mom did follow my bus to school on my first day of Kindergarten, which is something we always made fun of her for, particularly because it was so out of character. But she didn’t let me see her; didn’t get out of the car, even when she saw me standing in the doorway, completely forgetting where my classroom was, as all the other kids went right to their classes; and didn’t tell me she had followed the bus until years later. I still think it was a bit absurd.)

  41. Library Diva September 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    The first-day-of-school pic was a standard for me, too, even into high school. I always wore my favorite outfit, we did it out in the driveway and that was that. I also started kindergarten at a particularly fortuitous moment in my town’s history: the summer before school started, they experimented with running a shuttle bus. My mom and I took it together to get new clothes for school and see what a bus was like. (Then they promptly dropped the shuttle idea and no one ever spoke of the concept again).

    As hard as it must be, I’d imagine it would be easier on the child to just get on the bus, rather than have the awkward scene at the kindergarten door. I don’t remember my first day, my parents tell me I was excited though.

  42. SecondofSeven September 5, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    “why the ever-loving frig would you get in your car and follow a schoolbus?! This doesn’t make the slightest shred of sense! Why wouldn’t you just drive them yourself?
    I’m sorry, I honestly can’t understand the logic behind this.”
    I am the one who told Lenore about this. I was with a group of moms, we all had kids in different schools and each of them talk about how they followed the bus because they were nervous to let their kids go and wanted to feel confident that their kids would be ok. I didn’t understand it either, I was happy and proud to wave good-bye (unpracticed and we still got it right!).

  43. Christina September 5, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    @ Melissa – “The Kissing Hand” is such a great book! My twin boys were placed in separate classes in preschool. I felt it was a little early, but since they are in Montessori, not allowing the separation would have meant they would be in the same classroom for the next 3 years (not good). So my little guys did double duty – learning how to be away from me AND learning how to be away from each other. That book was a lifesaver.

  44. socalledauthor September 5, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    This driving the kids/ following the bus thing is new, I think, in large part because of the rise of the two-car household. (Maybe something of a class thing?) Parents have the time and the means to helicopter more– well, some do. My parents only ever had one car, so even when I got sick at school, driving there was a challenge. I think some of the helicoptering in general is due to having too much time worry (and to act on those worries.) That and a push that over-parenting is the only “good” parenting.

    One of the things I really don’t get about following the school bus is the question of what if something does happen on/ to the bus? What is being in a car behind the bus even going to accomplish?

  45. Lollipoplover September 5, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    When I was in elementary school, I rode the bus about 5 miles to school. Our family dog was a yellow lab with a few screws loose(think Marley and Me) who was, among other quirks, a car chaser. That dog ran like a cheetah.
    I got on the bus one day (parents didn’t go to bus stops when we were kids) and remember the bus driver asking “Who’s dog is that?!”.
    My stupid dog must have got out and was now chasing the bus to school. I was mortified, and sunk down into my seat, trying to hide. When we arrived at school, I sheepishly admitted the dog was mine (it was hard to deny when he jumped on me getting off the bus) and the driver helped me call my parents to pick up our dog.
    I think my kids would feel the same mortifying feeling if they knew I was following the bus. They would think their mom has a few screws loose. They would be right, of course.

  46. RobynHeud September 5, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    I was nervous about going to high school, so I did the whole thing where I went the week before school started and wandered around to find my locker and all of my classrooms so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed that first day. Funny thing is, I did it on my own. I don’t even think I told my mom I was going. I met a couple of the teachers who were present and felt a lot more confident that first day.

    I know nowadays things are “different” but I think it might be better if (not when) the child shows anxiety about getting lost, etc, to then give them the option to go ahead of time. I also think it does kind of a disservice here too if the school offers a day when kids can come with their parents to figure things out ahead of time cuz then the kids who weren’t able to go will feel all the more left behind on that first day.

  47. This girl loves to talk September 5, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    following the bus is no problem the first day for me… there would be lots of reasons for first day ‘not sure where I’m going, first trip to the school, meet the teachers etc etc…. but most schools in australia dont have buses unless its far travelling to a private school or you live in the country… no one else has school buses.

    here all parents go to school the first day to meet the teacher and carry their kids HEAVY book order into school. I had three kids in school this year so my husband also had to accompany me and four kids (one in stroller) as I could not possibly carry the baby and 50 kg of books!

