Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smarty



This month, our local elementary school began registration for kindergarten. Jordan missed the cutoff last year because of his January birthday, so we kept him in a private preschool another year. Luckily, his preschool is accredited and has a kindergarten program which they placed him in. But the dilemma now became whether Jordan would need to repeat kindergarten at the public school, or whether the school might consider advancing him to the first grade.

I had mixed feelings about tinkering with the system. At first I thought maybe the best thing to do is start him off in kindergarten, and let him get comfortable without any added pressure. But then I started thinking about Jordan's brand of learning.

Jordan enjoys his current school. He is challenged there. Since he began, he's gone from crying at circle time to reading board books out loud to us. He constantly asks questions about what things mean - whether they are signs or expressions or larger concepts like crime and punishment. Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit - he wanted to know what "jail" was, and why people go to jail. And once I explained, he now turns it around on me and threatens me with jail anytime I enforce rules.

"Mommy, I'm mad at you! I'm sending you to jail!" Given my line of work, I have to refrain from laughing at this one.

But what would happen if he was forced to relearn the same old things he's been learning since he was 2 1/2 years old? (NJ has no mandatory pre-school rules. In fact, I've learned, they don't even require school enrollment until 1st grade. Many of the kids coming into kindergarten at the local elementary have never even been in preschool before.) I know my kid. I know that when he's bored, he will just get up and walk away. It doesn't mean he isn't paying attention or doesn't know how to transition or follow rules. It means he'd rather engage in something challenging.

So, the question became one of those moments that test your personal parenting philosophy. Do I challenge my kid in school in an brand new environment where his peers will be older, taller, perhaps more independent? Or do I keep him back a year and let him be comfortable, even thought it might mean repeating all the same lessons he's learned? Is it me that's more scared of Jordan being the smallest one in class? Or do I think he's even bothered by this stuff?

I decided the best thing to do is have Jordan evaluated by a learning specialist at the school who could decide whether she thought Jordan was better suited for kindergarten or 1st grade.

One meeting with Jordan, a half hour of testing, and several conversations with his preschool later... and I got this email today:


Good Afternoon:

Well, my Learning Consultant, Ms. S, is smitten with Jordan and in her words, “Could we clone him?” Jordan did beautifully in his testing and in his interaction with Penny S. His reviews from his current school show he’s on target academically and socially and will clearly be ready for first grade in September. Mrs. F, former kindergarten teacher and currently in-class support specialist reviewed Jordan ’s work as well yesterday.

At your convenience, please continue with the registration process (proving residency, etc.) at the Board Office and we look forward to Jordan joining first grade in September.

Thank you for allowing the staff to meet with Jordan and assist in your decision making.

Looking forward to meeting you,

JM.


"Could we clone him?" OMG. I need to invite her over for dinner sometime - with the kids.

But, at the same time, it was refreshing to get another adult's perspective on your child - the child you are so used to managing each day in a myriad of quotidian tediousness. It was nice hearing her say positive things about Jordan, because honestly, in the day to day business of living, sometimes it's too easy to take him for granted. He's not just a bundle of emotions and energy. He's a smart, engaging little guy who deserves a challenge.

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