20 July 2007

Looping

Just in case anyone needs something to read besides HP7 this morning: I won't get my copy until later today!

I always wondered, before Curious Girl came, whether I would really know when something was wrong with her. "You just know when your baby is sick," my friends would assure me. It turns out they were right: for all that I still consider parenting to be an unfolding relationship in which I'm still coming to know Curious Girl, from the start I knew that there was something wrong with her eating, and that instinct led to all the medical interventions we needed when she first came home. Although I didn't manage to figure out that she had a very high fever the day she had pneumonia (although I did realize she needed a doctor's appointment later that day), I have generally managed to stay on top of CG's physical needs, and, I think, help her with the emotional territory she's navigating. Politica and I seem to be pretty confident with all the parent intuition in these domains.

School has turned out to be a more complicated matter. We're great at simply encouraging exploration and literacy, but in terms of what sort of school we want for CG, things have never been so clear. We obsessed for a year about whether to move her to her current school from the early childhood center we loved. While many smart people said, "Oh, you'll know what to do when the time comes," Politica and I have not had an easy time figuring out whether or not Curious Girl is ready for kindergarten. The corner of the blogosphere I frequent was pretty down on the notion of "redshirting" kindergarteners after that parenting-source-we-love-to-hate, the Times, had a big article about the phenomenon a few months back. I'm not wild about the metaphor, myself. And there are surely bad reasons for having kids repeat school years as well as good ones. But last night, we agreed to have Curious Girl loop back through pre-K.

Curious Girl's pre-K teachers asked us last October if we'd thought about having her repeat pre-K. Not for a second, we hadn't. But they were considering it, for a number of reasons: her complete lack of interest in story-time, her lack of interest in any sort of direct instruction, her drawing skillls (usually not filling a page, usually scribbling), a sort of social immaturity, and finally, her size. (Her size turns out to be irrelevant: we'd have to put her in a room of 3 year olds to look remotely average: next year, she may still be the smallest kid in the room, although presumably the gap will be smaller.) As the year went on, CG definitely developed. She's perceptive, she's verbal, she likes people. But she withdrew, significantly, in the last week of school, I think reacting to her friends' willingness to play in groups of three or four. She still likes to play one-on-one. It was heartbreaking to see the sudden shift in her classroom behavior. Is this developmental, or a personality trait? She doesn't like storytime. At home, she never sits still for the first reading of any story. On second, fourth, hundredth readings she will talk to the pictures and interact with the book. Is this a reading style, or developmental?

We're not sure. Politica--who skipped third grade and was not happy with the social consequences--worries what will happen when CG is a teenager and in a grade with kids who may well be much younger than she is. We worry that CG will miss the friends she has made in this past year. But given that we're not sure, we've decided to err on the side of time, to let her play her way through pre-K one more time. She'll be in the same room, with the same teachers, but with a new group of classmates. She'll continue her bond with one teacher; she'll get to be the big kid, the one who already knows the routines. Maybe she'll be a little sad about not moving to kindergarten, but I'm pretty sure she's going to have a ball doing pre-K again. And all her teachers--including her summer camp teacher, who is a pre-K teacher at the synagogue early childhood center where CG attended before moving to her current school--are clearly relieved that we've decided to loop back. And perhaps CG will be, too. After all, she's been sucking on baby bottles (in the doll/housekeeping area in her summer classroom) these past few weeks. That's certainly a message. I'm not entirely sure what it means, but it does seem a message.

So I feel mostly pretty OK about this. One thing we've learned is that we usually do well when we trust Curious Girl's teachers. We have been lucky to have two wonderful schools for her, and trusting her teachers has worked well for us so far when we've been not sure what to do. So we're trusting them now. I want CG to think school is a happy place, and I want her to have teachers who focused more on her own developmental needs than on a grade's stated outcomes. I don't want her to be rushed.

I'll get to keep my Curious Girl day in the fall, which is a definite plus. And she'll get to have another year in which play and fantasy get to be her primary means of working out new material.

But it has not been an easy decision to rest with.

18 comments:

Dr. Corndog said...

I'm waiting for my copy of Deathly Hallows as well, so here I am. We're going through a similar process with our younger son, Gerry, right now. He spent last year in half-day special ed, and his language skills improved significantly, but in so many ways, he still seems developmentally to be more of a 3 year old than the 4.5 year old he is biologically. We don't have to make a kindergarten decision for him until next year, but I can predict will be debating this in May.

I don't think that you're redshirting CG to give her an "advantage" over her peers. What a wildly inappropriate metaphor. I think you're making your best guess as to what will help her be happy and successful. And from my perspective, I think you've made a good one.

Dana said...

This has been something about which we have been lamenting here, as well. We're trudging onward... it will be interesting to see how our journeys go. The flip side is that I do not love his pre-K school as much as I am anticipating (or hoping) I love his K. It just may be a better environment. I hope.

Jody said...

I stayed up all night and finished Deathly Hallows, which I picked up by accident when I stopped at our grocery store on a whim.

I 100% support your decision. I don't know if I gave the impression that redshirting was a bad idea or not. I was sure I wrote that turning kindergarten into first grade was the bad idea, but maybe I waffled.

I have become 100% convinced that it's better to hold back, when in doubt, than not. Kindergarten isn't recognizable as such anymore, and it's better to err on the side of caution than otherwise. IMHO.

I know it doesn't matter what I think, in the grand scheme of things, but you have my support. 100%

chichimama said...

It sounds like you made a thoughtful and well-informed decision, and that is exactly what good parenting is all about. Decisions around this kind of thing are always hard, and I don't think anyone can every be 100% sure they are doing the right thing. But it sounds like you are comfortable with your decision, and that is the best thing you can do for CG given the information you currently have, and I am happy for you that a decision has been made!

heidi said...

