I'm sure the world is tired of listening to my yammering about this subject, but I wanted to write an update about Tory's ECFE toddler class this week.
In one word: SUCCESS!
Many thanks to both Internet and in-real-life friends and family for their kinds words of encouragement and helpful suggestions last week on how to better prepare Tory for school days. As a parent, I just want the best for my little Bean and part of that is giving her learning and social opportunities while also letting her be two years old. The more time I had to digest our experiences the last two ECFE classes, the more convinced I became that this is the right choice for Tory and we needed to stick with it. Going into today, I mentally prepared myself to be as supportive, patient and comforting as she needed me to be.
To set her up for success, I talked quite a bit about school this past week. We checked out a book from the library about school and I took Alicia's advice by talking about Teacher Ann in various ways throughout the week. I meant to put together a social story as Jen suggested, but I ran out of time. I still plan to do this. I did make an "All About Me" book about Tory to bring to class and also printed out photographs of family members for Tory to look at if she got upset. This morning, I encouraged Tory to pick out a stuffed animal or baby doll to bring to school which we kept in her "school bucket" on the window sill in case she was sad. She chose to bring Minnie Mouse and a mini pumpkin along with her.
Tory was nervous as we drove to school and repeatedly asked me from the backseat to "stay" with her. She asked me to carry her into the school building and stuck to my leg like glue for the first fifteen minutes of ECFE. Luckily the first 20 minutes are free play time, so it wasn't a big deal. I finally got her interested in making an apple craft, then she seemed to loosen up a bit.
Next was "circle time," except Tory was finally warmed up and wanted to play. I reminded her she'd have time to play again after circle time was over. When the teacher announced it was time for the parents to split off into another room, I quickly kissed Tory on the head, said "see you later" and walked away. Last week I think I drew too much attention to the fact that I was leaving, so this time I quickly ripped the Band-Aid by telling her good-bye and left before she could think twice about it. This seemed to work better for both of us.
During the first half of child / parent separation time, I couldn't help but worry about how things were going for Tory in her classroom. The phone never rang to ask me back into the classroom, so I eventually relaxed. With about 10 minutes left of our ECFE session, the phone rang and asked two parents - myself and another mother - back into the classroom. Tory was crying, but not as badly as she had been the week before. She was easily calmed down by holding her mini pumpkin and having a drink of water. The teacher said Tory did great during the most of the class, but broke down in tears when they transitioned from play time to snack time. I think the change in activity probably gave Tory a chance to realize I wasn't there. And, for what it's worth, there were about four other kids (out of 11) crying during snack time while I was in the classroom so she wasn't the only one.
Overall, I call today a success. Tory has been happy this afternoon and nowhere near the emotional breakdown she experienced the last two weeks. She's playing normally this afternoon, isn't overly clingy and is currently taking a nap in her new big girl bed. I'm so proud of my little girl for adjusting to her new school. I was sure to smother her with kisses and tell her so after class today.
I know each week may be different depending on Tory's mood or influenced by things happening in her life. I'm just so happy we had a positive experience today because it reaffirms my feeling that we're doing the right thing for our kiddo. Hooray for progress!