Saturday, August 4, 2007

Countdown to school

The first day of school is exactly one month from today.

(enthusiastically jumps up and down screaming ‘hooray’ at the top of her lungs)

Yes, I am excited about school beginning. Especially this year when both girls will be in the same school for the first time (same vacations, holidays, etc.). And especially because our weekly daycare cost will go down. Significantly. We’re talking like almost $100 a week here. Not to mention we won't have to be paying for preschool for the first time in three years.

Wow!

Our daycare bill will therefore go from horrendously expensive, “OMG, that’s what you pay for daycare?!”, unmanageable, stress-inducing to merely… a lot. Basically back to about what we paid before Becca was born (which seemed so terribly high back then, but what did we know) and I came back to work.

Full-time daycare for 3 kids is EXPENSIVE!

I also am happy about school for the girls’ sakes. Abby needs school about as much as she needs food and air. And I’m not kidding here. Hannah loves the activity and the socialization aspects but Abby needs the structure and challenge. I only hope we, and our daycare provider, can survive these last few weeks now that supervised playground is over and she will be At. Daycare. All. Day.

Abby will be in first grade this year, so full days for the first time. This means dealing with lunches (buy? bring?) for the first time. We got her a lunchbox last weekend (Hello Kitty – she picked it out) along with new backpacks for both girls.

Hannah will be in Young 5’s. Which is basically like pre-Kindergarten. Young 5’s was created for students of legal age to start kindergarten but who would “benefit from an extra year of maturity”. You see, in Michigan the cut-off date for starting kindergarten is December 1st. Which leaves a whole bunch of kids with late summer and fall birthdays who legally can start, but who (for various reasons) might not be completely ready for kindergarten. I was one of those kids since my birthday is November 6th.

My mom had the choice to either start me in kindergarten at age 4, or hold me back an extra year. She was told by the ‘experts’ that I was ready, so she started me. And I suppose I probably was ready in some ways. But I also happened to be small for my age (which was close to a full year younger than many of my classmates), shy, and fairly uncoordinated. So I suffered from excessive teasing and being behind the other kids developmentally in sports, and pretty much everything else (except reading, in which I always was a few grade levels ahead).

My brother was born 6 hours past the deadline, on December 2nd. So my mom legally had to hold him back and he excelled in school and sports. Not that I think our relative ages in school was the complete reason for that, but I will always wonder what might have been different if my mom had held me back. I think I would’ve definitely had a happier, easier time in school.

So back to Hannah. Her birthday is November 29th, 2 days before the deadline. And this is pretty much Ron’s and my fault since she was induced and we were able to choose the induction date from several options. School age not being the first thing on our minds, we went with the earliest option given to us. If we’d waited another 3 days, there wouldn’t have been any question about when to start Hannah in school. Gotta love those arbitrary deadlines!

I never questioned that Hannah would go into Young 5’s and then into kindergarten the following year. Young 5’s was created for exactly this situation (something I truly wish had been around when I was her age!). And if Hannah were to start kindergarten this year, she would literally be the youngest kid in her class – unless there happened to be a kid with a November 30th birthday out there. Plus, Hannah is smallish for her age and a bit immature in how she acts. If Abby were the one with the fall birthday – I honestly think I would’ve started her in kindergarten. Abby was more mature at age 4, plus she thrives on school. I would’ve sent her to full-day kindergarten last year if that were an option (it’s not here). But Hannah…

Our school district does mandatory evaluations for all kids with birthdays between August 1st and the deadline (parents whose kids have birthdays before August 1st can also request an evaluation if they want one). So last May, Hannah was evaluated. She scored extremely well (107 out of 116) and the teacher who tested her was impressed by that and by how well she separated from me for the testing. Well, yeah – she’s been in daycare most of her life.

So in April, we got the letter with her placement. In kindergarten. What the…?????

I was especially confused because I have 2 friends with kids Abby's age. Last year when we were getting Abby signed up for school, both of my friends' kids (who are boys) were recommended for Young 5's. With birthdays in MARCH and APRIL! I mean, I've heard of red-shirting boys with summer birthdays, but early spring???? Both of my friends ended up putting their boys in kindergarten at private schools instead. And they did just fine last year and will start first grade this year. So now my daughter with the end-of-November birthday being recommended for kindergarten made me, well - angry, actually.

