Monday, October 1, 2012

Odd Silver-Like Lining

I've been doing some research on kindergarten readiness lately.  I know it seems a little premature, but Fiona will be 4 in about 8 weeks. The natural progression of things is that she will then turn 5 a year later and should be in kindergarten at that time. So with that thought process I only have a year to make sure that she's ready to start school. Less than that if she's one of those kids we all knew that started kindergarten at 4 because of when their birthday was. Plus, school starts in August around here so technically kindergarten registration is just around the corner.
I called the local elementary school to find out about registration and cut off dates and everything that goes with it.  What I found out was surprising and a bit irritating, but with an odd silver-like lining.  The cut off date for our district is November 1. What that means is that kids that turn 5 before November 1 can start kindergarten. After November 1 they will need to wait until the next year to start.  Here's my problem with that; with that schedule Fiona would then turn 6 while still in kindergarten.  That's not really that big of a deal. What is a big deal is that would mean she would be 19 when she graduated high school. What I do not want is a 19 year old senior! What I don't need is a sophomore than can drive a year ahead of all of her classmates. There's just no way that can have a good outcome.  The office administrator told me that they'll be making the cut-off date even earlier next year and the year after. Holy crap people! At this rate kids won't graduate until they're 20!
You have to wonder why this change is happening. I've read different articles over the last few years about the changes in kindergarten curriculum; How we now expect our kindergarteners to preform at a level that was previously thought of as first (and sometimes) second grade.  Kindergarten is not for teaching the basics (letters, shapes) and leaving it up to first grade to teach reading, but is now for teaching the basics of reading, sentence writing, science, and math.  Preschool used to be something rare. Now it seems the talk of all my mom-friends the second their little bundle turns two. With apparently a good reason. Unless you're an educator yourself, how can you expect to get your child ready for the expectations they will be faced with the second they hit the "real" classrooms?  It seems that most daycare situations have an integrated preschool program. If you are a dual income family and have your kids in daycare the problem seems to just take care of itself.
But what of the stay-at-home or work-at-home mom like me? We're expected to put out of pocket for (what seems like) a necessary (rather large) expense if our kids are going to have the skills they need when they enter the first year of their education.  Or you spend hours doing research and buying curriculum to try to mitigate the cost at least a little bit.  That's the path we've chosen.  Thankfully Fiona seems to be a little knowledge-sponge and soaks up every bit of anything you can throw at her.  Thanks to the show Dinosaur Train on PBS she can tell you facts about dinosaurs I can't remember or even spell. She knows whether or not they're herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores, and what that means! Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has taught her letters, numbers and shapes. Lots of time on has helped her with putting it all together in a way I'd never know how to teach her. We just ordered activity packs from 123 Textured Products for some more hands-on activities.
Why are we doing this if she won't be heading to school next year? Well, here's the odd silver-like lining.  When she turns 5 she will be eligible to be evaluated for kindergarten.  When the child turns five they're brought into the classroom for a month and evaluated by the teacher.  If the teacher feels that she knows what she needs to know and is on par with the other kids in the class she will be able to complete the rest of the school year with the rest of the kids and go into first grade the following year.  For us that means getting Fiona ready in the next year is even more important than if she was just to start when her birthday dictated.  If you know Fiona, you know she'll be more than ready to start at 5. Even if we did nothing. 
As we ready one child to head out into the world, we are getting another started on her school years. Amazing.