Saturday, June 27, 2015

School Next Year

Mac has always been an accelerated learner. We have always proudly boasted new things she has learned or skills she has acquired. We have also always struggled with a plan for her education. We do not have the income for private school at this time and after careful reflection, feel that mainstream public school is our best option. That being said, in preschool and looking forward to elementary school, I was worried about her being challenged enough. She learns quickly, she learns vast amounts of knowledge, and she just plain "gets it". Two years ago we found a preschool program that would allow her to attend the 4/5 year old class instead of the 3 year old. This past year we placed her in a different preschool program, in a 4/5 class in order to learn how to function in a larger group and in a group that would transition well into the school district. Part of the way through the year, she received one on one attention from her high school buddy teacher in addition to working on other assignments with her peers. Throughout her life we have worked on learning with her, sometimes formally with lessons and workbooks, and sometimes informally. She soaks it all up. 

It became evident, a year ago, that she may be too prepared for Kindergarten this upcoming year. After some assessments on our part and advice from several educators we know, we decided to push her further with at home teaching, focusing on reading, writing, and math skills. We looked at the standards for Kinder in our state, had her reading at every opportunity, and nourished her young mind. Simultaneously, we began the process of asking the school district and others in the community about ways a child could accelerate past Kindergarten. Many people wrote us off, told us it wasn't possible, and gave us multitudes of reasons why it was a bad idea. Many of these reasons stung seeing as I was accelerated through school and feel blessed by that decision on the part of my parents and educators. We plugged through, knowing what was best for our girl. We never cared, and still don't, what grade she goes into. We just want what is best for her and wanted to know we tried. Through hours of searching, we discovered the CBE (credit by exam) that our district participates in, even if they do not recommend it for their students. While one would think that knowing about the exam made our journey easier, it proved to remain just as difficult. Countless emails were sent back and forth between myself and the school counselor to find out details, dates, and any information about the format of the test. I never had any intention of teaching Mac how to take the test, but I also didn't want her to go in "blind" to a situation she had never been in before. All the while we prepped her by teaching what she needed to know regardless of what level she would end up in.

We also discussed what "skipping" meant for her and our family. We prayed for a clear path for her and reassured her that the test was merely one measure of her brilliance. Over and over we stated how much we wanted her to do her best, no matter what results ended up presenting themselves. She walked into the test hesitant and walked out confident. She filtered out little details to Matt and I throughout the day, telling us about problems she worked and stories she read. I, unable to let it go, asked numerous questions about different topics on the test, grilling her for information, hoping it would prove insightful for how she did. It was fruitless and I eventually backed off, reassured, once again, that it did not matter. The test was one measure and she would do great in whichever grade she was placed in. 

The results came in on Thursday. To exit Kindergarten, a student must achieve 80% on math and 80% on English/reading. Mac achieved a 90% on both parts, a clear sign that she is ready to move on. We are proud of our girl, mainly because of how hard she worked. Even though learning is easy for her, she still enjoys it and focuses on doing things correctly. We also feel proud of our diligence, of pushing through the beaurocracy and negativity to find the right path for our girl. We made the system work for our family, it's a lesson that may need repeating dozens of times over, especially as we near Johnny's time entering the district this fall. 

While I am proud, my mommy heart is a little wistful. With the opening of that letter, a year flew by. A year that, more than likely, she will not be with us, under our direct care. It is a full year of classroom celebrations, lunches at the school, reading to her class, projects, field trips, class pets, and memories that are no longer accessible to us. There will be no first day of kindergarten picture and no "friends since Kindergarten" to be found. It is a quick jump in our little one's journey. For me, that is how I knew this was the right decision. It would be so easy to keep her in kinder, to have an easy year with her, to enjoy all the time and memories. While kinder would have its own challenges, it would be a smooth transition with easy lessons and less emotional strain. The jump to first means being behind, socially, emotionally, and, in some cases, mentally. But the jump is what she needs. It will be a struggle, at different times and in different ways, for her entire pre college academic career. There will be things she is left out of because of her age. There will be things she has to wait on because of her age. There will be times where more is expected of her because of her presumed age. But it is all worth it. Her mind is worth the challenges. And who better to guide her through the far fewer challenges towards the much more frequent benefits than myself. Because I know all of this and because my heart is breaking a little at that lost year, I know we have done the right thing for our girl. 

And if there were any doubts in our mind, I can just reference her reaction when we told her-
Me: "How do you think you did on your test?"
Mac: "Awesome."
Me: "Yep. You are right. You did great and you are going to move up to first grade!"
Mac: with huge smile on her face and voice dripping with the know it all attitude she got from her mom "Well, yeah. Of course!"