    I dont count myself as helicopter parent at all but since I walk my kids to school or bike ride or drive I go into the school almost every day. My kids show me their work, paintings, I talk to the teachers who love parents to help out in the room , I help with swimming and reading groups… so I suppose if that makes me helicopter in the US? though our schools are open plan and we just stroll on into the childs classroom but always leave before the bell so they can get on with school

  48. Yan Seiner September 5, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    @This girl: nope, that’s not a helicopter parent. A helicopter parent is one who hovers over the child, making decisions for the child, and doing things for the child, when the child is perfectly capable and able to make those decisions.

    Most of us free range parents are very involved in our kids; I just took my daughter and a friend up a big mountain on a 4 day backpack. They typically made the decisions on where to go, how far to go, and which route to take; I just moderated a few of their dumber ideas. (Sliding down a 600′ glacier – or 200m for those of you in the logical parts of the world – is not a good survival tactic.)

    So taking your kid to school and talking to the teachers is fine. Helping out in the classroom is fine. Interfering with the teacher because your kid did not get the perfect grade you think he deserves is helicoptering. Doing your kid’s homework and then arguing about the grade with the teacher is helicoptering.

  49. SKL September 5, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I wish I could remember how my parents handled my first day of KG and 1st grade. I am sure my dad drove me to school for KG at first (I was a “walker” and I assume he wanted to make sure I found my way in OK. The KG was off by itself in a “church basement,” and my siblings went to other schools.) I remember being on my own, however, when the teacher asked my name. I recall it as a traumatic m

    oment because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be called at school, and the teacher got impatient with my silence. LOL, it wasn’t funny at the time!

    For 1st grade I honestly don’t recall, but once I was established in the school, I am sure I just loaded my supplies in my bookbag and carried them to school, along with my siblings.

    My kids are in 1st, and this is their first year at this school, so I did go in with them the first day or two. One, to drop off supplies and forms; two, to make sure they had the routine down. I walked behind them and observed as they did everything for themselves. Then I knew they didn’t need me. Now I drop them off in the parking lot and watch them go into the school. The main reason I watch is that the door is very heavy and it requires some creative thinking for them to get it open and get through it without getting separated from their bags or their arms, LOL. So far, so good.

    I do notice that their classroom is full of parents when the bell rings. Volunteering or whatever. Nothing against volunteers, but I hope these parents at least leave their kids “on their own” some days. It’s really not that hard to walk into a classroom, hang up your stuff and sit down.

    I agree that all the “think of Mommy” crap is distracting. I want my kids thinking about reading and math when they’re at school. Why do they need to think about me when I’m not there? If our relationship isn’t solid by now, a little stupid toy heart isn’t going to fix that.

  50. Lori Brown September 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Our school PTO always has a “Boo Hoo” breakfast the first day to get new parents involved in PTO. I have always called it the “Woo Hoo” breakfast because a)one less kid for a few hours and b)said kid is moving up in the world. I get some strange looks every year when I tell new Kindergarten parents that I call it that – most of them are shocked that I’m so happy to ditch my kids…

  51. Lori Brown September 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    oh, and what I love about our schools? other than PTO meetings and volunteers, parents are not allowed in to school. no walking Jr to his classroom here!

  52. Sarah September 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    A friend just posted a funny story on Facebook: Her son’s first day of kindergarten is tomorrow, and he’s nervous about it. She told him he could take a couple of items with him to school to keep in his backpack if it would help him feel better.

    He chose a little license plate with his name on it and a picture of himself. She said the picture was right next to a picture of him with his parents, but he chose the one of just himself! “I guess we are not as comforting as a good picture of himself! I love him!” she said, clearly finding it funny, too.

    I can’t stop laughing. And here’s a company trying to market this silly heart thing. Do you really think the kids are that distressed, or does this have more to do with the parents? I know from the time I spent teaching kindergarten that children this age are still very self-centered by nature. To be honest, they’re not worried about their parents missing them.

  53. ElizabethKay September 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Best advice I got was, wait until the bus pulls away on the first day, then go take the nap you have been wanting for 5 years.

    The next best piece was, It is ok to cry when you see them grow up, just don’t do it in front of them or their friends or you will get the dreaded “MOOoooOOM” with eyeroll

    My youngest started High school today. On his brothers first day of grade school he hopped on the bus so fast I didn’t get the last hug. His brother got to the bus, then ran back, gave me the hug, then hopped on.

    They were so small then, and already so excited to be on their own, now one is as tall as I am and the other nearly a foot taller.

    I must have been doing SOMETHING right.

    My plans for tomorrow (today was just the Freshman), I am taking a bubble bath, I will use my secret hidden stash of expensive smelly stuff and I will read a book in the tub, the whole book! (it is a trashy romance novel to boot)

  54. baby-paramedic September 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    My mum cried on my baby brothers first day of school. She was upset that of all her offsrping (and there are a small tribe of us) not one of us had shown the slightest concern that we were being left behind, and just wandered off happily. And was concerned she was doing something wrong. I (much older than my baby brother) pointed out that no, she was obviously doing something right.

