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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

K Squared



Last year, as Spring sprung, the Manatee's teacher pulled me aside to chat.  The basic gist was "she's young, she's not quite as emotionally mature as her classmates and you might want to consider having her repeat kindergarten."

[*insert Mommy-Jaw dropping here*]

Let me back up to explain that AM is frequently mistaken to be around two years older than her actual age.  This is partly due to her relative size (as a just-six year old, she's sporting size 7 clothing and size 2.5W shoes) but also has a great deal to do with her verbal and literary prowess; she's been reading (and I don't mean "cat, hat, rat") since she was three, memorized the alphabet backwards on her own around that same time, and, well ... simply doesn't miss much anything.  I think it's safe to say, in all humility: I gots a bright kid.

Repeat Kindergarten?  I had a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.  I think the first was, "What? MY kid? but she's so SMART!"  Followed shortly by, "Hmm... so what is it that she hasn't learned, socially, that puts her at such a disadvantage?  Was there something we I could have done?" [*insert Mommy Guilt here*]

Her teacher rattled off the opposition I'd get: "She'll be bored," "What about her friends," "But she's so smart," "Won't she be upset" and "What will the other kids say?"  She assured me that in her many years of experience, none of these proved to be an issue --especially in kindergarten.  (She didn't prep me for "They're just trying to improve their test scores," and "They just want more taxpayer money" (huh?!?), but I digress.)

I spoke with a few more of her teachers, who all echoed the same thing.  Right now, everything might be fine, and she may be getting by, but at 3rd or 4th grade, everything "hits the fan" and educators see emotional and social problems with children who were "sent early" (which, technically, she wasn't).

I even sat in on a day of school, to observe her classmates.  I don't know what I was looking for ... some great disparity between her behavior and theirs that would signal, unequivocally, that she needed to do this K thing again.  I had no light-bulb moment.

I prayed for clarity a sign.

My Significant Otter's response was: "They're the professionals.  I respect their opinion."

I started to poll the community for a consensus (hey, I wanted to make an informed decision, ok?).  Every parent who "held back" --in whatever form that took-- is grateful and confident of that decision.  Those who chose to "send them on," (and some did both) have doubts.  Not that their kid is perpetually screwed up, but they can identify struggles based on the age-maturity gap.

I thought about my own school experience.  I was old for my grade (November birthday), and I don't recall any particularly immature classmates ... I do remember, however: MEAN GIRLS.  I can't protect her from them, but I can give her an extra year, can't I?  Equipped?  As her teacher put it: "we want her to be a total package."

In hindsight, had I known this would be an issue (is it an issue??) I would have waited to send her sent her to preschool an extra year.  But I trust that God was orchestrating all of this - when we moved, when she started preschool, when we moved again, etc - and so I have to trust that even though I could have waited, I didn't, and He has/had a reason for that.

Do I question our decision?  Sometimes.  Like when I walk into Open House and see her former classmates scooting about as first graders.  What's so different about my kid? Why can't she hack it?  But then we get on with the weekly grind, and I get over it.

People ask me, tentatively: "How's that kindergarten thing working for Audrey this year?"   I smile and say, "She loves it."  Because the truth is, she enjoys everything about school --the teachers, the students, the learning, the making and doing.  I don't really know how it's "going" for her; only time will tell.  The decision has been made, we're moving on with life, and I have to trust that God's got my back on this one, too.