I am overwhelmed sometimes by the high-stakes nature of pre-k and k now. I alternately resist it (preferring, after all, the "grow at your own pace and by your own interests" philosophy) and get too stressed out about it. Coming from a family that valued education but didn't quite know how to take charge of it seems to lend to these two alternatives: I'm eitehr passive or wanting to intervene.

It really sounds like you made the right decisions, based on all that you knew at the time...I agree with you--the schooling stuff is *hard*! Thanks for sharing. (And no HP yet here, either...)

ppb said...

This is totally fine decision---and redshirting is a holdback for reasons of advantage (being bigger for football or more mature than one's classmates). This isn't redshirting. This is doing what your kid needs.

And still getting your CG day is a nice bonus!

Phantom Scribbler said...

What PPB said. If we'd held LG back to keep him from being the smallest in his class (hah -- like with CG, he's smaller than most of the kids a years below him as well) or because we wanted him to be a "leader," that would have been redshirting. What you are doing is listening to what your child needs, and giving it to her. I'm with Jody: I've seen a couple of kids really struggle with the requirements of kindergarten who would have probably been much better off having the extra year first.

Good for you for being such aware and sensitive parents! And good for CG!

elswhere said...

Echoing everyone above. In several years at a private school, I've seen a bit of "redshirting" by competitive parents. But I've also seen the kindergarten teachers themselves (who evaluate all the kids before admission) suggest in some cases that a kid wait a year before starting. And that suggestion, when taken, has seemed to really turn out well. It sounds like all the information--from teachers, from your observations, and from GC's behavior--is pointing in a similar direction.

As I think you know, we sent our August-born daughter right into kindergarten with some kids almost a year older than she was, because we thought she was really, really ready. It turned out fine for her, but it was also much more of a struggle than I thought it would be, and her relative youth definitely showed, especially academically, and in 1st grade this year as well as kindergarten. If we had it to do again, we might do the same thing in her particular case, but not for sure, and not nearly so blithely.

So, yeah, it's not that you need another invisible pixie's opinion on your most excellent parenting skills. But for what it's worth, I am totally with you.

Okay-- back to HP now...

Arwen said...

Agreeing with people.

My much younger brother 'failed' kindergarten, mainly for social reasons. He simply was not ready and was asked to repeat. I think, looking back, that simply waiting would have done a world of good, whereas 'failing' was really hard for him. Even though it isn't really failing at all.

My youngest, like my brother, will enter kindergarten at 4 and turn five in the first term; but if he's showing the same sorts of social signals, I will happily wait a year.

liz said...

What they all said.

And many hugs.

And watching CG play last summer, climbing, running, jumping, spinning, I think that she's probably staggering her development. She's WAAAAAY more advanced in her gross motor skills than MM, for example.

Scrivener said...

Yep, I agree with everyone else, too. Especially since you've come to trust these teachers and they all seem to be unified in the belief that it's the right thing, it seems pretty clearly what you should be doing. We've done some agonizing over school choices in the last 6 months, not the same choices, but still enough to know how stressful it can be to be circling around those questions. It sounds like you made the right choice and you came to your decision the best way you could, which is even more important. Let the pressure off yourself and just trust the decision now that it's made.

niobe said...

It sounds as if you and CG's teachers are on the same page and it also sounds like there are many, many reasons why the choice you're making is the right one for CG. But I can see why this was not an easy decision to come to.

Magpie said...

Sounds like the right decision. When is her birthday? Or, more to the point, when is her birthday in relation to the cut-off for your school district?

Genevieve said...

Sounds like a very well-thought out decision. You're doing what you and CG's teachers both think will be better for her. It's not easy to go through that decision process, but it really sounds like the right decision.

And yeah, this isn't redshirting at all.

Chris said...

I'd never heard of "redshirting" before now, so... wow. I had no idea people did that.

Either way, I don't think that's what *you* are doing. You're not looking for personal gain, you're trying to give your kid the best start possible. Sounds like the right thing to me.

We sent our oldest to kindergarten when the school district said we should - pulled her out of a wonderful Montessori school that she loved just so she would be with people her own age. Yeah, well, that didn't work too well. We ended up going to a Parent-Teacher conference almost every other week for one problem or another. With the middle one, we could tell she wasn't ready, so we kept her at the Montessori school until she was old enough for first grade. She's done much better socially and academically (no conferences at all, except the standard ones!). We plan on doing the same for the little one (he starts Montessori in just a few weeks).

So don't get too tied to the age thing - some kids are ready early, some not. Don't worry. As long as you've got her best interests at heart (which you do) then she'll be just fine.

Suburban Gorgon said...

Better to be older than younger, I tell you. I had a similar experience to Politica's, I think, and I'd take it back if I could.

landismom said...

Chiming in late, here, but I definitely agree with the other commenters. We put our daughter in kindergarten knowing she would be the youngest kid in her class--and struggled with that decision too. In the end, I knew she was academically ready for kindergarten, and that she would be bored if she stayed in pre-K another year, but she wasn't really emotionally ready, and her struggle with being youngest has been more about that. I don't know that I'd do it differently if I had it to do over again, but I can't say it's been easy this way.

Piece of Work said...

I was held back in Kindergarten, for social reasons and also because I was much smaller than the other kids. I never noticed much, except that I really liked being one of the oldest in my class. What kid doesn't want to turn double digits first? or 16? I didnt read the red-shirting article but it sure seems like all the NYT articles about parenting are alarmist and accusatory, so I wouldn't pay any attention to it if I were you. Some kids are ready for K at 5; some are not. Sounds like you are making a good decision, which is what I'd expect!
Take care . . .