  55. Helynna Brooke September 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    My son will be 36 in two weeks but I still remember his first day of preschool. It was mortifying for me. He was so excited about being able to go to school because we had visited it to sign him up. When we got there he greeted the teacher, gave me a hug and went off to explore the array of toys and books and meet the other kids, at least the ones who had stopped crying or weren’t hanging on to their mom’s legs. When I returned to pick him up, the other kids ran tearfully to their moms while my son smiled, shouted hi mom and continued playing with a toy he was fascinated by. When I said it was time to leave, that is when he started crying. He finally stopped crying when I was able to assure him that he was returning the next day. Actually I was quite proud of him, that he had such self confidence in himself, trust that I would be back for him, and ease in social situations. As an adult he has presented to a Congressional Committee.

  56. gap.runner September 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    In Germany the first day of school, which starts in first grade, is a big ritual. The parents accompany the kids to school and are allotted time to take photos. The teacher talks to the kids and parents about what is expected from them. Then the kids open their “Schultuten,” which are big cones that are filled with little things that they will need for school like: pencils, erasers, markers, a small toy, and the obligatory candy. Everyone then goes home. The first day of school only lasts about two hours in elementary school. After the first day of school parents are not allowed in the classroom except during parent information nights or teacher conferences. German elementary school kids don’t take a bus to school. They either walk (with or without a parent or other kids), ride a scooter, ride a bike, or are driven by their parents.

    On the first day of secondary school (at least in Gymnasium), the incoming 5th graders and their parents gather in the auditorium after the school day begins for the 6th to 12th graders. Before going into the auditorium, the kids and parents look at posted lists to see which class their children are in. The director says a few words to everyone to welcome them to the school. Then the teachers, who are also in the auditorium, take the kids into their classrooms to start the day. The new 5th graders are also introduced to their class “tutors,” who are 10th graders assigned to a specific class to help the incoming 5th graders in it learn about the school (e.g. finding the bathrooms, shortcuts to the different buildings, which teachers are nice and which are strict, etc.). There are no photo ops for starting secondary school. The parents stay for some more words from the director about what is expected from their kids in Gymnasium. The kids then go home from their first day of secondary school on their own: on foot, by bike, by city bus, or by train. Like in elementary school, parents are only allowed in the classrooms during designated parent-teacher nights or for individual parent teacher meetings during the teacher’s weekly conference period.

    By the way, the heart thing sounds rather creepy. I can imagine first grade boys throwing their section of it at each other and pretending it’s a grenade. At least that’s what my son would have done with it if he had one. I have no words to express what I think about parents who follow the bus to school.

  57. hineata September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Maybe because here usually only country kids have actual school buses (mine take public buses when they do ride), many parents walk their kids into school, usually to see their pictures or other stuff, say hi to the teacher or just to each other, for the first couple of years of school (when they’re 5 and 6). Schools are generally fairly open – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a school where they refuse to let parents into the classroom. That would be the height of cheek, in my opinion – public schools are funded from taxpayer money, so they’re effectively public buildings. Also, as a teacher of young children I loved meeting the parents regularly. Made dealing with any issues much easier.

    At one school the kids went to,though, mums of 10 year olds were still escorting their kids into the classroom, which I thought was ridiculous, until I met the teacher. Tall, male and gorgeous!! Not all accompanying of children is helicoptering….:-)

  58. Buffy September 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    @Joy, sorry, I misread your post. I thought you mentioned parents who refuse to *ride* the bus, but you said who refuse to *use* the bus. Big difference, sorry for my wrong interpretation.

  59. Babs September 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    After having my daughter in daycare/preschool before she started elementary school, there was no separation anxiety on either of our parts. (Yes, she’ll have days when she says she missed me, but I guess that’s normal.) And I’ve heard of parents trailing the school bus — no idea WHY anyone would do that. (I remember one mom, who once was an elementary school teacher, posting on Facebook that she used to laugh at the parents who did that, only to find herself doing the same.) I’m actually excited because this year, I am allowing my daughter to walk to school by herself, as she is now in third grade and we live relatively close by the school. (Today, we’ll go together so she knows where to go, plus I’d like to meet her teacher, etc.)

  60. Beth September 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I also think that there is a BIG difference between FOLLOWING (sorry, don’t know how to italicise or bold) the bus to school, so that you can never take your eyes off your child/prevent kidnappings/stop a crash/whatever the reason is, and MEETING the bus at school to help your your child find his/her room, schlep supplies, meet the teacher etc.

