Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fighting for Kindergarten

One month from today, The May Queen will begin Kindergarten.

This will be a big day for us, and not just because it's Kindergarten (yes, with a capital K, doesn't it feel like it deserves that?) but because we fought long and hard to get her into Kindergarten.

MQ's birthday falls three days after the cutoff here in Louisiana. In California, where she was born, the cutoff date is much later, and so we always assumed she'd be starting Kindergarten this fall, 2007. After we moved here and discovered the cutoff date, I spent many an hour fretting over this because I believed she would be ready this fall.

I tried not to push it too soon. Oh, I worried about it, but I didn't start making phone calls, didn't start talking to teachers, until about December of last year. I had very purposely not talked to her preschool teacher about it because I wanted to get her unbiased opinion. Then, one day, I appoached her teacher. I told her I wanted to talk about MQ and our options for next year. The teacher stopped what she was doing, looked me straight in the eye and said "She needs to be in Kindergarten." She then went on to tell me she would do whatever she could to help, because MQ was ready for Kindergarten, and she would be bored out of her mind if she didn't go.

I was thrilled that someone other than her proud parents felt the same way, and so I began calling the school district. And then the school board. And then the principal of the elementary school she would attend. Nobody seemed to really know the answer to whether or not she could be admitted early, whether or not she could be tested. I got transfered here and transfered there. I talked to friends who talked to friends. I think I called everyone but the janitor. And finally, the answer I got was "we just don't do that." Never mind what is right for the child, we go strictly by the calendar. Sigh.

So we approached a private school we had spoken to before. They said if MQ passed an assessment test by a child psychologist they would accept her, with the understanding that if it didn't work out, we would decide together to pull her. OK. The meeting with the psychologist went very well, and he gave the nod, and so MQ was in!! Whew! Years of worry over.

Right? Right?

Oh... but now I start to doubt it. Not really, because I know, I KNOW that she is ready. I know that she will be bored if she has to go through Pre-K again. I know that socially she will be fine. I know that she will still be taller than nearly every kid in the class, even though she will be the youngest. And yet... I worry.

I look at her and think "How can she possibly be old enough to go to Kindergarten?" I worry that I have made the wrong decision. I look at her sweet innocence and worry about impending schoolyard alliances, ever shifting and ever fickle. I wonder if I am robbing her of a year of childhood.

It didn't help that when we went in to order the school uniforms, which I tried to present to her in a fun and exciting way (even though I balk at the ugly colors and the huge price tag) she become sullen, shy and uncooperative because they did not come in pink, purple or blue (even though I warned her beforehand that her choices would be maroon or white). She hid behind me, refused to smile at the secretary, wouldn't try things on. And I worried that she was being judged. That I was being judged. Not Ready. But that's not who she usually is. Yes, she can be stubborn, but she loves to learn. She loves school. She's generally pleasant and friendly.

I know in my head that we are doing the right thing. But my heart is having a hard time letting go of my baby. It's harder, I think, because it was a choice. We could have chosen to keep her back, to accept the cutoff date as the final authority. But instead we chose to fight for her. We fought for her to jump into learning before she gets bored. We fought so that she would not be so big that she would feel awkward and withdraw, or conversely use her size and bossiness (yes, I said it, she's bossy) to become a bully. We fought so that now, when she is ready and eager to learn she will be given the opportunity to grow.

We fought so that our baby, our May Queen, could take another step away from us. Another step towards growing up. Another step towards becoming the best person she can be.

Now if I can just keep myself from grabbing her and running the other way, we'll be all set.

18 comments:

jen said...

it's funny, isn't it...how we get what we want and then pause and wonder...

this is fabulous. you will both embrace this new time, i can feel it.

blooming desertpea said...

Well, who wouldn't fuss over maroon and white!!! I always wonder what kind of people are behind the creation of ugly uniforms and the other thing - why is it that the most brain-dead people sit on a schoolboard?

I know how that feels about being judged - we sent our daughter to school early, she was 28 days younger the cut off date - you can stop worrying. If the preschool teacher said that she is ready, then she is ready. Besides, always keep in mind that she could have been born 3 days earlier and then nobody would have wasted a thought about if she was ready or not - isn't that ironic?

slouching mom said...

Oh, does this ever speak to me. Our district will not accelerate, even though Jack reads chapter books and does math on a level almost comparable to his nine-year-old brother's. So Jack starts K this fall, when he will be only a few months shy of six.

What the district DID tell me is that should his K teacher see what we see (WTF? -- I thought reading and doing multiplication were pretty objective indicators, silly me), he can skip first grade. First grade the district is much more willing to do away with, it seems.

I don't get it.

The May Queen will do great.

Magpie said...

It sounds like the right thing for her. Am I correct that the way you got around the school district was by putting her in private school? Can you then, if you want, transfer her back to public for first grade?

The rules are so odd - rules indeed are made to be broken.

Good luck.

painted maypole said...

