These are the official pictures of the kids taken on their second day of school. No offense to the person who took this but it may be the worst picture ever taken of James.
I visited a lot of preschools, and by a lot I mean A LOT (sixteen over two years), and I knew when I visited Milestones Preschool the first time that it was The School. I really wanted a play-based school that focused on social and emotional development. Milestones is an inclusive preschool, with a super caring and knowledgeable staff. (And since being there they have endlessly impressed me.) Plus, the ratio is an incredible one teacher per five students. Another plus? School meets even in the summer. Also, their “case worker,” Teacher Nita, sends out an e-Journal every two weeks chronicling their social development and what they’ve been up to.
James and Julia build paper clip chains with Teacher Nita.
Milestones was the kids’ first drop-off school experience, and when they started we were still recovering from Julia’s separation issues due to her poor experience at Bright Beginnings. The kids had a trial day in February 2013, and I expected to be in the room with them but the teachers thought it best for me to wait outside so they could get me if there was a problem. Julia cried for a few minutes when I left and was comforted by Teacher Lucy. Julia was frowny part of the day but otherwise okay. Meanwhile, when James saw me at the end of the day, he announced, “Mommy, I was happy when you were gone.” Thanks, James.
It wasn’t all bad for Julia, however, who declared that she wanted another teacher - Teacher Allyson - to come to her house. (This is her highest form of compliment.) After class they enjoyed running around Mitchell Park next door.
Their first real day of school was a month later at the beginning of March. I had them choose their favorite shirts to wear. Before they left I drew hearts on their hands like in The Kissing Hand, and told them that during the day they could look at the hearts and know that I loved them and that Mommy always comes back. The first month they brought Bunny and Doggy inside their owl backpacks, along with their “booger cloths” to help ease the transition.
|Mommy draws a heart on Julia’s hand.|
|James shows off the heart on his hand.|
|Goofing off for pictures before leaving for their first real day at Milestones|
|Julia and James play in the kitchen while also holding Bunny and Doggy.|
|Julia's not so sure about this school thing, and doesn't want to go inside.|
Upon leaving the room, I was clued in to the two-way mirror in the adjoining room, and I could see that Julia was no longer crying but was being comforted.
At the end of class I peeked in the crack between the Dutch doors at the entrance to class, and could see James and Julia coming in from playing outside. James looked at the door and started crying, which was odd because I knew he couldn’t see me. Apparently he was told I was behind the door, and that prompted the crying. The rest of the day, however, I heard that they both did okay. After class they ran with classmates Caleb and Naoki around the bike racks outside. It becomes an after class ritual.
|Running around outside after their second day.|
|Playing on the bike racks with Caleb|
|Before school ritual: Pushing the button to open the wheelchair accessible door.|
|After school ritual: climbing the fence by the parking lot to watch the kids play at the school next door.|
|Look who just arrived - Papa!|
Another challenge was James’s fear of the clothes dryer, which was inside the school bathroom. It made a big unexpected booming sound at the end of the cycle, which made James afraid to wash his hands. Teacher Alicia worked with him on this by holding him up to the dryer and empowering him to turn it off himself when he needed to wash his hands.
|One day James had some massive bedhead when I picked him up at school. If this happens midway through the day because taking off his sunglasses makes his sweaty hair stand up, is it bedhead or sweathead?|
There were some special days at Milestones, like the time a bug specialist brought in several live specimens for the kids to see. James was not thrilled but sat on Teacher Allyson’s lap a comfortable distance away. For a special Friday splash day before Father’s Day, Mark got to watch the kids play in the sprinklers and engage in other water play.
The kids pose with Daddy on Father’s Day Splash Day, and then Julia rides a trike around the play yard.
There were also three field trips during the year. The first was a visit to nearby grocery store, Piazza’s, where apparently a machine to break down boxes kept kids in thrall. The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo was another field trip destination as was the Webb Ranch Pumpkin Patch, which I attended as well.
On the Webb Ranch Pumpkin Patch field trip
James and Julia became fast friends with the other twins in their class, Reyn and Mabel. They often played with Lexi (for a few months before she moved up to pre-K), and James liked playing with Ted and Jake (who arrived the twins’ last month). Another classmate, Jack, apparently had a crush on Julia. Jack’s mom, Sara, reported to me that a teacher told her he often stared at Julia, smitten, during the day, and was transfixed whenever she spoke.
Reyn, Mabel, Julia, and James all hide in a box during a playdate at our house.
|Reyn, James, Julia, and Mabel play with the wiffle ball hanging from our tree.|
|Sara reads to her boys, Tom and Jack (the boy “smitten” with Julia), and Julia and James outside after class.|
(I should note that in Milestones’ pre-K class, the classroom was approximately 75% typically developing. By this age, many atypically developing kids with more needs could qualify to receive services through the school district.)
|Julia shows off a flag she made in class.|
|Julia shows off the hula skirt she made. What, no coconut bikini?|
|It’s very important to know whether your sibling is in a chair, a cube (where both Julia and James are sitting) or a circle spot (not pictured) during circle time.|
On warm Thursdays we had picnic lunches with other classmates after class in the “big backyard” - an enclosed courtyard at Abilities United. Reyn and Mabel, Caleb, Ruby, and Peyton S. and their moms often ate with us and then all the kids would play together.
I noticed that James was quiet without me at school (as he is around new people) and didn’t make a lot of eye contact at first. I was surprised to learn that Julia - usually so outgoing when Mark and I are around - was quiet and without the same spark. While James began to raise his hand in class, Julia didn’t really come out of her shell until the end of the year.
|James goes through the obstacle course. Different obstacle courses were often set up in the classroom.|
Just before the kids moved up to the pre-K class in January, there was a holiday party one evening at Milestones. The kids all got to talk to Santa and receive a present.
|Daddy visits for the holiday party.|
|James gets a gift (Sven from the movie Frozen) from Santa.|