  61. SKL September 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I was going to say that while we don’t have bus service, I could understand going to school the first day even if your kid rode the bus. In a way it would be more free-range than driving him. He gets there without his Mama. However, there’s nothing wrong with Mama going to the school to see what the classrooms are like, exchange a few words with the teacher, and see to the various forms and such that are required anyway. There’s nothing unnatural about making sure Junior is all set for his first day.

    Not sure why there’s hostility about the photos. Myself, I’m a bad mom because I was so pressed for time, there was no chance to even think about cameras. I’m not that sentimental anyway. But I do love looking at photos, and what better time than on milestones like this? Even for my kids, who were in full-time prechool/KG for 3 years, the first day of 1st grade was a big deal in my eyes.

  62. Brian September 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    It is ironic that parents who have spent the past 5 years scheduling preschool, classes and every other conceivable program to fill their children’s’ days are now sad that their kids are going to school. it is one thing if you are a stay at home parent who has spent the past 5 years with that child who is now going to school. It is a little different when the only change is that it is called kindergarten.

  63. Susan September 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I met a mom yesterday who told me she was going to follow the bus. When asked why she told me”how will I know she got to school”. My reply was “do you think they are just going to drop her off along the way?” she didn’t know how to answer.

  64. Susan September 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I have to admit I did follow the bus for the very first day of kindergarten for my oldest two. The alternative would be for me to have driven them to school, but they wanted to take the bus and I wanted to drop them off at their classroom line for their first day. My oldest was my first of course, and my second should have had her 2nd grader brother to see her off but he had just died and so, yeah, I wanted to take her to her line. My third had a 4th grade big sis and so I didn’t trail.

  65. Andy September 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    I do not think that I will take pictures of my kids first day of school. I’m just not that type. Having said that, I do not understand what could be wrong about it.

    Whether they think the picture is cute, they like the ritual, think that first school day is an important day or just want to show the picture to old grandma does not matter. It does no harm and makes them happy.

    People sometimes spend too much time evaluating minor elements of other peoples parenting.

  66. yosteff September 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    On my daughters first day of Kindergarten I put her on the bus and then drove to her school, I did not follow the bus to get there. (It’s a few miles) She was very anxious about riding the school bus for the first time and the idea that I would be at school waiting for her when she got off the bus helped ease her fears. Basically she was afraid she wouldn’t know what to do once she got off the bus and no amount of reassurance would make her feel better. I think the “experts” call it “scaffolding”. It’s the idea that If kids are afraid to do something or think they are not ready for something , break it into smaller bits so they can see success. I think that is a key part of the Free Range parenting method. I think following the bus would have undermined the scaffold. That one day was all it took, she figured out the routine and has been a happy bus rider from that day forward.

  67. Brenna September 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    What gets me around here is parents who drive their kids from the house to the road to wait for the bus. Yes, they drive their kids down the driveway!!! I live out in the country, so some of the lanes are longer than your average suburban driveway but we’re talking maybe a couple hundred yards. What exactly are they protecting their kids from? Exercise? Fresh Air? Independence? And if you’re so convinced that they need you there, why not at least walk with your kids???

  68. Au Pair September 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Inspirational reading and comments, too. Hope I will remember in few years. Oh, I will I guess. I don’ t perceive the first school day as a excursion to the Zoo!

  69. Jeff September 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I think we also need to be careful about proclaiming that “our kid had no problem separating so I must have done something right.” The fact is all kids have different personalities and I have seen free range kids that are just naturally shy/nervous in new situations and will become clingy. I have seen kids of helicopter parents who as the parents are sobbing and holding on, the kid is rolling their eyes, pushing away and proclaiming, “Mom, I’ll be fine,” and run off never looking back – which usually makes mom feel worse. So just because someone’s child is naturally an extrovert and loves new situations/challenges, doesn’t mean mom had anything to do with it. 🙂 We forget kids are pretty resilient and those personalities are hard to mold. They usually are what they are. We can teach values and right and wrong but being an extrovert/introvert or a risk taker/cautious person is inborn.

  70. Katie September 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    LRH, thank you for that article! And share it everywhere! Parental help with homework should be just that- help. When you’re truly stuck on working a problem, when you need to be quizzed, when you’re making something and need an extra hand, etc…never hovering over to be sure every bit is right. (says a homeschool momma…though my inlaws hover over 11 y.o. nephew’s work thgat way)

  71. Emily September 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    @Katie–Don’t forget kids who don’t even WANT their parents to interfere with their homework, but they do anyway. My dad would always go through my math work in high school, point out mistakes I made several days or weeks ago, and force me to spend HOURS correcting them, before we even GOT to that day’s homework. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to do it on my own, I just wasn’t very good at it–I’d try on my own, finish what I could on my own, and ask my teacher, or my math tutor who my parents hired, for help if I needed it, but my dad would force me to sit and go over and over it until it was “perfect,” haranguing me all the way. On one memorable occasion, he was actually poking me and saying, “You don’t have a F***ing clue what you’re doing!!!”

