Friday, January 22, 2010
ready or not?
last night there was a "training session" at my kid's preschool. this is the third one i've been to, but i'm still not quite sure what i was "training" for, as there wasn't a lot of teaching and learning happening. it's more like an info night to give us updates regarding what is going on in the coming months, and usually there is a pretty poor turnout.
however, last night the classroom was packed to the gills with moms (and a few dads) sitting in teeny, butt numbing little chairs. i don't think that suddenly people got a lot more free time or that they were itching to hear more of the teacher's off topic ramblings, but most were likely there because we were going to be discussing kindergarten readiness. i know that's why i was there. you see - we have not one, but two children who's birthdays will fall just before the cutoff date. (in new york it is december 1st, in every other state in the union it is september 1st) consequently, depending on what we decide to do, lily and maya will either be the oldest kids in their classes or the youngest.
in kindergarten, i suppose it doesn't matter so much. lily is smart, she is attentive and can sit still and follow directions, and she plays well with other children. however, she is not very impressive in the confidence and self reliance department. and apparently that, more than IQ, is the determining factor in whether or not they are ready.
what's the big deal?, you ask. if she isn't ready, they'll hold her back and she can do kindergarten again. not so fast... that's not really how it works anymore. because of the No Child Left Behind Act, there is no retention of children in school. to meet the standards set forth by the federal government and receive the full amount of federal funding, kids in public schools are automatically promoted... unlike in our day where a child was held back for failing to progress, at a teacher's recommendation or for flunking test scores in key subjects.
this scares the crud out of me, because it basically means that we have this one chance - right now- to decide if our child will be an academically developed, emotionally and socially mature middle schooler. how can i know that? i have no experience with children save for my own, and she is the oldest. besides that, we have to decide NOW, not in 9 months to sign her up for another year of preschool or to push her through.
add to all this the STRESS of last night. a room full of elementary and middle school teachers, and moms with older children who've gone through this all telling me what i should be doing, and what they are going to do. it was an unbelievable amount of peer pressure as they each in turn asked me when lily's birthday is and then all knowingly nodded and said, "hold her back". "i am holding mine back", "i held mine back", "i have never spoken to anyone who regretted holding their child back, but i do know of plenty who regret not doing it". by the end of the night i was starting to feel like it was child abuse to even consider sending her next year.
there is so much weighing on this decision. her best friend is 3 weeks younger than her, and she is definitely going to kindergarten next year. likely means nothing now, but what about when one is in 5th grade and the other in 6th grade? what about the stigma of being the oldest in the class? when i was a kid and there was someone who was a year older than everyone else, we all assumed that they must have flunked a grade. lily is kind of slim in the self belief department (i think it's genetic), and kindergarten is not like it was for us. it's not naps and snacks and singing songs and recess. it is work. reading, math, science, writing.. homework. in west irondequoit school district, half day kindergarten is all academics. there is no art or music or recess. they sit at tables and work for 3 hours. what if she is not ready to do that.. not that she's not smart enough.. but that she is developmentally just not ready? what will it do to her precious little self esteem to be constantly faced with difficult tasks that she struggles with, fails at or at least has a harder time with than the kid sitting next to her? what about that frustration? what would that do to her little girl heart? and would we see the effects of that immediately, or in those troubled teen years? unfortunately developmental screening, at least in the WISD occurs AFTER they are enrolled in kindergarten. makes no sense.
the middle school teacher who was in the room talked at length about her job, where she specializes in working with the troubled kids... the depressed, socially behind kids and it made me recall my school experience. she told of kids who can pinpoint the source of their troubles back as early as 1st and 2nd grade. i can do the same. and it made me wonder if i had a hard time simply because i wasn't emotionally ready to begin school when i did. academically i was fine, my standardized test scores well above average... but despite that, most everything about school was a struggle for me my entire academic career.
and then some may simply think, what's the big deal? can she write her name, follow directions, go to the bathroom by herself? she's ready - send her! and maybe it is as simple as that. maybe i am hanging my baggage of a bad early schooling experience around my own kid's neck. she is not me, she doesn't have to suffer from the confidence, self esteem and emotional fragility problems that i suffered from. she is her own kid, who will write her own history.
yet, i can't shake the feeling that this decision that we make in the next few weeks, will set the child's course for the rest of her life. we'll be visiting a private school or two in the coming weeks and i'll be praying over this decision.
keep your fingers crossed for us.