Friday, June 12, 2009

Did I do good enough to go to Kindergarten?

When our boys arrived home from Ghana, one of the first things they wanted to do was go to school! Both of the boys love learning...they are very curious...and they wanted to go be with other kids at school. We knew that the boys weren't ready to tackle school right away (they arrived in January at ages 4 and 5), so Z and I made an executive decision to keep them home until Fall, when Jellybean would enter Kindergarten at age 6. But Peanut wasn't old enough to enter school in the fall...and he had a VERY hard time accepting the fact that Jellybean got to go to school and he didn't.

Jellybean has done so well in Kindergarten this past school year! We have seen him grow and learn and really blossom. He is gaining independence and is really becoming his own person.

Peanut, on the other hand, has kind of struggled going to daycare. Sure, he does fine...but he's the kind of kid who emulates the other kids around him. At daycare, that means he starts acting like the younger kids. When he first arrived home, he would spend tons of time coloring and being creative. He would use tons of different colors and was meticulous about staying in the lines when he would color. When he would arrive home from daycare, he would bring color pages where he used one color and just scribbled some lines across the page. Our daycare provider does do a preschool program...but it covered only the stuff he already knew. He was BORED.OUT.OF.HIS.MIND.

This spring, our school district had Kindergarten round-up. The incoming Kindergarteners for the fall spend 2 hours a day for 4 days "going to school". They are then evaluated by two teachers to determine their readiness for K in the fall. Peanut is a SMART kid. He knows more than many incoming kids do. He catches onto things quickly (probably more quickly than Jellybean), and he is innately curious about the world around him.

He was so excited to go to Kindergarten. He LOVED every minute of his time during the evaluation...and at the end, he asked the principal if he did good enough to come to Kindergarten.

But a week later we got THE LETTER. The letter that said the teachers doing his evaluation didn't think he was ready for Kindergarten. They recommended he go to Pre-K for a year instead (Pre-K is 2 hours a day for 4 days a week). There was NO information about Peanut specifically in the letter. There was not a single reason listed for their recommendation. Just their recommendation.

So, I called the school and set up a meeting with the teachers. The teachers doing the evaluation were Jellybean's current K teacher and a Pre-K teacher from the school. To be fair, we LOVE Jellybean's teacher. She is wonderful. She is receptive. She really cares about her students. And as a plus, she has experience in ESL.

The Pre-K teacher, though? Yeah...from the very first thing that came out of her mouth at the meeting, I knew I wasn't going to like her. The VERY first thing she said to us (with disdain in her voice) was "Your son doesn't know how to use a scissor." Excuse me? This is now the current standard for determining when a child is ready to go to school? What with all the getting used to living in a new family and a new country, and all of the attachment parenting, and working on social behaviors apparently we haven't spent enough time cutting paper with scissors. However, I KNOW that Peanut knows how to use a scissor. I've watched him do it.

So Z told her he knew how to use a scissor. And she replied with what became her standard mantra "I've been doing this for 25 years and I know kids..."

So I asked her what she did when she discovered that he didn't know how to use scissors? Well...she helped him, of course. She went over and helped him hold the scissor and helped him cut out what he needed to cut out. Hmm...Sounds to me like Peanut got EXACTLY what he wanted in that situation. Extra attention from the teacher. And he didn't have to do the work.

You see, Peanut is a child who has had a tough time with the attachment "stuff". Sure, he loves us...he probably even likes us...but attachment hasn't come easily. And he has a repeating pattern when he encounters new adults. His survival strategy is to "be adorable". It sounds funny, but its true. He's adorable. He bats his eyelashes, he acts younger than he is, he acts helpless, and he asks for help with things that he (and we) knows he can do himself. Since he's so darn cute, adults who don't know him often go out of their way to do what he asks of them. And he gets exactly what he wants. He is a master manipulator. Its worked for him...why shouldn't he keep it up? He will only really stop doing it when it stops working for him.

Of course, to the teachers it looks like he isn't ready to go to school.

We discussed all of the behavior issues the teachers encountered with him and explained our position to them (one of which was receptive...the other not so much). When we left the meeting, we had the distinct feeling that the Pre-K teacher had this pre-conceived notion about our family that since we'd only been parents for a year and a half, what the heck do we know? Of course we'd just take her recommendation and go with it. Wrong.

I wanted to say "I wish you could see how far he's come in the past year."

I wanted to say "You would have told me that Jellybean wasn't ready for Kindergarten either...but look how well he's done! And Peanut is more ready now than Jellybean was a year ago."

I wanted to ask the Pre-K teacher who kept saying "I've been doing this for 25 years and I know kids" how many of those kids in the past 25 years had been adopted internationally and only been in the U.S. for a year and a half.

But I didn't.

As soon as the meeting was over, we headed to the school office and signed the waiver stating that we knew he had been recommended for Pre-K, but we were overriding the decision and registering him for Kindergarten.

Do I think we made the right decision?

Do I think he is going to transition to K easily?
He'll probably have a rough couple of weeks/month at the beginning.

But the most important thing for us was to get him in a structured learning environment. None of the issues they talked with us about were really maturity issues...they were his way of testing the boundaries. From the moment Peanut got off the airplane, he needed to know where ALL the boundaries were ALL. THE. TIME. Every time he encountered something (or someone) new, he would test the boundaries. Once he knows where they are he does just fine. But that isn't going to go away if he goes to Pre-K for a year. He'll still do the same thing when he gets to K. It will just make him a year older than all of his classmates.


Kristin Jag said...

Way to be his advocate! Our guts usually tell us what our kids need. It sounds like we actually have a lot in common with our little guys and I will have to remember this when it is his time for kindergarten.

Leslie said...

Good for you! The school's think they know what is best, but we are the ones who love them and have only their interests as opposed to all the education system's priorities. It is hard, but good job!