  72. Emily September 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    P.S., I wasn’t a “bad” kid–I was good at most other subjects, especially the “creative” ones, and I was involved in band, student council, and a myriad of other activities.

  73. pentamom September 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Well said, Jeff. I think it’s true that we can negatively or positively influence our children to be clingy or independent, but it is also true that some kinds have strong inherent tendencies one way or the other — we shouldn’t assume that it’s the parents’ fault or positive efforts that create a particular child’s behavior, though we shouldn’t think that we have nothing to do with it, either.

    So don’t look askance at the mom with the clingy kid (unless the mom is being excessively clingy herself!) but for ourselves, we should promote confidence in our own kids.

  74. Renee September 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    In regards to parents doing/correcting a student’s homework, last year my daughter’s teacher gave less homework and more in-class work. I was concerned, because at first I thought the teacher was ‘going too easy’ on her. That was until she explained, that homework began to lose its purpose because she couldn’t properly determine the child’s abilities and knowledge.

  75. Sarah September 6, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Renee, when I was teaching I started assigning less homework for the same reason. When you send work home, you really don’t know who actually did it. Sometimes a well-meaning older sibling would do it, thinking they were helping. But sometimes, yes, it was the work of the parents. It made homework pretty meaningless from an assessment perspective. If the school hadn’t required that I assign a certain amount of homework, I probably would have stopped giving it out altogether.

  76. Sayford Ford (@SayfordFord) September 6, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    Are drones next?

  77. Hels September 6, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I wish I could remember my first day of school… I know my parents walked me there, but I think they left after the welcoming ceremony ended and they may have picked me up from school when the day was over or I may have walked… I do remember that the doors were awfully heavy so when we were first-second-third graders it was nice to have someone older nearby who could open the door because we were literally not strong enough to pull it open! The door was something like 8 feet tall, five feet wide thick slab of oak covered with steel on at least one side…

  78. Jenne September 6, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    Oh my. My preschooler just had to change from the daycare he’s been in for 3 years to a combination of local preschool and day care. I’m having transition issues myself with this, but he seems ok with it. The hardest thing is going from a situation where you know all the other kids and moms, to knowing nobody he spends all day with! (it’s hard to start conversations about how his day went when I have no idea what he did.) It may be unreasonable– the only time he is clingy with me when getting on the bus is when he’s either overtired or wants to do something specific at home– but I can understand parents wanting to know what their kid’s school is like, meet the teacher, etc. I thought that was within the normal range of parent behavior. (We did drive to the school to meet him the first day, to make sure he understood what was up with the bus-to-teacher transfer, but he was fine; and of course we weren’t allowed to come into the classroom.)

  79. SKL September 6, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    My kids get homework that is too hard for them. Obviously the teacher wants the parents to hold the kids’ hand through it. (And this is a teacher who claimed she hardly ever assigns homework. Yeah sure, unless you count the memory work, copying of spelling words, challenge math pages, and daily library books that they’ve already brought home in the first 2 weeks of 1st grade. And this is for “grade.” And 92% is a B. Don’t get me started.)

  80. Dave September 6, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    Just stupid!!!!!

  81. hineata September 6, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    @Jeff, so true! 3 free range kids here, three different reactions to school and kindy. One clung to me for months as a four year old and then again at five, but she had speech and health issues which made it hard for the other kids to understand her, so I think she was left out a lot- very hard for any kid, let alone a naturally very social one. Settled eventually, but it was hard on everyone for a while. Number one cried only once that I remember, and that was at the start of Year 3! Third one never could care less. So, not a lot to do with free ranging, all to do with personality…

    @jenne, still can’t believe this ‘not allowed in the classroom ‘ nonsense. You pay for the classroom, you can enter the classroom. As a teacher, I wouldn’t dare try and tell a parent they couldn’t enter my classroom, unless they’d been legally trespassed for violent behavior or something crazy like that. Anyway blocking parents hardly encourages open communication between parents and schools, and seems counter productive.

