Well, tonight seems like a good night to talk kindergarten, especially since I just came from the Kindergarten Roundup (just in case).
My dilemma is whether or not to try to have Mister Man attend kindergarten next year. His birthday is October 11, so he misses the cutoff. Easy decision, right?
Not so much, for a number of reasons. I want to do the right thing for him, but I won’t know what that is for several years, most likely. By then, it will be too late to change.
He currently attends preschool at our district’s Early Learning Center, which is the state mandated Pre-K program for special needs and at-risk kids. That should make the decision even easier, right? Of course not! He goes there because he had low muscle tone as an infant, which led to late talking and walking and fine motor development.
The late talking also led to social delays where he didn’t know how to interact with kids his age since he didn’t talk when they first started figuring it out, and when he finally started talking, they were beyond the initial stages. He still has an IEP for fine and gross motor (so he gets OT and PT once a week), but the rest of everything he’s graduated from.
This is all leading you to say I’m nuts, I know, but be patient with me.
He’s a bright kid. He has started reading (without us teaching him anything on purpose) and does some adding and subtracting. The kindergarten curriculum in our district teaches kids letters and sounds and sounding out words. There are about 19 words that the teachers told me they want the kids to sight read by the time they’re done with kindergarten. By my count, he already knows 13 of those, as well as some others.
When Mister Man is bored, he acts out. He gets goofy and checks out. I know that kindergarten is about more than just the academics, but he won’t make any social development when he’s constantly in trouble or bored.
He also is a follower in many ways. When he has strong role models, he brings his behavior up to them. When he has poor role models, he goes straight for the lowest common denominator. The role models he had in preschool last year were not the greatest, and his behavior deteriorated. This year, we put him in a class with better role models, and there’s a huge difference. The role models in kindergarten will be much stronger than the ones at the special needs preschool.
The kids in his class this year are all eligible for kindergarten next year based on their birthdays. Mister Man is the only one who doesn’t turn five before September 1, and he interacts fine with those kids and is making huge progress – especially in the last two months, socially in particular. His teacher talks about getting ready for kindergarten next year to the class, so we know they’re teaching him (and the other kids) the skills they need.
If he went to kindergarten next year, he’d be the youngest kid. I have mixed feelings on that one. First, he isn’t athletic, so that’s not a reason to hold him back (not that I’m of the mind that this is a valid reason anyway). Second, I was the youngest kid in my class (November 24 was my birthday – I made the cutoff by 6 days where I started school but then moved where September 1 was the cutoff), and I was fine with it. The fact that I saw other kids mess up with their privileges before I got them meant that I was more responsible when it came to those privileges. And I was never the first one to get something, so I didn’t have the peer pressure to do the wild and crazy things that no one else could do yet. But I know it isn’t always the same for boys as for girls, and every kid is different. Some kids don’t like being the youngest, and that makes things harder for them.
He’s also been in preschool for two full years already. If he doesn’t go to kindergarten for another year, that’s three full years of preschool. When I visited the kindergarten rooms, one of the teachers told me that until this year she would never have worried about it, but she has two students who did three years of preschool and then came to kindergarten this year and they were “overschooled” and bored. Nothing was new for them; they weren’t excited about anything, and academically, they’re already tuning out. That is definitely not what I want for my child.
And, if he does a third year at preschool, what will he learn or do there? Since he’s with all the kids going to kindergarten this year, he’s already gone through the curriculum. It would all be a repeat for him, which brings me again to the boredom and acting out issues.
One of my friends had a child in a similar situation. This year, he’s in kindergarten, and he’s bright and knows all the material already. He hates school. He never wants to go because he’s so bored. She’s told me that if she had known putting him in kindergarten early was an option, she would have gone for it in a heartbeat and now has huge regrets. Next year, she’s looking at a gifted school 45 minutes away (with no traffic) that she’d have to drive him to and from every day. I don’t want my kid to hate school. And I’ve heard many stories about kids who have been held back who get bored with school and start to check out academically, particularly starting in the sixth grade, because it’s too easy and they just don’t care anymore. Definitely not something I want to go through.
And a much smaller reason, but a reason nonetheless is Little Miss. Her birthday is August 1, so she’ll be only one year behind him in school. I remember some of the families where the kids were one year apart in school from when I was in elementary school. Invariably, the younger sibling was a troublemaker. I don’t know if it was that they were too close together in school, whether there were too many comparisons from teachers and parents, or whether it was pure coincidence. Little Miss is already a firecracker, and she doesn’t need any encouragement. Plus, I remember both siblings always feeling a little “weird” about having a sibling just one grade above/below.
When I visited the kindergarten, I asked the teachers what they looked for in kids coming into kindergarten from a social and emotional level. They want the kids to be able to separate from their parents; no screaming and crying kids at the doorway. They want kids to sort of know how to share a little. They want kids to be able to start following some classroom directions and rules. And that’s it. Mister Man does all of this now. I was expecting the bar to be so much higher, but it isn’t.
The more I talk to the school, see the curriculum, see what the students in kindergarten now are actually doing, talk to moms who’ve been there, and so forth, the more I lean towards sending him to kindergarten next year. The real sort of kicker is watching him blossom socially. As I posted a few days ago, he’s finally getting it. He plays with kids every day and truly has friends. With that component missing, I’d be more in doubt, but something’s clicked lately.
But it isn’t all up to me. His team at preschool has to recommend him for kindergarten. Then he has to be tested at one of the schools in district. Then they have to get my and others’ opinions. A lot of it is out of my hands, but the more I learn, the more comfortable I am moving forward and starting to push to have him go to kindergarten next year.
A friend of mine went with me to the roundup tonight. Her son turns six on September 2. She didn’t put him into kindergarten this year, as she also didn’t realize it was an option. He reads. He does math. He likes learning and does first and second grade workbooks for fun. And he hates going to his daycare/preschool because he’s bored there and isn’t learning enough. After going to the roundup, she’s seriously considering trying to move him to first grade next year for the same concerns I have. At least I’m not alone… but that doesn’t make it any easier.