I was looking through blog posts I wrote last year about DC’s schooling dilemma. It’s crazy to think how much has changed since then.
At the time, DC was in preschool, all hir friends were heading to kindergarten (almost), and hir (quite excellent) preschool had run out of things for hir to do. They suggested that DC become a teacher’s helper the next year as hir main activity. At home ze had whizzed through all the magic treehouse books and done increasingly more math.
We were worried about DC’s increasing perfectionism. DC slept very little (~7 hrs/night, no nap) and was bouncing off the walls while awake. Ze was even starting to have little behavior problems of the type that a child trying to entertain hirself often gets into. I read approximately a zillion books on giftedness for solutions to these problems, and they were pretty unanimous that starting K early would be the answer for our situation.
So we looked into schools in the area and decided on the one that called hir in for a second round of testing after ze passed the first kindergarten entrance exam. They suggested, based on the testing, that DC start K a year early and spend half the day in first grade for math and reading.
Several readers had concern about the acceleration. Were we destroying DC’s childhood? What about when ze got to middle school or high school or college. Etc. Etc. Etc. And you know, there was that one kid who was accelerated and ze was WEIRD, so obviously acceleration (and being weird) is a horrible thing. [Note to people: Correlation is not causation. That kid would have been weird ANYWAY, and probably would have been perfectly normal surrounded by kids who were more accepting of differences instead of by assholes. Oops, were we projecting again?]
DC has flourished this year.
The perfectionism is gone. The first grade teacher is a miracle worker. DC is no longer afraid to try things ze doesn’t know right away. Ze comes home with the occasional 80% exam and grins and tells us what the right answers should have been, and ze knows that now. Ze tells us ze will get things.
Ze is learning things and excited and tells us all sorts of interesting science and history and theological and mathematical ideas. We discuss lines of symmetry and ze stumped me on a parallelogram (they don’t have a line of symmetry!) Ze love love loves school and learning.
At school DC has practiced the things ze didn’t want to practice at home. Hir printing looks a lot nicer than mine did as a second-grader. Double-digit addition is no problem. It’s nice being able to pick and choose to only do fun stuff at home without being limited by what DC can write or compute.
DC now sleeps 9 hours per night on weekdays. (Still less than that on weekends, but what can you do?) That extra grown-up time is wonderful. At home ze is so much calmer (again, not so much on weekends unless we get that hour of exercise and hour of thinking in). We don’t have to do homeworkbooks on weekdays because DC doesn’t need extra thinking to help hir settle down, just on weekends. (So we’ve greatly slowed the pace we’re getting through Singapore Math, and I am fine with that.) We don’t think this is just getting older– when the 1st grade teacher was gone for two weeks, DC started reverting to previous behaviors.
All reports tell us that DC is an angel at school. So far ze has gotten two “yellows” all year (every other day is “green”). One for rolling off hir mat during naptime (during the horrible 2 weeks that the first grade teacher was out with a family emergency), and once for leaving the room without permission (“I didn’t know what that meant”) to go to first grade early.
All the kids are pretty well-behaved and DC is something of a pet among the older grades. They love to ruffle hir hair.
Socially, DC isn’t even the youngest in hir class. Though, as always, ze prefers spending time with the older children. Hir best friend is a 6 year old who moved here mid-year and goes with hir to first-grade for half the day. DC likes to use the word “noodle” in place of everything and hir best friend has played along and decided to be a meatball. The V-day card was adorable– to Noodle (picture of noodle) From Meatball (picture of meatball).
Of course, all has not been smooth sailing. The school has sucked hours upon hours of our time and thousands of our dollars in donations. The headmaster is afraid of numbers but also can’t let go of control… and most recently has quit (long-term a good thing, short-term a bad thing). The board is weak and also not so good with numbers. In fall, the school came out with press announcements that it was going out of business unless they raised 500K (the actual number needed turned out to be closer to 400K, and would have been less had they been capable of cutting anything that the finance committee suggested cutting). Because of poor management going forward, we opted not to give them the second installment of the large donation my father had offered. We’re still not sure if the school is going to be around next year. The finance committee told the headmaster she needed to come up with a bare bones budget that ensured the school would be around next year without assuming an increase in students. Instead, her budget assumes an enrollment increase of 20 students. That isn’t going to happen. And it isn’t going to happen because current students cannot recommend the school to their friends if they don’t believe the school is going to stick around next year, which they could believe if the head had listened to the finance committee. This is why not being afraid of numbers is so important.
The first grade teacher will not be returning next year. She wants to get paid more than 23K and to have job security. We’re bummed about this. The replacement teacher, the current 2nd grade teacher, has a good reputation and DC would have been spending half the day with her anyway.
So we filled out the form next year, and would have put down the deposit had it not been waived.
We’ve looked into a local preK-6 Montessori and we think this will be a good option if the school does go under, assuming we can get on the list quickly enough. (And as members of the finance committee, we may get insider information in that respect.) They’re on board with DC starting in the elementary room as a nominal first grader next year (rather than K with the 3-6 room), and they are completely self-directed and have materials up through standard 8th grade. I love their New Math curriculum (combined with more traditional Singapore math workbooks). You should have seen me drool over their units on math with different bases. The main problem with them this year was that they closed at 2:30, but for the first time ever next year they’re adding an after school program until 5pm. Which is still cutting it close, but since the Montessori turns to be very close to my work it should be ok so long as I do pick-up. (Sadly, it is far from our daycare Montessori for #2!)
Starting in public school kindergarten next year cannot happen. That much is pretty obvious right now. Going back to a year of learning letters and numbers and colors after this would be frustrating for everyone, especially in a large class with a lot more kids with very different needs from DC’s. Heck, it would have been frustrating for this year!
Did we make the best decision (or at least a good enough decision) based on our options? Unequivocally yes. All the things people warned us about with acceleration would probably have happened had we not accelerated. Instead DC fits in well, is challenged, behaves well, has friends, and loves school. This year has been a good one for hir, and by extension for us. The sacrifices we’ve made have been worth it, though we wish we would not have had to make them. We hope the school is still around next year, but all we can do is one year at a time, one month at a time, one challenge at a time.