  82. Emily September 6, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    @SKL–Do your kids go to an academically rigorous private school, or is this just a regular public school where this happens? Is there another teacher for grade one that your child could switch to? Failing that, would it be worthwhile to simply tell the teacher what you told us, that the homework is too difficult for your six-year-old to do independently, and would it be possible to scale down the assignments to things that could be done without the parent doing the lion’s share of the work, not because you’re lazy, but because you want your child to develop positive work habits, and a sense of mastery on his or her own? Also, is your child’s teacher new to teaching, or new to teaching that age group? Sometimes teachers with less experience, in general or with a certain grade, have trouble measuring exactly how much to expect academically and behaviour-wise of that age/grade of kids. As for 92% for a B, that sends a bad message too–kids need to learn that it’s good to do their best, but it’s possible to get that message across without setting the bar at the ceiling.

    P.S., I had the same problem with homework that was too hard (and too much) in math class in high school, but I was in high school. The craziness seems to start earlier and earlier these days.

  83. bestof2sisters September 6, 2012 at 3:35 am #

    In Norway we don´t call it Free Range, its just the normal thing to do. You give your kid freedom and they venture out onto the streets to play and find new friends.

    However, I got a bit stuck in my own beliefs when our eldest daugheter started school this year at 7 was expected to walk on her own to school. That is 2km. I wrote about our thoughts and feelings around it here:
    Still after 3 weeks back at school we are leaning mostly on common sense. And that seems to work. Mostly.


  84. Amanda Matthews September 6, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    No one is saying that taking your child’s picture on their first day of school each year makes you a helicopter parent. We’re saying that putting your child on the bus, and then FOLLOWING THE BUS TO SCHOOL to take pictures is probably a symptom of a much larger helicopter parenting issue. It’s the following the bus part that we’re talking about, not the picture taking part.

  85. Jeff September 6, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    Following the bus to school on the first day COULD be a sign of helicoptering or it could be the sign of a sentimental heart. Some parents get very emotional about their children’s “firsts”. It’s so neat to watch this little helpless newborn grow into an independent adult and there are many steps along the way that can make you stand back and say, “Wow. Look how independent she/he is becoming. I can’t believe they are finally taking this step. Time has really flown by.” For people with sensitive/sentimental souls, they like to be there, and yes, document these steps for photo albums/journals/scrap books. So I wouldn’t necessarily call a mother “helicopter” if on the first day she took pictures of her child’s first time riding the bus on the way to Kindergarten and then even followed the bus so she could take a picture of the child outside the school and even one with her teacher in her classroom on the first day. Yes, this mother might be holding up traffic and such and even be a bit annoying, LOL, but teachers expect the first day to be about situating everyone and everyone getting used to everything, so she isn’t affecting instructional time. Now on the SECOND day, if this repeats I would say there’s a bigger issue (assuming the child is fine and not scared). I remember my first day of Kindergarten. My mother took me to classroom where we waited outside with all the other children and their mothers/fathers while the teacher came to the door and invited everyone in. Parents walked their kids in, got them situated, snapped a couple of pictures, and then said goodbye. I mean it’s KINDERGARTEN. I would imagine most people would accompany their child to the classroom on the first day. (Of course that was 30 years ago when Kindergarten was like preschool today so maybe kids are expected to have matured into mini 1st graders when they enter Kindergarten today.) :/

  86. Vanessa September 6, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    I agree that some kids are just naturally slower to separate than others. When my daughter was younger, her Girl Scout troop went to a big weekend campout with other troops in a local park every year. Daughter wanted to go too, but just wasn’t up to spending three days and two nights away from home. So, the first year she went as a day camper and came home at night. The following year, she spent one night and then I picked her up the next day. The year after that, she spent both nights (with some encouragement from me – she was nervous), and when I arrived along with all the other parents to pick her up, she greeted me with “Hi Mom! I didn’t even think about you once the whole time!” I’ve never been so delighted to hear that someone didn’t miss me. 🙂

  87. pamb September 6, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    While I agree that the afraid to separate thing is getting out of hand, I have to say that I disagree that visiting school before classes start is a bad thing, especially for students new to the school.

    Our new school has a Welcome Back picnic, when you can have a hot dog and chips, find out who your child’s teacher is/who is in their class, drop off the school supplies and distribute them in the child’s cubby or locker.

    The child now knows where to go, the parent has met the teacher, supplies are organized. Easier for kids, easier for parents.

    “Heck, why not just move in for a few weeks in July” was too clever by half. Not everything needs to be pounded over the head with sarcasm.

  88. HopeEliz September 6, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Today, I started high school and a remarkable number of kids at my bus stop were dropped off in cars or watched from the porch by their parents. Mine were in their PJs when I left, they probably won’t even be awake tomorrow when I go to the bus stop…and I’m honestly no more kidnapped than the kids whose parents stuck around.

