There was no question that my kids would have a birthday party. After a full year in preschool, both understood the importance of birthdays, and of parties. Even before their pretend birthday celebrations at school in June, they told me what they wanted for their parties. My son wanted "a race." My daughter wanted to be a princess. For months we have been talking about their birthday parties.
There was also no question that the party would be at our house. I enjoy crafting, planning, and the stress of parties. A kids' party is a place to let the creative juices flow.
So all I had to do was figure out how to combine princesses and race cars and, more importantly, how to manage a gaggle of 4-year-olds for two hours. I realized that I had created my own exit project, my final exam for the semester of learning I had done at the preschool this year. As lead teacher, I would plan and implement a class for my children's friends, all of whom had seen me as their teacher at some point in the last few months.
Tomorrow we will host "A Princess and A Race Car," a party for our preschool friends that focuses on the story of the day and builds activities around that tale. Kids will count, they will write, they will have fun, and they will exercise. And of course, we will have music. I've taken all of the lessons I've learned from my teaching mentors - preparing crafts ahead of time, sorting materials into boxes for little fingers, offering a mix of structure and free play - and I'm giving myself the test.
It's been a fun challenge to combine princesses and race cars, giving each of my children an individual party without planning for two events. After a small panic attack, when I realized how many children might be attending, I reminded myself that I had just spent four months in a preschool. I thought about what engaged the children in school. Stories and crafts kept their interest, and I knew that I could combine the two parties by writing them together. I wrote a story for my princess and my racer with the highlight of the party for my son - a real race - and my daughter - a dance party with her princesses - coming together in the story. Because I know they will listen, I will read the story to the children tomorrow before they "shake their sillies out" in a footrace (the boys in their handcrafted car suits) and the girls in their dance party (wearing their princess garb).
After my "lesson" with its only true objective being "to have fun," I will reflect on how I planned and how I executed that plan. Like my own students, I will think about what I learned from my apprenticeship this past year and whether I was able to implement my knowledge effectively. This party has become my exit project, the test of my ability to teach (or at least manage) a class of preschoolers.