My one and only is headed on to big kid school and I'm not ready. Who will give her a bear hug as she walks in the door? Who will hold her hand on the way to the potty? Who will warm up her lunch? Oh, right. Nobody. It's kindergarten. The next and necessary step in her education and development as an independent human being. Take notes on how to let go of your 5-year-old in pursuit of age-appropriate self-reliance.

As my daughter prepares to leave the nest of love that is preschool, I've been navigating a rotating list of our collective fears. Hers ranging from "will I be able to bring cupcakes on my birthday?" to "what if I don't make any friends?" and "will there be swings?" Mine skew a bit darker, and so far, no amount of rocking in the corner and wringing of my hands has helped to soothe my worried heart. That's when this rookie mom finally got smart and reached out to a pro — a mom who just saw her daughter through a successful first year in school.

Amber of The Girl is Craftee has a few great tips for helping moms and kids get ready for this brave new world. She spent a year volunteering every week with her daughter's kindergarten class and lived to tell us about it. Whether you're volunteering in the classroom every week or you're dropping off and picking up straight from day care, her insight will help you ease into this new stage in parenting with a bit of grace and peace of mind (and heart).

Get real

The range of skill, maturity and the amount of exposure some kids have had to different learning environments was shocking to me. I'm talking about kindergarten being some kids' first exposure to any type of learning to kids who are going through kindergarten for a second time.

Get organized

I would encourage any parent to get a file box just for their child and make files for homework calendars, phonics club, numbers club, rainbow words club, completed homework, work completed in class, awards received, in-progress projects, school events, etc. Get organized before your child even starts school. Once I was buried in school paperwork, homework and fliers for school events, it was almost too late because the tidal wave of paperwork kept taking me down — and my daughter's school considers itself a paperless school!

kitchen timerHomework zone

This varies from school to school and even teacher to teacher, but get ready for homework. I'd set a timer and get your child used to doing a quiet activity for 15 to 30 minutes in the afternoon every day.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice writing. At the very least, make sure your child can write their name on their own without any assistance. Have your child practice writing their letters in upper and lowercase. Teacher supply stores like Lakeshore Learning sell inexpensive programs that allow you to type out words and sentences in Word that you can print and have your child trace the letters.

Practice using scissors and glue. Having good control of the scissors and being able to cut out a shape following a line helps them develop the muscles used to write.

Get involved

Lastly and most importantly, get involved with your child's school. Volunteer in the class (or at school-sponsored events after work or on the weekends). Volunteering in my daughter's kindergarten class set a good foundation for me to understand how the system works, and also created a good foundation for the rest of her elementary education. It was a nine-month initiation and I learned a ton myself.

Amber's advice helped me to think clearly about the logistics around kindergarten. Now I can visualize a homework time and space in my home. I've got my file box labeled and ready. I'm tackling craft time with a renewed purpose and you'd better believe I'll be ready for that PTA sign-up sheet. With all of those things carefully thought through, I've been able to focus on the softer side of this transition.

Soak her in, see the world from her four foot perspective and quietly study the girl who dots her i's with bubbles, writes her E's like 3's and enthusiastically requests a 'pocksicle' each and every day.

My frantic mind is clear and there's room to simply be with my girl. Soak her in, see the world from her four foot perspective and quietly study the girl who dots her i's with bubbles, writes her E's like 3's and enthusiastically requests a "pocksicle" each and every day. I know that school will correct, edit and adjust these traits I've come to treasure. It's part of growing up and out of the nest, and I'm accepting it one small step at a time.

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