We started Kindergarten in September at our local public school with so much excitement. High hopes for a happy and challenged child. We waited a long time for Kindergarten.
Before I tell you the story, know that it ends well. Here she is on her 1st day, yesterday, in her new uniform.
What Happened Last Year?
Sophia missed the school cut off last year by just 20 days, but was ready. Really ready. Last October I wrote about underestimating our daughter. We knew less than a month into school that she should have been in Kindergarten, but there was not much we could do. We ended up leaving her in pre-school for the year. She was happy with friends, but bored by the curriculum. Needless to say, this year had to be better.
The School Experience
On her first day Sophia raved about the bus. She recounted her entire day and said it was okay. We were sure it would improve. When the year started there were 29 kids in her class and the other classes while they waited for approval to hire another teacher. To hear Sophia tell it, and yes, I know that she is 6, the beginning of the year was chaotic in class. She explained the discipline problems and the punishments. She told us about the kids in her class. She talked about testing they give to every kindergartner. The girl likes to talk. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with how much she has to say, but this time, we wanted to hear everything.
After a few weeks, things got worse and not better. The discipline problems in her class were not improving much and Sophia told us that one of the kids at her table was very mean to her, but that they were not supposed to tattle. We explained the difference between tattling and telling an adult when we are really hurt physically or emotionally. In addition to difficult relationships, Sophia was bored in math and frustrated with reading. She has one of those extreme math brains and wasn’t learning reading in the traditional way it was being taught. In math, she already knew it. All of it. Through Kindergarten.
We exchanged emails with teachers, met with the principal, met with the teachers and also toured a private school when we found out there was an open Kindergarten spot. We needed to have an option if things did not work out. We loved it but dammit we were and I daresay still are strong believers in our public school. We didn’t think we would leave. I have to say, by the time I had a meeting with the group of Kindergarten teachers and the principal, I had a long list of concerns and I wanted to ask specific questions about their curriculum and Sophia. On almost all of the topics we discussed, I felt better about the rest of the year. My fear was subsiding, and I thought we could make it work.
Then, I asked about getting Sophia more advanced math and about the Talent Development teacher they have. On our school tour we were told that kids with advanced skills in math and / or reading were pulled into groups appropriate for their level. I was told in this meeting that this does not happen until 2nd grade. I looked at her tests and her report card, where it showed her completed Kindergarten skill set. I thought about the 1st grade math books she does at home. I knew that to take a little girl who excels in math and make her bored with it at school would be the fastest way for her to lose interest in something she has a gift for.
Finally, I broached reading. I told them Sophia had told me that the Kindergartner’s did not read in class. In her words, “we never read, Mom, the teachers just read to us.” I explained that I was sure this was a mistake, since picking up a book is the only thing that is helping her advance her skills. It was not a mistake. I am not sure why, still, but it had something to do with the way the school teaches phonics and the varying levels of competency with letter sounds. Kids who can read have time to read from time to time. Kids who cannot yet read do not have that time except for in small workshop sessions with their teacher. I was, honestly, shocked.
I will admit that I am not the expert here. This is a good public school and most of the people who go here love it. The kids excel in their studies and go on to have successful educational experiences. I am sure that the curriculum they use is appropriate for the vast majority of students.
For Sophia, it wasn’t working. She came home upset many days and said she was just bored. Since the first day, she relished her time on the bus and on the playground and in the special activities but said she was bored in math and not learning to read. Totes not cool.
The Decision to Change Schools
So, over Thanksgiving break, we made the decision to send her to that private school. Her test day there had been amazing. She radiated joy when she explained all of the details of the day. She said they read every day. She wrote a little book. She had a scavenger hunt. They have free writing that is actually free writing. They told her she could do math projects. She said “Mom, I learned so much. Can I please go here?”
Well, we remained unsure and talked and talked and talked and I cried. I am a huge supporter of public schools and I wanted to make this a success. At the same time, my daughter was unhappy and I had promised her after last year that I would do everything I could to make sure that school was exciting and wonderful for her. One night, as she was asking what we would decide, she told me that the teachers at this school love all the kids. She said “Like really mom, they love us and they don’t yell and they make me happy.”
I think that sealed it. Joy, pure joy, matched with an educational experience that fits Sophia.
In her New School
She had her first day yesterday and she brought home a book to read to us. I cried with joy. She has her own book bin in her classroom with books appropriate for her reading level and she reads every single day at this school. She came home happy to tell us everything she learned and said that in math she would be able to move ahead. She is excited that there is Spanish there and art 2 times per week and she loves that they are in the city and go to the uptown library for their books. The girl is ecstatic.
This is Sophia with the teacher she tells us loves all the kids.
For the first time in months and months, I did not worry when I went to bed that I had done the wrong thing. I knew we made the right decision and finally, I slept peacefully.
Our 2nd, 1st day of Kindergarten was a success.
How was / is your Kindergarten experience?
Please feel free to ask me anything. If I don’t respond in the comments because a question is too detailed, I will respond by email. I want to be sure to remain positive and respectful of her original school.
Here is an out-take. She is growing up so fast. She was totally embarrassed to have me take her picture outside of school. I had to leave my big camera in my purse and capture these few shots with my phone.