Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All that school hub-bub...

When I became a mom, the thing I was most anxious about wasn't night feedings, dirty diapers, or potty training (although I know now that I was severely misinformed about this last one), it was putting my kids through school.  This seems ridiculous to admit, but it's true.  The school world intimidates me.  I want my children to do well, who doesn't?  And as if we need one more thing as mom's to add to our stress levels, school has gotten complicated these days.  I also knew that we were a military family, and just like my mom, I would be required to stay on top of things with every move and transition to make sure the kids are getting the education they need to succeed.

The things we, as military families, worry about definitely shift and change depending on the age of the children.  At the preschool level, I have military friends that are having to make a transatlantic flight from Europe to Virginia for the sole purpose of exploring preschools and getting enrolled.  It seems many schools won't even put you on a waiting list until they have met you in person and given you a tour of the school.  This might seem reasonable to most, but to a military spouse, this is a huge conundrum.  Another friend has her little girl in an Italian preschool.  The school ends in July and doesn't start up again until the end of September.  They are moving back to the U.S. where school starts in early August, and they are being told she might have to be held back. I mean, the horror, really?!  And finally, I have a good friend that is living in D.C. and making the huge decision to pay a year's worth of salary (only a mild exaggeration) to let their daughter attend a German immersion school because she attended school in Germany through the second grade and they want to give her the opportunity to continue her studies in a foreign language.  The scenarios feel endless, although they always find a way of working out, it's rarely without a little extra added stress and major decision-making (don't even get me started about trying to find housing at the last minute in an area in a good school district).  But we are resilient and grow stronger with every move!

Back to little r and my unreasonable anxiety about having school aged children... It never dawned on me that having little r in September was going to start the never-ending conversation of when he would start kindergarten (American kindergarten, that is).  Apparently this is now a hot topic of discussion among moms and dads alike.  Kindergarten is not what it used to be.  Rumor has it that things are more difficult for the little ones - sight words, computers, math... It's starting to become a trend to hold kids back and have them start kindergarten when they are older with the thought being that the maturity level will be higher and it will help them succeed. Big R comes from a different camp being that he was an October baby and started kindergarten at the ripe 'ol age of 4, meaning he was more often than not, the youngest in his class.  After we received our new assignment, we wasted no time exploring the best neighborhoods and schools for little r.  What we didn't anticipate was that he would be too young to make the crazy cut off date of August 15 for public schools.  After the shock wore off and we accepted that little r wasn't going to start kindergarten this year, we changed our focus to finding an excellent preschool.

The research paid off and all the cards seemed to fall right into place for us with this move.  We secured a house in a great neighborhood in one of the best school districts in Tennessee.  The preschool we found for little r is, like most of them, a daycare, but it's also a learning center.  After spending a couple years in the German kindergarten system, we knew little r needed a preschool that would provide the structure and academic challenge to ward off boredom.  Our child is a spirited little guy, and boredom would be a way to set him up for failure.  The school is incredible and seconds as a private school for K-2.  We really liked what we saw the day we took the tour, so we didn't waste any time getting him enrolled.

He spent a couple of weeks in the summer program before we were approached to ask if we'd be interested in advancing him to the kindergarten.  They felt he was ready academically.  Turns out they were right, and he scored pretty high on his tests. The big kicker of the whole thing is that it's only offered on a trial basis, so he has to show he can behave (yikes!), and also because he doesn't make the age cutoff for the public school system, there would be no guarantee that he would be able to move into the first grade next year.

We struggled with this decision at first.  Would it be better to move him forward now and potentially repeat kindergarten? Or would it be best to keep him with the preschool and stick with our original plan?  In my head I'm hearing all my friends supporting him moving forward, meanwhile also hearing other friends argue that he's just too young.  So, I asked his teacher what she would do, as a mom, and having taught little r.  Her response made all the sense in the world.  I knew the answer, but I suppose hearing it is always helpful.  She told me that academically he is demonstrating he is ready and should do well.  Being that he's younger, she said it's always tough to know how well he will adjust to a more academic setting.  We have the benefit of not being in the public school system because they can use the trial period to make sure he will succeed and that those that stay in the class are not disrupted by those kids that really aren't mature enough or ready.  We can also decide to keep him in the same school next year and not fight with the school system over his age, which is an added bonus.

I suppose it's obvious now what we decided to do.  I was a nervous wreck about his first day and this two week trial period.  Little r was crazy excited about going to "the big school."  I was excited for him, but also concerned how he would react if they decided he wasn't ready.  Guess these are just the things we have to prepare ourselves for.  Little r was amazing on his first day of school.  He even let me pick out something nice for him to wear, which was nothing shy of a miracle.  We met his teacher and the other students in his class.  I can see now the huge benefits of putting your child into a private school, if for nothing else, the student/child ratio is impressive.  He is one of 11 students in the K-1 class, and half of those students are first graders.  Is that great, or what?  I think later having him in the public school will be a great experience for him, but for this stage, I think we will definitely get our money's worth.

First day of Kindergarten - a picture is worth a thousand words, this is one very happy boy!!!

I'll keep you posted on how the little man is doing in his class.  With all the variables we often have to deal with in the military, it is crazy awesome when things fall into place.  I have high hopes and I love that we found this school for him.


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