Monday, February 4, 2013

Thoughts on Kindergarten

Okay, I've been wanting to get all this out in one place for awhile, so here it goes, and please forgive any lack of organization to these thoughts.

Miss Amy, as the older child, has and will always bear the brunt of the majority of my parenting angst.  I spent what seemed like ages deciding whether or not to buy her a baby jumper (I did not).  I charted her breastfeedings and naptimes, fretted over weaning, fought over bedtimes, deliberated over pretty much every hurdle or milestone she was approaching.  Not that she has been a difficult kid, and I don't think I've been an overly anxious parent, but let's just say that I've always taken my job seriously, and since these kids are my job, I take it all very seriously.  William, being of a slightly more relaxed disposition and the younger child, has not required quite so much analysis, since each new thing with him is not quite as new as it was once.

Therefore, as Amy's kindergarten year approaches, I have been giving the subject an excruciating amount of thought. There are three, maybe four options on the table.  Briefly, they are:

- Homeschooling.  I keep tripping over people who are taking this route these days.  It is highly appealing, very convenient, and Amy likes the idea.
- Private Kindergarten.  This would be a continuation at the same Christian preschool Amy is attending now. They offer kindergarten that is basically half-day plus lunch (8:30-1:00).  Costs as much as a nice car payment, but the familiarity, small class, and religious education are big factors in its favor.
-Public School.  It's right up the road, and is apparently very good.  It also, as far as I can tell, has no windows.  School starts early and kindergarten is full day.
-Public School, but making myself a squeaky wheel and creating an arrangement where Amy only attends part-day, or cherry-picks activities, or some such highly persnickety situation. I have heard of it being done.

Also worth noting, as background for those who may not know me or her that well:
- I attended public school.  A very good public school.  I never moved as a child, never had to change schools.  I can't say I really liked school, but I didn't dislike it either, and on the whole it was a positive experience.  It was also a stressful one, and sometimes I feel like I'm still recovering.
- Amy will be an old kindergartner.  Her birthday is at the beginning of November, missing the September 1st cutoff for school by a good margin, but nevertheless, she will be going on six by the time this rolls around.
- Regardless of what we do for this coming year, the following year will be completely different, as we will be moving in the summer of 2014 and the whole thing will be up for evaluation again.


Around Christmas I think we were all really tired, and when we took a couple weeks off to go to CT I found myself really wanting to ditch the school routine all together.  The biggest hang-up for me, regarding school in any institution besides home is the resulting enslavement to The School Calendar.  We do not live near our families at all and don't get many chances to see them.  I love the idea of being free to travel when convenient, rather than having to wait for school breaks.  I also live in fear of The Alarm Clock, and there is a part of me that hates the idea of having to wake up children and rush them through the morning to get to school on time.  Perhaps that reflects a larger time management issue I have, but nevertheless, that's how it always feels.  And lastly, public school?  eh??  It's not what it was, even when I was a kid.  What on earth do kindergartners need to do for 6-7 hours away from home?  There will be time enough for friends and school and independent lives... must that all start at age five?

That's my homeschooling argument.

I have full confidence in my ability to bestow a kindergarten education on my daughter.  She already knows how to read and we are covering math concepts at home that she wouldn't even touch till later in kindergarten.  I have books, I am a smart and organized person.  We have a chalkboard.  Amy loves worksheets.  We live near a big city with lots of resources.  All this I could do.

But what does Amy spend most of her time talking about these days?  Her classmates, and the games they play on the playground at recess.

I can't provide her that at home.

There are networks, I know.  There are classes, there are neighbors, there are activities.  We can do all these things but when I assess my own introverted personality and our family's light social calendar, I wonder if day upon day home with Mom would really be in Amy's best interest, even if she professes that to be her favorite place (as it was mine).

So that brings us around to school in an institution, of some kind.  Since I still can't quite get excited about shipping her out from 7:30 to 2:30 every day at a public school, I find myself most often returning to the option of private kindergarten, at the same church-based children's center she attends now.  It is a hefty chunk of change, but taking into consideration what we are already paying and Don's upcoming advancement this summer it wouldn't present a hardship. And it would represent an opportunity for continuity  - should could return to her familiar school for another year and complete kindergarten, with their graduation ceremony at the end and everything, before we move off to someplace new.

I wish one could choose part-time school.  I want to try homeschooling, I really do, but I don't want to do it at the expense of the experience of school, with all its ups and downs.

What do you think?  I would really love feedback here.  Enrollment for the private school is in one month, so that decision at least needs to be made soon.  Anyone else spend as much time as I do thinking about all this?  Let me know what your thought process is like.

Thanks a bundle for listening :)


  1. Tough question!
    I am a firm supporter of school for kids. I think that the early grades are not so much about a rockin' academic foundation, but about setting the stage for the social development that starts at this age. Developmental theories talk about how this is the start of the age range where children begin to develop a sense of their peer community and a social identity... this both builds on and broadens the sense of self they have already begun to develop because of their family environment.
    If I didn't know that you would be moving in a year, I would definitely be on the public school bandwagon, but I agree that continuing in a school where she already knows her classmates is a nice idea, especially with another transition pending. Here are some questions: Are any of her other classmates transitioning to the public school? Can you go to the public school and meet the kindergarten teachers, and possibly request which class you would want Amy to be in?

