So, if you’ve been keeping up…
DC misses our state cut-off for kindergarten. We’d been planning to stay at hir preschool through kindergarten and go straight to first in public school. But, ze has been growing out of hir Montessori and all (but one or two) of hir friends are going to kindergarten next year. (All but one of hir friends are about a year older.) So we figured, why not look into starting early.
So I read up on tons of books about giftedness and early acceleration, because I’m a nerd and a wonk and I like to make informed choices. Acceleration is a good thing for gifted kids, not ideal, but a good thing, especially little wunderkinds like ours. It’s not a good thing for all kids, and you hear the occasional horror story because folks don’t understand counterfactuals– people tend to blame all their problems on the skip even if they would have been even more miserable without it.
We called up our local public kindergarten and then a bunch of other public schools to ask about acceleration. They weren’t interested in talking with us. Another parent says you have to be very vague over the phone and then spring these kinds of things on them in person after you’ve got your foot in the door. We will keep that in mind for the future.
Then we called around to the private schools we’d heard good things about and talked to lots of parents about their schooling choices. The Catholic school has no exceptions in their policy for skipping/early entrance, which is to say they don’t allow it. At half the price of all the other private schools in town, they can do that.
After some searching we found the ideal situation. A dream K teacher, experienced, loved by everybody, full of differentiation and stations at a school that allows acceleration and so on. Whew. DC spent a day there and loved it so much ze wanted to start K this year instead of waiting until next.
Then, the day after DC’s kindergarten readiness test, we found out that this dream teacher of 30 years up and quit. She wanted to transition to part-time and because of some miscommunication with administration, she was moving to a half-day kindergarten at a different school (with a wait list a mile long and no acceleration). Ack.
So we talked to more parents and checked out the super-expensive prep school that allows early entrance. It was horrible. So many wasted resources. Tiny classes, but the kids were bored stiff and misbehaving. Their science class, in a separate room with a specialized science teacher, was coloring in a worksheet of a stylized tree. (At DC’s Montessori, they look at actual plants!) The teachers didn’t understand the terminology I was using to ask about differentiation (“differentiation” “acceleration” “clustering” etc.) and the admissions director had to ask them my questions again using tiny words. No wonder the best college the graduating students get into is the local state school.
The prep-school experience did change our framing… instead of comparing to the wonderful K teacher we’d lost, we were able to see that we had two good options, even if we’d lost the amazing one. DC could stay at Montessori another year and we could try to enter 1st grade at one of these private schools the next year, or we could go with the original school we’d decided on and their new teacher.
We talked with Montessori and found out that one of hir friends who we thought would be going to K next year actually misses the cutoff by a couple of days. So DC would have two friends staying back, not just one (and would be second oldest, not oldest). Ze would still be learning a lot of geography and history and hands on science, even if not accelerating so much in math and language arts. Montessori is also less expensive and tax-deductible as it would still count as preschool. On the minus side, they told us that ze would be spending a lot more time as a teachers assistant for the younger kids, training them on stations and so on.
At the private school, they’re moving up the pre-K teacher to K. Her teaching style is much more rote- repeat, but she knows that is not really appropriate for older children and is working on changing, shadowing the current K teacher a couple of times a week. The kids in her class are well-behaved and not as bored as the ones at the prep school. The language, music, etc. teachers will not be changing. There’s less racial, ethnic, and religious diversity at this school than at Montessori, which is too bad, but more diversity in terms of disabilities. DC will also not be the youngest in the class– there’s another wunderkind a month younger and one a month older.
What decided us was that after talking with the new K teacher, we got an email from admissions requesting DC to come in for more testing. They tested DC at the reading level of an 8 year old (apparently ze couldn’t define the word, “quench”) and they weren’t able to finish the math testing but ze got a perfect on what they did test. The recommendation is single subject acceleration to first grade for math and reading. While there for testing, DH talked to some of the parents who were there for track and field day and they told amazing stories of how their children’s lives had been changed for the better by the school.
So not perfect like before, but not terrible either. We think ze is going to be able to continue learning in a supportive environment, and that’s what’s important. The kids around should also be nice and well-behaved. Hopefully this is what we’re going to go with and there will be no more unpleasant changes!
So that’s our kindergarten adventures. Hopefully our first-grade adventures will be less exciting for us.