Ari is now in camp, reunited with all her friends from pre-school. How each child has grown, both physically and emotionally! The camaraderie is as strong as ever, even though the students went to different schools during the year.
This summer is all about fun, not about the intense structure of school.
As was the case last year when she graduated preschool, I watched Ari graduate kindergarten this year with a beaming heart and brimming tears. This year, though, I mentally reviewed the school year as she pomped and circumstanced to the stage.
So, here are the challenges and highlights of the year, much on my mind now still.
At the beginning of the school year, I decided to send Ari to a private school. Unlike the failing public school near me, this school seemed like a bright beacon of learning. After my informational tour of the school, I enthusiastically signed her up. I wanted her to have great educational opportunities, opportunities I never had when I was a child.
It was a financial sacrifice, I reasoned, but well-worth it.
While it was apparent she would receive a quality education, I had no idea how advanced the school was. Nobody on staff, for example, told me that most of the kindergartners had already learned to read fluently in the institution’s pre-school. The school’s goal, I later found out to my horror, was to produce gifted children.
Therefore, the students were expected to perform a grade to a grade and a half above the grade they actually were in, even if they weren’t developmentally ready. In kindergarten, therefore, Ari was expected to do first grade reading and math. This next year, Ari would be expected to be at the second grade level to the beginning of the third grade level.
The school is an academic treadmill.
In kindergarten, homework was intense and advanced. Ari’s reading and writing skills were understandably subpar according to the school. She had difficulty knowing most of the students could read and write fluently while she and some other students lagged behind. Her teacher tutored Ari and other kids in her unfortunate situation outside of class for free the entire year.
Traveling to and from the school was also a challenge: the school is a half-hour drive from where we live. The commute tired us, and it was no small miracle that Ari wanted to do homework as soon as we got home.
Throughout the year I wavered between putting her in the local public school or keeping her at her current private school. I brought up this possible change to Ari a few times during the year, but she insisted that she stay at the school, for she loved her teacher and her best friend was in her class. There was no denying it: the staff and teachers were incredibly above-and-beyond friendly and vested in their students’ success.
What she lacked in reading skills, she made up for in spirit. Much of the time, she did all her homework without my having to push her. Most of the time, she wanted to do homework. She showed true spirit through her true work ethic.
The year was wonderful for discovering Ari’s flair for artistry, and she produced some awesome artwork.
In addition, she and I worked together on school projects to put together creative posters about pandas, dinosaurs, a shop in the community (she chose a music shop), and community helpers.
To my relief, she managed to keep up with math and science and, at times, excelled. She had a wonderful science experiment for the school’s science fair.
She made friends and enjoyed playing with them on the school’s playground after school.
Her teacher was unbelievably great. She lavished love on my child every day, and Ari responded well. Her teacher clearly adored her and the other children. Ari glowed whenever she was with her teacher, and I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of their relationship. But I was mostly grateful that my daughter had such a wonderful, caring teacher. I don’t think Ari would have made it through the school year without her.
In fact, I just received a lovely e-mail from her teacher saying she would love to tutor Ari for free during the summer to prepare her for the upcoming first grade year. She said she missed Ari and her smile, and she wants to give Ari some workbooks.
I want to take up the teacher’s offer and have Ari work with her, knowing the girl adores her.
After all, Ari is already enrolled at this school for first grade. She would benefit from tutoring in advance before being deluged with work.
The school is outstanding in so many ways; Ari would continue to learn so much there.
The institution would continue to challenge my daughter to the maximum.
And that is why we are walking away.
A funny thing happened on the way to private school this year: the failing public school got a new principal. It is no longer failing, as academic scores have strengthened.
I’ve decided to save money and anguish by sending Ari to this public school, which seems to have more reasonable expectations, depending on the children’s developmental and social needs.
Ari keeps telling me she wants to return to the private school. I know I’m breaking her heart by separating her from her best friend and teachers who dote on their students.
But I’d rather break her heart now than break her spirit by sending her back to Super School.
After all, I’m raising a child, not a robot. I don’t need a gifted child; I need an emotionally healthy, well-rounded one. That’s why I’m pulling the plug on this “gifted school.”
Ari is an amazing person who loves learning. But most importantly, she is kind, sweet, funny, and joyous.
She deserves more than to live life feeling she’s always lagging behind her peers when, in reality, her now-former school pushes students too hard academically. She deserves more than to have her spirit continually crushed.
Ari will be just fine. And now that the decision has been made, so will I.
Have you ever been at a crossroads in your child’s/children’s education?
How do you feel about what the workload should be for elementary school kids?
Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Tags: academic rigor, education, elementary school, graduation, kindergarten, private school, public school, school, teacher