Thursday, February 14, 2013

Schooling choice

Over the past few weeks we have been collecting information and doing research on different preschool programs in the area for the girls to attend a couple times a week next year. We love their Mother's Day Out program at our church and would definitely consider them staying with the church program, we just want to see what else is out there before putting down deposits for next year. In the course of us looking for programs however, we feel that we have hit a bit of brick wall. I know all Mommies think their little darlings are brilliant...and they all are in different ways. But MacKenzie is eerily smart. She knows stuff that she shouldn't. She remembers stuff that happened when she was really young. She is way beyond her age in many things. And the fact of the matter is, looking at a lot of three year old curriculums, she knows most of what they would be teaching. In fact, she knows a lot of what they teach in four year old curriculums.

So I went and talked with the director of one of the preschools we were looking at recently. I asked to get a sense of their three year old curriculum to see if that would open up discussion about expectations and what might happen if those expectations were already met. Within a few minutes I had already started to get discouraged because her big expectations for three year olds was colors, shapes, numbers, and some of the alphabet. She said it wasn't until the four year old class do they start looking at phonics and that they were mainly looking at "pre-readiness" whatever that meant. To this I told her, MacKenzie is already reading (sounding out) three letter words, to which I feel like I was totally blown off. I was told that kids just pick up on reading and that isn't really their focus. That MacKenzie's main benefit would be the thematic units where they learn a lot of social studies information and because she was older she would learn to be a leader. That's when I really got upset because she went on to allege that it's never a good decision to move kids up because they become followers when they are the youngest and their social status is hit hard by that. I almost choked...I was moved up...and I was a spring birthday so I was especially young...and I don't feel anything but benefits from having moved up. It became abundantly clear that this was not a conversation that would be open from that point on and as I told her "Well that's what I needed to know" she asked me if I planned to public school or homeschool my kids when they got to kindergarten. I know where she was going, I had actually heard it before already in our search, that if you plan to public school there is no point in pushing them ahead because they won't get put in anything but their age grade anyways. Which isn't true... I said in the most respectful way I could muster, "I will do whatever it takes to make sure my kids needs are met."

And that is where I am coming from. I get all the arguments against moving kids up, but at the same time, I am an example of all the arguments for moving kids up. MacKenzie may or may not be a leader in any classroom setting, but it will be up to her, not whether she is with kids her age. I gaurantee you, more often than not, she won't make the choice to lead because she will find it to be a waste of her time, that she figured stuff out for herself and other kids need to as well. If she was moved up, she might have a little emotional breakdown from time to time, but that is just because of her personality, that she wants things just so and when they aren't that way, it gets overwhelmingly frustrating to her and her bodies natural response to that is to cry. It has nothing to do with what age setting she is in because it still happens to her Mommy all the time. I understand that she could still learn about all sorts of different themes from the classroom, but I can also take her to the library, spend 15 minutes reading a book to her about any theme and she will retain most of that information and have it filed away in her amazing memory. With that, now I struggle. MacKenzie loves school and I want to keep her in some program that she can be independent and interact with other kids. However, I have serious issues with paying for a service that isn't meeting any academic need at the same time. I am looking to find a balance between meeting her academic needs and meeting her social needs at the same time.

We are looking at different options. Sucking it up and keeping her in a three year old class and supplementing at home. Dealing with negativity and push to have her moved up to a four year old class (and probably supplementing at home). Pay extra money to get her into a program that positively works with students to meet their needs (there are programs out there that we are familiar with...for twice the price). Finding a way cheaper option that is more for socializing and learning school structure and procedures and supplementing at home. Doing all academic based work at home and placing her in programs for her to do independently that work on other skills (an instrument, a foreign language, something athletic...). Almost all of these options mean supplementing at home which is fine, I enjoy seeing what she can learn. So I will go ahead and ask for commentary and suggestions. I want to hear it all so I can add it to all my lists of things to mull about. We may end up doing something completely different from all suggestions we receive, but I think everyone that will respond has the same goal that we do..."to meet the needs of our kids".

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