Thank you all for your kind words. We won't be able to transfer her to public school until second grade because all the dates have to do with 1st grade, but then for 2nd grade the requirement is merely "completion of 1st grade." The public schools here are pretty good, so that is our current plan. And, desertpea, MQ was born 2 weeks late. My doctor really wanted to induce, but I declined, but I have to say, if I had lived here and knew about the cutoff date, I very well may not have declined... so she very easily could have been born before the cutoff date! SM - how frustrating. Can't start Kindergarten early, but then they can skip a grade?!? Insane. Really, which do you think is harder on the child? Ack!

Sober Briquette said...

It sounds to me like you're doing the right thing. Congratulations and a pat on the back for perservering.

I too wondered about when she could transfer to public school, and that's an interesting answer. Like Slouching Mom's school district, where we live, they will also allow a child to skip first grade, as this was advised for my niece.

thailandchani said...

She will do great, once she gets acclimated. It probably is kind of intimidating for her right now. Less freedom, more structure.. you know.. all that.

The main thing is to keep her from getting bored. If school begins to bore her, that will be troublesome, especially if she is advanced like some of the other kids other commenters have mentioned.

I'll be interested in hearing how it goes for her. :)


Peace,

~Chani

nomotherearth said...

You know in your gut what is right, and I'm a big believer in going with my gut. It rarely fails me. She will do great.

Did I read right that Kindergarten starts in mid-August??

Candygirlflies said...

Oh, I'm with you on wanting to grab her and run the other direction, PM!! I feel exactly that way, every single September (and my eldest is going on 12...)

But, you are the mother. I am convinced that GOOD mothers, like you, know instinctively what is right for their children.

May Queen is ready... just like my own girlies are ready.

Unfortunately, we have to let them grow up... And although my HEAD knows it's right, my HEART still thinks it sucks.

Listen to your instincts, and resist the temptation to hang on to her... She needs the challenges and stimulation that Kindergarten will provide, and the happiness you will see in her face will make your heart overflow, trust me.

creative-type dad said...

Good for you on fighting and then movig forward with it.

If you think she's ready, then she is.

Public schools don't know how to make simple decisions anymore. It's sad.

Christine said...

oh, kindergarten was such a hard time for me.

Just give your little queen lots of love and she'll be just fine.

niobe said...

Your story is, in some ways, the reverse of the more usual story. In some school districts, many parents "redshirt" their kids, so that they start kindergarten a year later than they would otherwise, on the theory that it will give the kids an advantage to be the oldest in the class.

I'm sure MQ will do very well. And I'm sure you will too.

thirtysomething said...

Oh. I am so glad you have the ooportunity to place your MQ in a private school that will allow her to begin early. The public schools these days seem to stick to the most ridiculous rules, while convincing themselves that eliminating music and PE from the curriculum is a good idea.
My Journey is also technically too young to begin K this year--her Bday is in November--but she is so ready.
I am sure MQ will thrive. No one knows her better than her Mommy, and if you feel that she is ready, she is.

Heather said...

Kindergarten! I am already fretting over just preschool...and that's not even until January.

Well, you know her best and I am sure once she gets into the school year that you will have no more doubts. :)

ewe are here said...

You know your daughter. Trust your instincts.

Funnily enough, most battles take place on the other side of the cut-off date... wanting to delay the start date for children who aren't quite ready, especially boys. They're not flexible over here, either, and if I feel either of my boys aren't ready at the appropriate time (I think they'll be on the young side of the class), I will try to hold them.

I actually wish the Scandinavian examples would be followed, especially Finland. Finland's children don't start the 'real' school stuff - reading/writing/math etc - until they are 7. Yes, 7. And guess what? They have the best schools and education levels in the world. They, as well as Norway and Sweden, also have longer summer vacations than the UK and the USA.... says something, no?

Karen said...

Uniform color hatred is an important right of passage for the school age child - I'd take it as a sign of readiness!

In the Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I've been struggling with a kindergarten issue myself. My Eldest will start in the fall. He's one of the oldest, as he will turn 6 at the beginning of Oct. They just CUT the kindgergarten program for 2007-2008 in our Massachusetts (a/k/a TAXACHUSETTS)town from full to half day. Eldest has already completed 2 years of preschool. I'm very frustrated. We don't have enough $$$ ($6,000! For kindergarten tuition!) to send him to the private Christian school in town. *sigh* So he will be going to half day kindergarten in the fall. He's already reading and writing and spelling on his own, so I'm concerned that he's going to be BORED. Ugh.

Susanne said...

That's really stupid. They don't let children start Kindergarten early. But they can skip a grade when in school? And all because of three days???

I think it will be good to have fought for her. Especially if she is that tall and bossy too.

I don't know these Kindergarten issues keep haunting me. I have been thinking about letting my son start school early. But his preschool teachers hadn't considered it at all. Because of his age. Hm.

He's 4 1/2 and is just starting to read. We probably will have to put him in Montessori school to avoid boredom...