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.