Kindergarten!

We arrived back in Abu Dhabi last week, getting off the plane at around 1 am on Friday morning. After an annoying wait at the luggage carousel, we realized that our stroller was not coming and made our way to the lost luggage desk to make a claim, before grabbing a taxi to our apartment. With as much as we travel, I remain so glad that we chose an apartment only 15 minutes from the airport.

It was great to be home. Matteo, though exhausted, took the time to say hello and goodnight to his favorite toys (ahem, and his video games) before heading to bed. Tony and I briefly unpacked before doing the same. I was glad to have the weekend together to adjust to the time change (2 hours ahead of what we’d adjusted to in Europe) and to regroup before the busy week started.

Tony was back at work on Monday (Sunday was a holiday) and Matteo I spent his last full day of summer break at the pool. On Tuesday morning Tony met Matteo and I at his new school for kindergarten orientation. We’ve been waiting for this day! We spent the morning checking out his new classroom, playground, and meeting his teacher and classmates.

Last spring after attending a “practice morning” for the new students, I met a group of other moms and we set up playdates for the kids throughout the summer so they could start school at least knowing some other kids. That has been wonderful for Matteo (and for me)! One of the kids from the playgroup is in his class and it has really been great for Matteo to already have a friend in his class (it’s also great as a mom to have faces I recognize at drop off/pick up).

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Matteo’s first day of school

Wednesday was the first day of school and I knew wake up would be difficult. I woke him at 6:30 and…well, let’s just say it will take some time (for both of us) to adjust to the new schedule. Uniform on and lunch packed, Matteo and I were off to school. As most schools are on the first day, it was crowded and a bit chaotic but when we got to his classroom, Matteo was READY. Smile on his face. High-fiving his teacher. A quick “bye mom!” and that was it. No tears, no fear, just excitement. A huge change from last year’s first day of preK drop off.

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Matteo and his friend Anvi — so glad they are in the same class!

I struggled quite a bit after I dropped him off. By the time I got to the car the tears were flowing. As excited as I am for this next stage and the excitement of having a school aged kid, I’m also mourning the end of Matteo being a “little one.” It helps that I absolutely love his school and know he will be safe, have fun, and learn so much.

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Pick up time!

The second day drop off was much easier for me as I joined a group of my friends afterwards at the school’s coffee shop (how genius is it to have a parent coffee shop???) where we compared notes on our kids’ first days and chatted about everything we’re learning as new parents at the school.

Thanks to those who sent me notes and messages of well wishes and good thoughts for Matteo on his first day. We felt loved for sure!

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Farewell, Dolphin Class

Today was Matteo’s last day in the pre-kindergarten program at Yellow Submarine Nursery. He started in the upper preK class, the Dolphin Class, last September. We enrolled him in the program the previous April, having been warned that spots fill up quickly and we spent all last summer talking up the idea of being a big boy and going to school with other children.

He wasn’t having it. The first term of preK was frankly a struggle — a struggle to get him on a good schedule after our summer travels. A struggle for him to feel comfortable when I would leave him in his classroom. A struggle to eat his packed lunch each day. Many, many mornings were spent wrangling him to get dressed and out the door on time.

Just as he was starting to turn a corner from school being something he had to go to, to something he enjoyed, Matteo’s beloved teacher Ms. Leslie announced that she was moving back to the UK. Matteo was very close to Ms. Leslie — she had a soft spot for our sensitive little boy and an understanding that his shyness is not a character defect that needs correcting, but rather a personality trait to be considered. She was exactly what he needed in his first months in the preK program, a loving and encouraging presence. We were all very sad to say good-bye.

Then we met Matteo’s new teacher Ms. Emily.

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Matteo and Ms. Emily

Ms. Emily challenges Matteo. She, too, has a loving personality but she’s also firm — pushing him to do a little more each day. While this was hard for him initially, eventually Matteo wanted to make his teacher proud and would try something new just for the joy of being able to tell Ms. Emily of his efforts. The combination of Ms. Leslie and Ms. Emily was exactly what Matteo needed this year.

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A small sampling of some of the keepsake pieces of Matteo’s work from preK

Matteo has learned so much this year. About letters, numbers, shapes, colors, animals, a little bit of Arabic, and a lot about the world around him! He also learned to be one child in a classroom of 16; that he enjoys playing with some children more than others. He is learning to share and collaborate, to be a part of a group and to consider how his actions affect those around him. His understanding of the world has really grown, and he loves telling us about his friends’ home countries: “Sebastian is from Peru! Mia is from England! Paula is from Brazil! Ms. Emily is from Australia!”. We look on a map together and point out the home countries of his friends and teachers, all the while noting that even though we’re all from different corners of the world, we all ended up together in Abu Dhabi.