  89. SKL September 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Emily, re your questions about my kids’ homework. This is a parochial school which is proud of its high standards. Which is one reason I put my kids in there. The teacher is quite experienced, though she taught 2nd grade last year, so maybe she needs to remember what 1st graders are like. Of course, nowadays the average age of 1st graders is older due to redshirting, so some of the work might be doable by some of the kids – and the rest will have help from parents so they don’t fall behind.

    I have to figure out what’s worth addressing the teacher about and what isn’t. It was a battle to get my kids in (they are both young for their class) and one of my kids does have learning issues. I am reluctant to rock the boat. So far I’m taking each day as it comes. If the kids get homework they can’t do independently, I give them just enough information to ensure they understand what they are supposed to do. Of course, with the math challenge homework, that is the whole point of the exercise, right? Figure out what you’re supposed to do. Hopefully with a little experience and minimal guidance, these things will click.

    You know what else is funny? The memory work (Bible verses). You’d think they would choose some simple, kid-friendly ones for the beginning of first grade, right? Well, their first three verses (they must memorize two per week) are:

    1) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. (That’s fine, though “works” might be an odd usage for the age. And the structure of the second sentence is odd, but we can handle it.)
    2) The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (Which “one” are we talking about? What do you mean “in the world”? Aren’t I part of the world?)
    3) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Refuge? … Very present help in trouble – does that mean God’s gonna give me a present the next time I get in trouble?)

    Or do I just underestimate today’s 6-year-olds?

  90. hineata September 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    @SKL – had never heard of redshirting so had to look it up. How silly….It’s sort of ironic, actually, because here any trouble is usually because people want their kids to go to school early, which is illegal (the starting age is fifth birthday, so that’s considered early enough). I couldn’t understand how holding your kid back would be an advantage – are kids assessed on the grade they’re in, rather than their age? For the first couple of years of school here children are assessed by their chronological age rather than year level, which has the effect of levelling kids.

    Love the verses – they do sound a little difficult, but then I think Laura Ingalls Wilder learnt really hard ones at that age, and look how well she turned out, LOL!

  91. Donna September 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Hineata –

    Kids in the US are assessed based on grade. All kindergarteners in the school are assessed against the same standards, whether they were born in September or July. However, how young students are assessed varies widely in the US. Some young kids are assessed exactly like older students with number or letter grades. Very little room to assess based on age in this scheme.

    Neither of my daughter’s schools give grades to elementary students. Elementary school students are assessed simply based on whether they have mastered certain skills or not. All of the class starts at “working towards the goal” and the vast majority ends at “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations.” There is no indication as to who met or exceeded expectations better. Some of the expectations are pretty definitive – you can either count to 100 or you can’t. Others, like “writes clearly and effectively,” are more vague and could leave room to interpret them differently depending on the student.

  92. SaraLu September 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    If you want to be at school on your child’s first day, for pictures or meeting the teacher or whatnot, why do you have to FOLLOW the bus? Is it really that necessary, or “safe”, for a car, or line of cars, to stop behind the bus for every single stop? Couldn’t you just time your arrival at school to coincide with the bus, and meet your kid there?

    Obviously I agree with whoever posted above that following the bus and meeting your child at school are two different things, and I’d add done for two different reasons.

  93. Warren September 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Oh for crying out loud people, get a grip!

    Meeting the bus at school? Walking them to class? Getting to know the teacher? These are all done to ease your own mind, and are excuses to justify your own anxieties.

    What does getting to know the teacher, do for you? Are you going to become friends, go out for coffee? I get to know the teacher the old fashioned way…..I ask my kids. Then if needed, we attend the parent teacher interview, don’t always go, as most times there are not any issues that need to be addressed. Going to plays, open houses and special events………that’s how you get to know the teacher. Leave the teachers alone during the normal work week, they have enough to do, without having to play nice with every adult head that pops into the room.

    Walking them to class, even the first time? If you do not trust your child to follow the crowd into school, and then do not trust that the school that they will take care of your kids, then change schools.

    My kids have no choice. They get on the bus, go to school, during which time I feel like singing and dancing, then they come home. We do a quick recap of the day. And then I sign them up for a lifetime of therapy to deal with an uncaring father, who didn’t hold their hand thru life.

  94. Andy September 7, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    @Warren The whole crowd goes to the same class in your school? How big that class is? In schools I visited, only 30 or so members of the crowd go to the same class.

    Once they are alone in corridor, some teacher finds them and directs them to the right place. It still causes distraction for everyone involved, including other kids in that class.

    Yes, some parents like to meet the teacher personally. Big deal. I think that if parents meddle in school too much, they do more harm then good. But wanting to say hello to teacher and get some impression of him is not remotely in the same category.

