We always knew Sophia was going to be amazing. Of course, we are parents and she is our daughter, our first gorgeous child. You know. How could she be anything else? Still, I underestimated her.
Sophia’s birthday happens to be just 20 days after the kindergarten cutoff here in Charlotte. We have been thinking about this since she was moved from the 2’s to the 3’s in pre-school a few years ago. We knew she would finish the 4 year old class and then watch her friends go to kindergarten. We worried about it. We watched her befriend kids a year or more older than her with ease.
So we called the elementary school. We asked about early admission to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. It is possible. With a birthday so close to the cutoff we would have to get her tested in IQ, reading and math and then have her evaluated by the school. She would not have to be a raging genius, she would have to score in the 98th percentile for kids her age in IQ and then in either reading or math skills and have the recommendation of the counselor who administers the tests.
We watched Sophia and asked her 4’s teacher about her “place” amongst her peers who would be attending kindergarten. With no red flags and a little girl was begging to go to kindergarten, we decided to have her tested.
She was actually excited when we walked into the office for 2 hours of testing. I was nervous. Almost nauseous. As a parent, you know your kid has got something, but you never know what. It’s just crazy to send a 4 year old for IQ testing. We prepared ourselves for everything from major learning issue to genius to crazy unexplainable to average awesome 4 year old girl. If I am being totally honest, after years of thinking she was just a little ahead, we actually did remind ourselves that having any expectations was unfair to her and not right as a parent. Still, you always want the best news. She came out happy and chatty but we did not know anything for a few weeks.
When we met with the counselor we left with the knowledge that Sophia was in fact intellectually and socially ready for kindergarten. She was fine in IQ and far above her peer level in math (we had no idea) and above average in reading skills. However, there was a big but. In Charlotte a good number of parents specifically hold their children, usually boys, back a year. I don’t know why other than worrying they are not ready or wanting them to be bigger, but it raised concern for our Sophia going to Kindergarten. You see, with all the kids being held back there would be an almost 2 year age difference between the youngest and oldest kindergarteners and the counselor wanted us to think about this not just in terms of elementary school but as she aged. Would we want our 13 year old in class with 15 year old boys? What about having a 19 year old pick our 16 year old up for a date? You know I am all kinds of afraid of sex so this really got me thinking. I should have thought more about Sophia and less about the other “stuff”.
At the end of the day, we decided to find her a transitional kindergarten and told her it was because her birthday was extra special and that she would be super ready for kindergarten when she went.
We have had a month of school and we regret our decision. Not only is Sophia unhappy that she is not in kindergarten, she says she is bored all the time both at school and at home. Her TK has not even started the workbooks she was so exited about. At home, you know we always have a million art projects and fun things around here. She wants to be in school with friends for a full day. Those were her exact words. At first, my feelings were hurt. I wondered why she did not want to spend more time with me. She said she loved me very much, but that she was just as grown up as her friends and she wanted to be with them. I get it. Sophia has been a social uber extrovert since she was a baby. She thrives in large groups and likes a challenge. She is friends with 7 year olds already. She can hold her own.
I don’t know why we underestimated her.
Now, it seems that our school district has added a K1 class to help deal with the age issue. The older and more advanced kids have been placed in a kindergarten / 1st Grade class and the younger normal kindergarteners are in regular old kindergarten. Had we known this, our decision would have been different. We would have met with the school to send her this year.
We are now faced with a decision. Do we leave her in her TK class and try to find extra activities in the afternoon? Do we proceed with trying to start her now, since it has only been a month since school started? Do we find and pay for one year of private kindergarten and then send her next year with the possibility she will then be in the K1 class? We honestly feel like she should be in “real” school now, but is it too late?
Right now I am exploring all of our options while the thought that I failed my daughter tickles my brain. These cutoffs are meant to send the kids to kindergarden who are supposed to be there, and we knew that is where she belonged. We knew she would love it. We knew our own daughter. At the end of the day, as parents, we know our small children better than the counselors or the schools. I need to remember that as we enter into the days when our kids are gone as much as they are here. It is my job to pay attention and be an advocate for my child. As a parent who plans on sending my children to public school, it is my job to be as active as possible and make sure that she and her classmates are getting what they need. It is my job to fight for my kids when 20 days on a calendar keep them from what is right for them. I want to listen to my kids and take them seriously when the matter is serious. She told us what she wanted, she tested appropriately to move ahead and still we doubted her.
It is a mistake I hope we will not make again.
Question: When do your kids go to kindergarten? Do you have similar issues with age gaps due to holding kids back? I am curious as to how the world works for school aged kids outside of Charlotte. Thanks!