And just like that, her first year of preschool is done.

How did this happen? I know they say that if you blink, you’ll miss it. I think I may have blinked. It really doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was blogging about her first day of preschool, and here we are on her last day. She’ll be crossing the stage to receive her multiple PhDs in no time. No pressure, honey. As I look back, I think about not only how much she has learned and grown these last 10 months, but also what I’ve learned as a parent to a preschooler.

Provoke and Observe

Granted, I’m obviously several decades removed from when I first started elementary school, let alone preschool. Even so, my generic perspective on formal schooling has always been one of structure. The teachers (or the school or the school district or whatever other governing body makes these kinds of decisions) develop a lesson plan and the whole year is already laid out in front of them. These are the topics we’re going to discuss and this is how we’re going to approach them.

Maybe it’s because this is still at a preschool level (this is probably because it’s “just” preschool). And while it’s not quite the Montessori method, Addie’s preschool does empower the children to help guide the curriculum. The teachers describe it as a “provocation.” They present an object, a workstation, or a question, and then they see how the children respond.

The idea is that you want to provide an environment where their young minds can explore and flourish. As parents, we oftentimes feel like we need to guide them every step of the way. We don’t. It’s much better if they can figure it out for themselves.

Let Them Try

You’d be amazed what three-year-olds are capable of doing!

This is an extension of the previous point. The temptation to be a helicopter parent is strong, because we want to protect our little ones from harm. I understand and appreciate that as well as anyone. That’s why I was so shocked to see scissors and hammers and other potential hazards freely within reach in the classroom. “They’re three,” I thought to myself. “They’re not ready for real scissors yet.”

But they are. And hammers too. The teachers “provoked” the kids with hammers, showing them how to pound some golf tees into Styrofoam blocks. It didn’t take long before it evolved into real nails and wood.

Something I learned at one of the general meetings was to be more mindful of my own emotions. The children can “feel” your anxiety even if you’re not consciously aware of it. We need to learn to let go. Yes, even when they’re “only” three years old.

Break Out of Your Shell

Despite how open and conversational I may appear on social media these days, I’ve never been a particularly extroverted person. My wife too. That’s why it’s a little puzzling to see just how outgoing our little girl can be. She enjoys saying hi to everyone and she feeds off the energy of others.

Even so, we had our concerns. Up until she started preschool, Addie had never been in any sort of real structured, group environment with other kids her age. She’d been to story time at the library and such, but school is a different beast entirely. We weren’t sure how she’d adapt. She did and she loves it. She even has a best friend at school. I’m so proud.

Arrive Early, Leave Late

Since I’m hardly any sort of social butterfly and I abhor small talk, I didn’t expect to get much out of dropping off and picking up the kid from school. I figured it’d be a pretty straightforward affair with superficial pleasantries among the parents.

Maybe we just have a good group. In the past several months, the parents really developed an incredible sense of community and connection. We keep in touch through a WhatsApp group, we gladly participate in projects and fundraisers together, and we share in the challenges and rewards of raising our little ankle biters. We’re practically family now.

And while we couldn’t possibly keep it up every time, we do try to arrive early for drop-off and leave late after pickup. This gives the kids some time to play in the schoolyard and some time for the parents to mingle and engage in adult conversation.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I’m naturally a very anxious person. I worry about a lot of things, rightly or wrongly, and this included a number of concerns before Addie embarked on her first year of preschool. Was she going to be ready for this? Was I going to be ready for this?

She was already pretty good about the whole potty training business, but would this all fall apart in a new environment away from her parents? This was the first time that she’d actually be away from immediate family. Like, at all. Ever. We were worried about how she’d respond to structure, like circle time, since she never had to do anything like that before and she has a very restless energy about her. We worried how she’d get along with the other kids and if she’d learn how to share, since she’s an only child and has never really had to share her toys.

As it turned out, for the most part, all of these worries were for naught. She adapted just fine and she adores going to school (though waking up some mornings were a challenge). As a parent, this is perhaps one of the biggest, most profound, and most deceptively simple lessons I could have learned after one year of preschool. All things considered, things are probably going to be alright.

Now we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to occupy her until September…