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A page from Matteo’s term report. Red ink is Term 1, blue ink is Term 2, and black ink is Term 3. So much progress over the school year!

Earlier this week we received Matteo’s end of year portfolio and his end of the year term report. It is amazing to see the measurable growth he has made since starting prek! I know kindergarten will be another challenge for him come September, but I really feel like this program has given him a good base on which he can build.

To say that we are proud of our little boy is an understatement. When we made the decision to move to Abu Dhabi in 2015, a big consideration for us was how a move across the world would effect Matteo. Overall I think it’s benefitted him, but of course its been hard too. Weekly video chats with his cousins is great, but its not the same thing as being able to play together on the regular (thanks again for the playdate invite for this Saturday, Millie. I wish we could make it, but we’ll see in a few weeks!). But one massive benefit of the move is being able to put him in great schools with talented teachers, starting with his preK program and looking forward to the great school we’ve chosen for him for his primary years.

I have two hours before I pick Matteo up from the Dolphin Class for the final time. We have a few weeks before our summer travels begin and I’m looking forward to lazy mornings and plenty of pool time. Congratulations on finishing your first year of a school program Matteo! You did great and now your reward is your very first SUMMER BREAK FROM SCHOOL!

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First day of school, September 4, 2016 vs. Last day of school, June 15, 2017

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

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As of the end of PreK, Matteo wants to be a scientist when he grows up

Yesterday was Matteo’s preK graduation program! What a proud day for our family, as Tony and I watched Matteo and his classmates show so much of what they have learned since September — colors, shapes, letters, numbers, and even a bit of Arabic! Seeing the difference in Matteo from his first school performance back in the fall (where he barely participated!) to yesterday (he sang EVERY song!) was exciting for us as his parents but what was even better was seeing Matteo engaged and enjoying himself. Though he has officially “graduated” from preK, Matteo will continue to attend his school for most of June (the ceremony was early because Ramadan begins this weekend).

This morning, instead of heading to preK Matteo and I got in a taxi to attend a play morning at the kindergarten he will begin attending in September. Teo has been hearing so much about “big school” both from his preK teacher and at home from Tony and I so today’s visit was perfectly timed.

The morning was structured so that parents could accompany the children to the classroom and then leave in order to give the children time with each other and the teachers. The school has a coffee shop on its second floor where the parents were invited to wait — there was a table set up with second hand uniforms for sale as well a student staffed bake sale and toy drive with proceeds going to provide relief for the current Somali famine crisis. I spent the morning happily chatting with the other parents.

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“Time to leave Matteo!” and he pretends he can’t hear me

When the parents were invited to return to the classroom to pick up the children, I saw a very  happy (very sweaty!) Matteo. He quickly glanced up from the toys he was playing with to say “Oh, hi mom!” and then continued playing. When I told him it was time to go, he responded by asking if we could please stay a little longer. He then pointed out to me all of his new “buddies”. Once I could pry him away from the classroom, he told me all about the fun things there are to play with in kindergarten — including a sand box, water table, big slide, etc.

HE HAD SO MUCH FUN.

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The children were invited to play on the playground, hence this very sweaty boy

I second guess many decisions I make when it comes to raising our precious Matteo, but after this morning his school enrollment is a decision I feel confident in making. It was the only school he expressed a preference for during the application/interview process, and he’s already asked if we can go back tomorrow. This is a big deal!! I was equally impressed by the school today, in particular by the grade 6 student who was assigned as my guide. She has attended the school since she was Matteo’s age and was a poised, well spoken young lady. Impressive all around!

All that to say, we have (finally) decided on Matteo’s school and all three of us are really excited about it. If I have to send him to school a full year earlier than planned (by US standards), I’m glad I’ll be entrusting him to the people in this school. Now we have the summer before us to help him get ready, buy his uniforms, and get him okay with the idea of riding the school bus!

P.S. The school we’ve chosen is British curriculum, so what I’m calling “kindergarten” is technically called Foundational Stages 2 (FS2). While we applied to American curriculum schools as well, this one was the best fit for Matteo.

P.P.S When we eventually return to the US, we will have more decisions to make as Matteo will be a grade ahead of other kids his age. That means we can either have him repeat a grade, or keep him on his current schedule, meaning he could potentially be a year younger than the other kids in his grade. That’s a decision we’ll make later, and will largely depend on how old he is when we return. Because he’ll be in a British curriculum school, the idea of repeating a year if necessary doesn’t really bother me since he wouldn’t be repeating the exact same learning standards.