I called the school secretary who said all placement questions were being referred to one of the kindergarten teachers. Fine. With school being in session, I had to leave a voicemail. I wasn’t satisfied with that though, so I sat here at my desk and wrote this e-mail:

Hi - Mrs. Z transferred me to your voicemail this morning and I left you a somewhat long, incoherent (I think) message. I'm sorry to keep bothering you, but I am absolutely flabbergasted that my daughter, Hannah S., has been put in kindergarten instead of Young 5's for next year. I hope you'll bear with me while I explain why. I know you're probably getting a lot of calls like this and that you're busy with classes today as well, so please forgive me - I hate to take up your time, but I never thought that there would be any question on this issue.

My older daughter, Abby, is in Mrs. H's kindergarten class this year. She has an April birthday and there was no question that she was ready for kindergarten this year. In fact, I would've sent her to all-day kindergarten if that were an option - she thrives on school and will go crazy this summer without it, I know. If she were the November child, I would say absolutely yes, she's ready for kindergarten. But Hannah is the one with a November birthday, and I can tell you that 100%, absolutely, she is NOT ready for kindergarten next year. Yes, she tested well. The teacher who tested her said that really the only concern is with her birthday, otherwise she felt that she is ready.

Ok - yes, on the basis of a 15-minute evaluation I can see that, especially since she tends to be a show-off. Yes, she separates well from me - she's been in daycare most of her life so she's used to it, plus she's been in preschool for a year and a half (we started her in 3-year-old preschool in January last year). Yes, she's bright and academically knows the things she needs to know - she has an older sister who loves to teach her everything that she's learning. BUT - first of all, her birthday is November 29th. Not just November, but unless there happens to be a 4-year-old kid with a November 30th birthday, she would be the ABSOLUTE youngest in her grade. That is of huge concern to me. And, she is still immature in many ways. It's hard to quantify or explain - her preschool teacher said the same thing at conferences. If you don't know Hannah well, you wouldn't see it right away. The pace of kindergarten nowadays (and I've seen it every day with my older daughter) is what concerns me. Hannah gets tired easily and I know that she would not be able to keep up. She also still has accidents with wetting her pants on a regular basis.

Everyone who knows her well has said the same thing - she needs to be in Young 5's. I never questioned whether she would be placed in Young 5's - isn't this situation exactly what Young 5's was created for?? I have a November birthday too, so I tend to feel strongly on this issue - there was no option for Young 5's at the time so I was placed in kindergarten at age 4 because I was 'ready'. And suffered horribly in elementary school and beyond because of that. I know that Hannah is a different child and I don't want to project my own experiences onto her, but I've seen firsthand what happens to a younger, smaller child who is put in school too early. If I felt that Hannah were ready, I would be the first to say, yes absolutely, put her in kindergarten. But I feel, to the bottom of my heart, that it would be a mistake. I will not put her in kindergarten - I do not want to set her up to fail so early on.

Please, please consider this - I'm not sure who makes the final decisions, but I would beg that you please place her where she needs to be. I know that the Young 5's class is filling up quickly, which is one reason why I'm writing as well as having left the voicemail.

Please contact me as soon as you are able - again, I know you are busy and apologize for having to take up your time. My e-mail address is below, or you can call me at (work), (home) or (cell). Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

After a couple of e-mails back and forth and phone calls with the school district’s kindergarten registration office and our school’s principal, I finally got the verdict – they would go ahead and put her in Young 5’s. Thank goodness. I was told that they wouldn’t always make this decision, but felt that in Hannah’s case, there were enough reasons that they felt comfortable with it in her case. Fine, whatever. Just let me decide where my child should go – I think I know her best!

So Hannah will start in Young 5’s on September 4th when Abby starts first grade. They will be 2 grades apart in school – Hannah will go to kindergarten next year. They will ride the bus together in the mornings this year and then Hannah will take the noon bus to daycare while Abby takes the afternoon bus there. It’s going to be hectic, but exciting.

Phew!

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