Monday, March 02, 2009

Full-Day Kindergarten

This morning, I was interviewed on camera by the preschool director for our school district.

"What do you look forward to with your child to experience in kindergarten?"

"I hope that in kindergarten, learning to read, she really starts to develop an independent love of learning, and the realization that she can teach herself new things. I also hope that she'll develop her sense of independence."

"What concerns do you have about your child entering kindergarten?"

"My husband and I loved school so much and we want that for our daughter, too. I'm just so afraid that she'll find kindergarten too hard and will want to give up. I'm afraid that she won't like it, that it will be too different from play-based preschool. And I'm a little scared of all the independence she'll have and the room for making bigger mistakes."

Then we went next door to Ellie's classroom and the teacher attempted to interview Ellie. We'd practiced at home, of course, but she was absolutely not really into it. And who could blame her? Sure, we blather on about "kindergarten" from time to time. But what does this strange word mean? It sounds like our beloved "Musikgarten." Come to think of it, what is "next year," anyway? And new schools are nothing big to her; she's been in five classrooms in three preschools already.

"I wonder what you will do in kindergarten?"

Ellie did this little mutter thing she does where she doesn't make eye contact and doesn't use actual words but mumbles along like Charlie Brown's teacher. This is not unlike what I do when I don't know the words but want to keep singing. Or when I feel like I should know the answer the rest of the group is reciting.

"Ellie, what do you think you will do in kindergarten?"

"New friends," she said very quietly, smiling at her sister playing on the trampoline directly behind her . . . and turning completely away from the camera.

"What do you think you will learn in kindergarten?"

I can tell you what she did not say. She did not talk about computers or reading, as her father and I had suggested to her during our earlier practice sessions.

"I wonder what you will like the most about going to kindergarten?"

Ellie did not mention eating lunch at school or riding the bus. In fact, it was pretty obvious that she was not into this scene and was so done. She headed off to play.

I shrugged at the preschool director and cameraman. It happens. And there were lots of other children to interview.

Back at home, over lunch, I flipped through the day's mail.

"Dear Parent,
We received a number of applications for our Full-Day Kindergarten Program and twenty children for one class were selected through a random drawing. Although your child's name was not drawn . . . "

Ack! Not even in kindergarten and already a rejection letter, if not a personal one. We applied for the limited full-day program because we know that Ellie will be pulled out of the classroom some for therapy serives and we worry about her missing too much class. But all that will be addressed after her transition I.E.P meeting and we're not too worried about the schedule yet.

A couple of hours later, after naptime (we're sort of back on naptime) I was chatting with Ellie about kindergarten again. She still wasn't very into it. The phone rang.

Ellie's principal is an interesting dude. We know him from her stint in the early childhood room at the local elementary school, and he's very nice, easily approachable, and extremely accessible to the children. He's young and handsome: tan with white teeth and curly blond hair. He also has the highest voice I've ever heard from an adult man. It's much, much higher than mine. I don't type in pitch, so you'll have to use your imagination here.

"I'm calling with good news!" he said. "So many families were interested in full-day kindergarten for next year that both classrooms will be full-day! Eleanor will be in Mrs. X's class or Mrs. Y's class, and . . . "

It's starting to feel almost real.

Next year, I will have a child in elementary school. She'll be doing things like going into the building on her own. And losing baby teeth.

I'm sure I'll be doing things like turning grey and biting off my fingernails.


RobMonroe said...

Maybe you could just say that Ellie is getting used to the paparazzi for when you're a famous author, and that's why she mumbled in the camera. She's practicing dodging questions for the media. :o)

I'm confident that you'll both be in good shape after the new school year actually arrives and you get into the swing of things!

Megan said...

Oh good. I am so glad that she'll be in full-day kindergarten. I really think that all kids benefit from a full day program. Around these parts, all the county schools will be full day starting in 2010. It's just amazing what they expect the kids to learn in a half-day program. And I know that some parents feel that transition to full day is hard..really...they've got to do it sometime.

I'd love if you'd email me (or point me to the place on your blog) where you discuss the pre-school choices you've made for E. I know Stella's only 11 mos, but the time is going to quickly, I want to have a plan in my head. :-)

Sarahlynn said...

Rob, funny idea. I don't know of any authors that famous . . .

Megan, thanks! I keep second guessing myself, wondering if I want full-day for Ellie's sake or for mine . . .

I don't know if I've blogged too much about our school choices for Ellie. Here they are, in a nutshell:

1) Inclusive daycare/preschool a couple mornings a week starting when she was 15 months old. I toured a few facilities and chose one that was both conveniently located and also the home-base of several of Ellie's therapists so that she could get some of her First Steps therapy at school, with other children.

2) When Ellie turned 3 and moved from our First Steps to the school district, she transferred into a 4-mornings-week 50/50 (50% of kids with IEPs, 50% without) early childhood classroom at our local elementary school. The next year, the district stopped subsidizing the program for kids without special needs, and, lo and behold, no typically developing kids signed up to be in the 50/50 class, so it became "self-contained."

3) So the following year, this year, Ellie's pre-K year, we decided to drive her way out to our school district's early childhood center where they have a lot more preschoolers and more resources. Ellie's in a class of about 18 kids, a mix of kids with IEPs and typically developing kids, similar to what she'll experience in Kindergarten next year but with more support. Her current classroom is "team taught" classroom, with one gen ed teacher, one special ed teacher, and 2 aides for the classroom, plus regular therapist visits.

We have been very happy with *every* school and program she's been in!