Kindergarten: The Year in Review

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by
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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.

Challenges

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.

20130912_180405

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.

Highlights Ari Art1

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.

Ari Art 4

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.

Ari at 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.

Ari Art3

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.

Getting Off the TreadmillAri Art2

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.

Go figure.

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.

Ari Graduation

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.


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8 Responses to Kindergarten: The Year in Review

  1. Kendra Uhe had this to say about that:

    Hi. We should definitely talk sometime about kindergarten experiences. Amy has an IEP, being moved to another school next year in the public school system. (One 3 1/2 miles instead of 3 blocks from my house). Our public school system sounds like your private system. She should have been writing and reading by now. I am trying out Kumon this summer, and will let you know. She is smart, but thinks a different way than the school systems want with the core standards. (You will hate those words soon) She has had, PT, Speech, OT, reading, psych, math, etc. Her early childhood screenings were fine. We will be in an “intregated classroom” next year, and she is in summer school. I am annoyed she is being pulled from the school she loves to get services she needs. May want to look up Wright laws, and some of the educational services online from the state of Illinois. I have had way to many meetings with the IEP team members already, and will have more in the future. Good luck.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Kendra,

      Thank you for sharing your and Amy’s experiences with the educational system. I’m nervous about the core standards and have been researching them.

      Just because someone thinks differently than school systems want doesn’t mean that child should be adversely labeled. The world needs creative thinkers! I’m sorry she has had to go through so much already with the PT, OT, etc.

      Yes, we should definitely talk sometime about this. Ari is taking reading classes, and they are definitely helping her with her reading skills. I highly recommend them. It’s called NIU Outreach, taught by the Institute of Reading Development (Sue at the library gave me a flyer). We’re taking the classes that began June 15, but there are ones that begin later in the summer. It is very engaging for children.

      To get information about the classes, call 800-979-9151. The office’s hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (I think it’s 4-5 weeks, meeting once per week).

      Just after the first class, Ari has already improved in her reading confidence substantially. Unfortunately, the private school assumed she knew how to read and didn’t bother actually teaching reading.

      I wish the best for Amy, and I’m confident she will succeed in school and life.

  2. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    As with most big decisions we must make, this one is yours and yours alone to make. You know Ari best and are making the decision that feels right in your heart. I’m glad Ari had a good experience at the private school she attended, for the most part anyway. Personally, (since you asked), I prefer public schools. I believe in the concept of them – accepting all children. Of course, I fully realize public schools face many great challenges, partly because of this ‘umbrella policy’. I’m also not a big believer in lots of homework for primary grade kids, but that’s me. With you as her mom, Ari will be fine where ever she goes to school. Loving parents and competent and caring teachers, regardless of what kind of school they teach in, these are the things that matter most. Sorry to ramble, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Thanks for the recap. I loved reading all about Ari’s Kindergarten experience. Now enjoy the summer!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Nancy,

      Thank you for your input. To be honest, I always preferred public schools, but I think I panicked when I found out about the school failing, and that’s when I sought out the private one.

      Looking back, I can’t say it was a mistake, but I wish I had known more about how accelerated the programs were before she went there. She took a test before getting in, and she didn’t do well on a good portion of the test. The administrator should’ve just said that the school was not a fit for Ari, but they just took my money.

      That’s what it’s all about — the money.

      Thank you for your kind words about my mothering skills. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making mistakes with each big decision I have to make, but I agree that dedicated teachers and parents are the recipe for success. In fact, I’ve always believed that education begins in the home.

      Parents must be vested in their children’s education if children are to succeed.

  3. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Beth, I’m very relieved that Ari’s teacher was as caring as she was, because a less than stellar teacher could have made this past year a complete nightmare. It says a lot about Ari & about your parenting that she was able to handle the stress of this past year as well as she did. But come on — these kids are only 5 years old!! This is crazy! I entirely agree with your decision to get her off the treadmill now. ‘Gifted’ simply used to mean blessed with unique talents. And we already know that Ari is gifted in that sense. Gifted doesn’t mean being pummelled all the way through school to meet some set of artificial standards. Kids should be allowed to excel, not pushed to excel, in their own ways. Or not. Not every kid is a future Nobel Prize winner. I find it so distressing to see how controlled & over-scheduled children’s lives have become these days. Our friend Lani just posted a very interesting article yesterday about how this micromanaging of children is producing kids who don’t know how to take risks or use their imagination or enjoy their own creative freedom, all attributes I know you value. The most important thing for Ari to be Ari is to have you, a loving & sensible mom. xoxo, Kathi

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Kathi,

      You are absolutely right! These kids are 5 years old, and they are expected to be prodigies. It is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard in a long time.

      All kids have strengths and weaknesses, and Ari does have gifts, as any child does. But, like you said, to produce gifted children by such an artificial means is simply unethical and reprehensible.

      It is so much tougher to be a child in the educational system today than it was when I was a kid. Now the pressure on them is incredible. I need to read Lani’s post.

      Thank you for your kudos on my parenting. I think I get a lot right, but when I get things wrong, they are whoppers.

  4. lopsided blogger had this to say about that:

    I went to private, religious school and started my son at one in our town. It was awesome. Then we moved across the country and I had no idea what to do for school with such a short time to decide. I picked one of the private, religious schools, thinking at least it would seem familiar. That first one actually didn’t challenge kids enough–they read the same short reading passage every night for a week and were held back from multiplication until everyone in the room learned addition well enough. We moved to a second private, religious school and that one was more challenging but rote and not friendly, so we’re now at our neighborhood public school and things are going well. Very stressful, finding the right fit for our kids. Very, very stressful. I’m glad you’re finding your way.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with your son’s schools. We as parents try so hard to make the right decisions for our children. That’s what any parent can do.

      And you are so right: it is highly stressful to find that great match for our children. I’m glad that you are also finding your way.

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