    Other parents do things a bit differently than you. Get a grip, it is OK as long as they are not overly helicopter or negligent. And whatever happen one morning in a students life is minor.

  95. Emily September 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    @Warren–I agree that parents following older kids to their first day of class is excessive, but for kindergarten, it’s pretty normal. I wouldn’t say it’s a new thing either–it was standard operating procedure even when I started kindergarten, and that was in 1989. No drama, no tears, my dad just walked me to school (with me DRAGGING him up the road because I was so excited, as photos will attest), helped me find my class, returned in a few hours to pick me up, and that was that.

  96. Jillo September 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Ugh, I’m supposed to make my own “Kissing Hand” for my son at preschool. He’s already been going there for two years and as far as I can tell, doesn’t miss me at all when he’s there. I know there are some kids in his class that have a hard time with separation, but he’s not one of them, and I’d rather not instill in him a sense that he *should* be devastated without me.

  97. Warren September 8, 2012 at 3:59 am #


    Over exaggerate much? From grade one on, in our schools, we are informed of teachers names, room number, and expected supplies, before the school year starts.
    Kid has already done the bus thing for a school year. Knows the school, knows other kids going into their class, and is good to go.

    Like I said, we have lots of time to meet and speak with the teachers, at appropriate times. Do not know, nor do I care where your school is. Our enrollment is consistantly over 650, add in teachers and staff, the hallways are busy enough on the first day, without adding a few hundred parents.

  98. Susan September 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Just another attempt at emotional manipulation in order to separate insecure parents from their money.

  99. ifsogirl September 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I just don’t get why you need a stuffed heart to make sure your kid isn’t going to have a meltdown. I mean I can understand if they have a learning, emotional or behavioural disability but normal children, please. I have 50/50 custody with my ex husband. Every other week I have to leave them there for 5 days. It kills me because I don’t want to see them go. My youngest is very sensitive. On the days she doesn’t want me to leave I give her a special kiss in the palm of her hand and she can give me one if she wants. Most times now she totally forgets.

    She started her first day of K a couple days ago. I got a partial wave and see ya later Mom. I’m so proud of how far she’s come because when her dad and I were still together she was a quiet and timid child. Wouldn’t talk to or look at other people. I supported her and encouraged her to socialize, and I never made a big deal out of any separations.

  100. Donna September 9, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Warren – If your kid is comfortable going to school on their own the first day, fine. Others are shy and want their parents to walk in with them and be there the first time they meet the teacher. Others like it as a ritual. Why is that any skin off your nose?

    I walk my kid on the first day (we’ve only done the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade). My kid is no less independent and free range because we BOTH enjoy us walking to class together on the first day, even beyond kindergarten. I’ll walk her on the first day until she stops enjoying it simply because she asks me to. There is nothing anti-free range about it. She knows where the classroom is. She knows her teacher. I am not walking her because I’m afraid she’ll get lost or can’t stand to have her out of my sight. There is no purpose whatsoever for me walking her to class other than we both enjoy the ritual. We get such a short period of time when they want us to do things like this with them.

  101. Donna September 9, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    But I don’t put her on a bus and then follow the bus to school. She doesn’t ride a bus, but if she did and wanted me to walk her to class on the first day, I’d just drive us both to school that morning.

  102. SKL September 9, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    I just remembered something I’ve mentioned in the past on these topics. My kid sister started KG many moons ago, a petite young 5yo. I was 17 and in charge of the kids during the summer (Mom worked). So I took her on “meet the teacher day” and made sure she knew where her classroom was etc. Then on the first day of school, she hopped on her bike and rode to school with the older neighborhood kids. (It was about a mile away.) A neighbor lady asked me how she was getting to school, and I said, “she rode her bike.” The look on Mrs. Neighbor’s face made me wonder if I’d done the right thing. I walked down to the school and poked my head into the KG classroom. My sister, who was busy working at her desk, looked up and said, “what are YOU doing here?” I said “just wanted to make sure you got started OK” and I got eyerolls.

    I know my kids could handle this without me. However, it doesn’t hurt anything if I walk in with them on the first day. If I did it every day, that would be a different story.

  103. HRu September 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    It’s the easiest thing in the world to prepare your kids for a new experience that neither you nor the child can be sure of: Just let them know the grown-up will be back…this sage advice from Fred Rogers and Daniel Tiger.

    No need to buy product or spend time researching/preparing them for disasters. Just be there for your kids when they need you, love/reassure them each and every day so they have the confidence to interact with the outside world, i.e., to try new things, fail and bounce back.


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