On Changing Schools: Her 2nd, 1st Day of Kindergarten

By November 29, 2012My Kids, Parenting

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.

Sophia First Day Kindergarten

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.

Sophia with her Teacher

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.

Already Embarassed by Mom

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Carolyn Y says:

    I thought this was a great post.
    My second daughter will miss the Kindergarten cut-off by 10 days in our school district, but will make the cut-off in the charter school available.
    I know I have some time, but I’m torn.
    She is my second child, and as a result, advancing fast as she runs after her sister. I know I have some time before a decision has to be made, but I can’t help thinking and wondering now.
    Carolyn Y recently posted… Interview With My 4 Year Old {+Printable}My Profile

  • It’s such a tough decision..but what’s so awesome if finding the right place for our kids..and maybe even finding out that different schools fit each of our kids too.

    We had the exact opposite experience. We started Eloise in a private school for Kindergarten and pulled her out and put her in a public school because the private school did not have the resources to challenge her. We are very lucky to have a public G&T magnet school that is amazing.

    Hugs to you and I am so glad she had an amazing day. xoxo
    tracy recently posted… This Is My Mom On DrugsMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      What private school lacks resources? Strange, indeed! I wish we were going that way and finding a public school with the resources. Boy would that rock! I am so glad you guys found a good place for the girls. We have excellent magnet school and will go into the lottery again for next year. Still, I am just not sure that it would be fair of us to pull her out again, even for a great public school, if she loves where she is and feels like she belongs there.

  • andrea says:

    this just makes my heart smile…glad you found a good school!

    • Brittany says:

      Finally I can sleep. Maybe now I can exercise too. I have been a blob of nerves and fear and meetings I never wanted to have. Education is the most important thing for her right now (next to our love etc etc) so I am super duper happy we found a place that works!

  • Mara says:

    I’ve been thinking about this so much with X heading to the big K next year. Here in AZ, we are in a good school district, with a gifted program right down the street, but there are so many options – charter schools, Christian etc. (And you can probably imagine, we’ve got some opinions on this as well!) I am worrying already about whether X be challenged enough – will she love it – will she continue to love learning – will I know if it is the right place? I think you have the peace of knowing the S is in the right environment now, and I hope we find similar peace with our decision, whatever it might be! Congrats to S for speaking up and kudos to you guys for listening to her!

    • Brittany says:

      Mara we are so lucky she is a talker. Most kids come home from school and say they don’t remember or don;t want to talk about their day. I know this is one of the biggest frustrations for a lot of our friends who want nothing more than to hear about what goes on for those 7 hours! I hope you will find a place that makes you feel comfortable and that allows x to be who she was meant to be…to grow and learn in a positive way. Our home school is really good and honestly we were very surprised that it did not work out. We are not looking back though!

  • Sherri says:

    You did the right thing for YOUR kid, and that is all that matters. I work with elementary schoolers on social skills in small groups, and it happens to be at the public school both of my kids attended. I know exactly what you are feeling, from both perspectives. Kids need to be challenged and engaged, and you have to do what you feel in your gut. We had a situation with my son where we had to make a huge decision regarding school, and I never looked back. Ten years later, I can still say we made the right choice.
    Sherri recently posted… Thankful for the Little ThingsMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      Thank you Sherri! It was tough but you are right – it is about her! I really wish we had found a public school that worked and honestly, there are more magnets we could look at. I don’t think that would be fair to Sophia though, to move her again, if this ends up really being wonderful.

  • Alison

    We’re not there yet, but I’m with you on this.
    What matters is that our children are happy and thriving. You gave the first school a chance, and it just didn’t work for Sophia. You guys did the absolute right thing – look at her smile!
    Alison recently posted… Being The BabyMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      Thank you Alison! I think we did the right thing, I just wish we had been able to work something out with our public school. Still, to see that smile makes us so happy!

  • Candice says:

    This is a great post. I’m a huge fan of public school but education is never one-size-fits-all and we always, always have to advocate for our children’s best interests. You’ve done right by Sophia and have been incredibly thoughtful and purposeful about it.
    Candice recently posted… Gobble Gobble and Ho Ho HoMy Profile

  • I am SO happy for you all that you found a great fit– that can make all the difference in the world! I also very much appreciate how you recognized how vital it is to encourage her love of math at an early age. We hear all about how we need more girls in the STEM fields!

    It boggles my mind how the cut-off dates vary from state-to-state, too. Here, our cut-off is not until Dec. 31st, but when we lived in the midwest, it was Sept. 1st– that’s a big difference when you’re talking about 4/5 year olds!

    We were very fortunate that, when they realized our son was talented in math, they let him join a 2nd grade class as a kindergartner. He did 3rd grade math in 1st grade and, now that he’s in 2nd, he does a program out of Johns Hopkins University. The public school orchestrated all of this– we are very, very lucky, though, and I try to never forget that. 🙂
    JessieLeigh recently posted… The Reverse Date Night: A Gift to You & Your MarriageMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      That is fantastic! Yes, having the cutoff later would have made a big difference for us and perhaps saved us a LOT of money. All of that personal care of your son would have been exactly what we needed. I know we are looking at areas that do this and would consider a change if we could find a good public school for our kids. I think the longer it takes the harder it would be to pull them from their school though, so we shall have to take it one year at a time.

  • brenda says:

    I too am at a decision of changing schools, currently my child goes to school at KIPP Austin and its an awesome school, they only thing is my child stays at my sisters house during the week, and I see here 2-3 nights during the week and take her home on weekends. But she is having a hard time adjusting, me and my sister were never taught spanish, by my mother and i promised to give my child the best education I could, being a single mom. When I hear stories about children and public schools and how they are just glorified babysitters, and they do nothing to help our children, and to educate. I know we(me and my sister) have made a great decision for her, to continue at this school, we just have to get use to being separated for a couple nights a week.

  • Kate says:

    I can’t choose between 2 good private schools. One of them (school A) starts kindergarden in summer and the other (school B) in autumn. Do you it is ok to start in school A first and then if it dosen’t suit , change to school B. Is it allowed?

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