talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kindergarten conundrum

I am sure that parents, especially parents whose careers revolve around working with children and teens, usually have their fingers on the pulse of this type of pressing information. But somehow the cutoffs for kindergarten kind of blindsided us. Truthfully, we finally got one of us home with the girls after years of dreaming about it, and now Fiona turns out to be just within the age cutoff for kindergarten attendance this fall. I think part of us just didn't want to inquire.

Well, we're not completely clueless. We've been discussing what philosophy of education seemed right to us for years now. My pet philosophy is Waldorf education, founded in Germany by Rudolf Steiner. I am attracted to it for many reasons: it follows natural rhythms, be those the rhythms of the child, the day, or of the earth. In Waldorf schools, teachers follow students for eight years, providing a continuity unheard of in public schools today; storytelling, handwork, and movement, in addition to the more standard woodworking, foreign language, physical education, math and English classes are core aspects of the curriculum. These schools have the closest harmony with our own ideas about where media literacy intersects with children that we've found yet; and in a Waldorf school children actually use their imaginations for play-- toys don't do all the work.

Waldorf methods are not outcomes-based. It's not "values free" or "values neutral" either; rather, Waldorf education develops actually strives to develop individual integrity in each student. I'm rereading more about the way the philosophy works and trying to increase my understanding now that Fiona's closer to school-aged. All this being said, there are no Waldorf schools in our state, much less in our immediate area. Too bad.

Our area offers a number of choices in education, including a lottery system to get into various types of magnet schools. We've talked about how much we like the Reggio Emilia approach, which is offered in a magnet school here. There are also many quality choices in private schools, including a Spanish language immersion preparatory school, a very good Montessori school, and our local parochial school is also a possibility.

One might expect that my own attendance at parochial schools through elementary school, middle school, high school, and even one year of college might have had some bearing on this decision, but we've been trying to take the stance that our children are different individuals with different circumstances, and we simply want to find the best choice available for them here and now. Ian was actually the one who suggested that we check out our parochial school. He often encounters students from there through work and finds, in general, that students from there are bright, enjoy their school, and seem to be good, kind people to boot.

So Fiona, Nora, and I attended kindergarten roundup at the parochial school in December. The family went together for her kindergarten assessment. She did so well, even as a four-year old taking the assessment, that they will be eyeing her for the gifted and talented program. Fiona turned heads that day. The next time we saw the principal at Mass, she spoke to Fiona by name and patted her on the head. When I helped Fiona with introductions and said to the Sister that that we expected Fiona to go to kindergarten at her school next year, she smiled and said, "Oh yes, I know all about it."

So we enrolled her. Then, as we waited for our kindergarten checkup appointment and slogged through the tuition payment options, I got cold feet. Our neighbor, a Montessori teacher, mentioned to me that many younger kindergarteners-- especially girls-- who are intellectually prepared for kindergarten begin to struggle in later grades because of the gap in their emotional development. Aha! This is a piece of research we hadn't turned up yet in our literature review.

Middle school, and high school especially, may not be smooth sailing for any child. If one additional year of maturity can help with that, I'm in favor of it. If that keeps Fiona home with me for an additional year, all the better. We didn't go to one income for the fun of eating beans all the time, after all.

Additionally, there's the little voice in my head that is inviting me to consider homeschooling. My undergraduate degree is in elementary education with endorsements in both kindergarten and reading, and the little people who matter the very most to me in the entire world live under my own roof. Who better to educate? Am I not already doing this every day? Why is sending Fiona away to a room for four hours a day better than what we do now? Is she not reading, writing, singing, dancing, digging, cutting, laughing, measuring, playing-- in other words, learning-- every day already? Didn't the guidance counselor say to us as we left the kindergarten assessment, "I don't know what you're doing at home, but just keep doing it!"?

Oh, I guess that's a post for another day. For now, we simply have a kindergarten conundrum.


At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I'd give some feedback because I was enrolled in kindergarten very early, just making my local cutoff. I started attending when I was actually still 4, with many kids a full year and more older. Although I never had academic problems in school, I did have problems occasionally due to being younger. Not just emotional maturity, but being behind in physical development was also an issue. An example from the early grades would be the shock of having my classmates laugh at me when I announced excitedly that I had just learned to ride a two wheeler. I had had no idea that I was 'behind', although I was probably right on target for my age. And while I was pretty good at sports, the others were often bigger and stronger so I could not do well if it was an activity that favored size or reach. And later, I recall feeling like social things were going a bit too fast for me, such as wanting to still do things like sledding or playing when my peers were clearly interested in more typical teen activities. Funny, one of the biggest shocks of adulthood was becoming as tall as everyone else. That took me years to get used to!

Just a few thoughts, I hope its helpful to hear them. Good luck with whatever you decide.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger mrvoors said...

If anyone could successfully homeschool, it would be you guys. Good luck as you work on this very difficult decision!

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Deborah said...

I don't get something. You didn't inquire? So how do you know that Fiona missed the cut off date? She was born in early/mid August so she would be 5 when school starts in September. She will be right on the target age. So what is the conundrum?

The cut-off date here is December 2, 2002. Can it be that drastically different in Indiana?

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Sucero said...

You have many, many things to think about. I am in agreement with mrvoors!


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