Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reaching Our Goals for Kindergarten

This time last year, my husband and I were agonizing over whether to follow our gut instinct and send our youngest onto kindergarten as planned, or to follow the advice of her preschool teacher and have her repeat the 4’s class and start kindergarten a year late. After talking to everyone from our family doctor, to an eye doctor (we discovered she needed glasses, which may have been a big factor in her ability to learn at the pace of the other preschoolers), to fellow parents, to the principal at the elementary school – we decided to push ahead and send her to kindergarten. Her preschool teacher had told us that she was great socially, but her big concern was our daughter’s academic abilities particularly reading, writing, and her artwork, and she warned us that we would likely regret sending her to kindergarten (“the best gift you can give her is to give her more time”). She also told us that (at least in our district) you cannot repeat kindergarten, so if she did not do well, she could not repeat the grade – she said we’d either have to take her out of school and move her to a Catholic school for another year of kindergarten, and then move her back to public school for 1stgrade, or just keep moving her along and she would likely struggle to keep up. We had no problem in supporting our girl whichever way we decided to go, but we faced our own struggle to make the decision that would be right for her.
After speaking with the principal at the elementary school, we felt confident about sending her on to kindergarten. We were fortunate that our eldest daughter had been through the school (K – 3) and we were comfortable with the staff and the school. We were upfront with the principal and the kindergarten teacher about the preschool teacher’s concerns. Right from the beginning of the year (early October) we were in touch with the kindergarten teacher to make sure that our girl was getting the help that she needed. Within a couple of months, we had a parent / teacher conference and we were told that our daughter qualified for extra reading help, which we were thrilled about! We have kept up with the homework packets that come home each month, my husband takes the girls to the library on his days off, we take turns reading to my youngest, and my eldest daughter loves to try and play school with her younger sister. She has shown a lot of growth this year in her reading and writing, in spite of having her original kindergarten teacher leave and getting a new teacher, mid-year (who fortunately is fantastic!).

This past Sunday, at my end of the year Daisy Girl Scout picnic, I was talking to one of the mothers whose daughter was in preschool and is now in kindergarten with my little one. She told me that she helps with the kindergarten reading groups each week and she said my daughter is doing great in her reading group! There are four kids and she said out of the four of them, my daughter is always the first one with the answer, does great with rhyming words, and she is very focused on getting her work done. She said she is just doing so well!  She also said basically that she knows what we went through this time last year and she could just cry at the thought of what a waste it would have been for our daughter if we had decided to keep her back a year.  It was so great to hear!  I was almost in tears when she told me – what a struggle that was last year!!  

It can be overwhelming sometimes to make decisions that will potentially have a big effect on your child’s life. We struggled with the thought of her repeating the 4’s class and doing all of the same projects and field trips a second year in a row (our eldest went there, so we knew it would be the same!) – what if she was so bored that she was miserable in school? We didn’t want to put her into that mindset. How would she feel when she was a year older than the other kids in her class (and a foot taller!)? How would she feel to be the same age as her cousins and a year behind them in school? She may not have noticed some of these things now, but they may present problems for her down the road. And deciding to send her to kindergarten was tough too – what if the preschool teacher was right and it was a struggle for her? We were prepared to do whatever was necessary – switching to a private school for a second year of kindergarten, a summer session with a tutor to get her caught up for 1st grade, etc.  Our goal was to make sure she had the tools she needed to make it through kindergarten and to be prepared for first grade -- whether that meant one or two years of kindergarten!
The best advice I can give any parent in a similar situation is to have confidence in your child, advocate for what they need to be successful, be prepared to give them the support that they need, do your research and trust your instincts. And forgive yourself if you find out down the road that maybe what you decided wasn’t the right choice – we can’t predict the future, there are so many factors in a decision like this and you do the best that you can and support your child along the way. 

One of her new kindergarten teacher's class assignments back in January, was to ask the students to write their goal for the school year and to draw a picture.  Our sweet girl wrote (phonetically) that she wanted to swing by herself and she drew a picture of a swing set and herself on a swing.  

Turns out we all accomplished our goals for kindergarten this year!!   We could not be more proud of our girl!

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