    I imagine that when I am a parent, I will think just as much about these issues. A good educational experience is something I KNOW I will really want for my kids.

    Good luck, and I know whatever you decide, Amy will continue to be a bright, curious, amazing child!

    We miss you guys!

  2. Such a complicated topic! You know my leanings, but I thought I'd chime in anyway!

    Given your current situation I (and this is just me, not a judgement on anyone else's decisions) wouldn't even be considering the public school. So that leaves the school she's at or homeschooling.

    I'm a homeschooler so I lean in that direction. Here's why in bullet point form:
    *Cost. You could probably take that money and use it in more interesting ways- science museum membership (we looooove ours), various field trip and family outings, more travel to see family, etc. Or even better, savings for other, bigger things.
    *Friends. I'm sure it isn't all Amy likes about school, but what you mention is Recess. With her friends only going to half day K that would leave time for afternoon or weekend playdates to get some playing in. We have found TONS of kids at the local playgrounds during school hours as well. It has been of the best places to find and connect with other HS families.
    *Learning-As hungry as she is for knowledge right now as a HS you'd be able to work at her pace without worrying about classmates who work faster or slower. You can also spend the whole day doing art or categorizing rocks if that's what tickles your fancy.

    Okay, I could go on forever, but I won't. We love the flexibility of HS. We travel often to see family and it isn't always on the school schedule (due to family coming in from overseas). It's so good to just pick up and go. If you wanted to 'test out' homeschooling I can't think of a better time to do it than now. Amy is interested, you're interested and it's "just kindergarden". And since you're moving anyway you'll get a fresh start after a year if you need/want it.

    We keep busy, but we're not overly social- we have one thing planned/available most days but are flexible if new things come along. Some things that keep us busy- ice skating at the rink, swimming at the pool, library story time and science club, the science museum and our weekly HS group meetup (mostly a playground or social meetup). Nothing is set in stone, so if we want to stay in we can.

    Do you know anyone personally in your area that is homeschooling? A community is not a necessity, but has proven to be a nice support for us.

    Good luck! I think you probably can't go wrong, but I understand the conflict.

  3. We are in a similar boat to you guys, and I totally relate to putting so much thought and effort into getting it right with my first! And of course for my other two, but they seem to follow along so nicely and for some reason I'm not as worried about them! We are leaning towards homeschool. Our public school is sub par, and I honestly can't afford private right now. We are also hoping to move in a year or two and hate to start something then have to pick up and change it. My biggest concern is socialization. And I know that it can be done right with homeschool, but it does take extra effort. I can tell you from my own experience, I went to public school all the way through, and I think I failed socialization. I never felt so isolated as I did at school--the lessons I learned in socialization were that I didn't fit in, wasn't part of 'the group', and thought there was something intrinsically wrong with me. If I had had more support at home, I think things would have been better, but with home-school, I see the freedom to try different social groups to find something that fits with the child. I am trying not to let my past experience overly influence the decisions I make for my own children, who are entirely unique individuals with lots of support and love at home. I agree with above poster that you probably can't go wrong! And I hear that the most important thing, no matter what route you choose, is parental involvement and support. We are 'trialing' homeschool currently on Jubilee's days off of preschool, to see if it fits. I don't want to wait until September to find out if its not gonna work! I just wish there was an easy answer! But know you're not alone! Good luck :)

  4. The socialization question is such a big worry for so many. I can understand because I, too, felt like I never fit in with my peers in public school.

    One thing I have noticed as a homeschooler (with a 1st grader and a yo) is that they are so very well socialized with everyone, not just a group of same age peers. They chat well with adults at stores or church or the museum. They play well with kids of all ages, whether younger or older. They are so open to interacting with everyone, not just their peer group that they'd sit with day in and day out at school.

    I honestly don't put too much effort into 'socialization'. We live our life and we interact with the people we come into contact with. We do the things that interest us and by doing so we have formed relationships with wonderful people.

    Just my two cents. I have known so many who worry about this and it either paralyzes them to making decisions or they go on to look back and wonder why they ever worried.

    Best of luck to everyone at this transition. I think the making of the decision is the hardest thing of all- what follows is much more easily handled!

  5. I think, in your shoes, I would make the decision exactly as you have. There's something to be said for consistency, especially if you're moving in a year... and if you can swing it financially, so much the better.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts... I could write a novel about all of the thoughts we've been having along similar lines. (In fact, I may just write a response post over on my blog!) My N is just now starting to feel comfortable (socially) with her preschool situation, and we're over halfway through the year. The fact that she will have to adjust to a new school next year has me a bit worried (there's no kindergarden option at her preschool) but the thought of homeschooling is a bit overwhelming at the moment. It's hard for me to even find 15 minutes to give N a violin lesson without a baby crawling all over me or a toddler needing help in the potty.

    But the truth is, I feel we've already created a pretty good learning environment at home, and N is pretty self-motivated, as it seems your kiddos are too. So that means they'll do well wherever they are, right? :)

    Good luck!!