As I mentioned in a previous post, the uncertainty of whether we put Mason in kindergarten in the fall is a topic that has weighed heavily on Jeremy and I. When we signed her up for her current preschool, we were sure it was only going to be for a year. She had been on the same path as many kids in her daycare, and they were all going to kindergarten in the fall of 2010, so why wouldn’t Mason? And to be honest, we were greatly looking forward to only one more year of dual daycare/preschool costs that keep us on a strict budget. But the first two weeks of preschool made us question that choice. She was having a very rough time with the transition. She kept wanting to go back to her “old school” (daycare). Even though she already knew two of the girls in her class from her old school, she was not convinced it was going to be fun each morning when we dropped her off. I told Jeremy every day, when I got to work after a 20 minute struggle to keep her at school, that I could not handle another transition like this next year in kindergarten and I was questioning that choice already. But after two weeks, she miraculously realized that her new school was fun and that she was having a great time. She had matured… finally. But the seed was already planted in my mind. Was she really ready for kindergarten? Was she at the same level as the other kids in her class? She seemed very young compared to some of them (of which a few turned 5 in the month after she turned 4).
The biggest comparison I had was her best friend, Luka, who I watch after school every day. Luka is 6 months older than Mason, and sometimes that 6 months seems like a year of maturity and knowledge. She is a very bright girl (coming from super intelligent and worldly parents), and the difference between her and Mason those first few months of school was very apparent. I decided that there was no way Mason would be ready for kindergarten in 2010, and had thus written off the option entirely by December.
I guess I should interrupt here to explain the kindergarten entrance policy. In our county, kids must be 5 by September 1st to enter kindergarten. But in 2006, they added the Early Entrance to Kindergarten Policy that would allow children born within 6 weeks after the September 1st deadline to test in. That deadline would be October 15th, just one day after Mason’s birthday. So we are within our right to test Mason in to kindergarten for early entrance.
In the past two months, though, I have noticed a major change with Mason. It is like she is slowly catching up to Luka. (I know that I should not compare because all kids are different, and there are many levels of “maturity” that should be taken into account when considering this kindergarten decision. But when I have a daily chance to see the differences between the two girls, it’s hard not to compare.) Then I looked at the application for testing her in, and I felt she was definitely within the limits. She can perform self-help tasks independently. She handles change and transition well. (Now at least.) She interacts easily with one or more children. She can identify most letters and uses letters and words to write. She recognizes the reasons for rules, and she likes to sing and dance (yes, that is on the application.) Even more importantly is that she has been in full-day daycare and school since she was 9 months old and has always been with older kids. So along with the changes I have seen in Mason and with the knowledge that she seems to have most of the characteristics they would be looking for at the observation, I have started to question our decision to keep her out of kindergarten for another year.
Luckily we had a parent/teacher conference scheduled for yesterday with Mason’s teachers. Jeremy and I were very eager to discuss it with them. They told us about Mason’s progress and how she is successfully doing many of the characteristics they look for. The areas she needs work? Displaying confidence, especially in a large group; focusing on learning, especially when in a large group; recognizing lower case letters; starting tasks without asking for help first. The confidence is the big kicker for me. I don’t want Mason to always feel inadequate compared to her older classmates. I don’t want her to struggle to complete tasks while kids around her are moving on quickly. Raising a confident young woman is hard enough with all the external pressures, but to also have to deal with losing self-confidence in the classroom? That might be more than I can take.
On the other hand, how will Mason feel when all her friends go off to kindergarten and she stays behind in preschool another year? (Luckily none of her current classmates would be going to her kindergarten anyway.) Will she become too confident when she becomes the mother hen in her preschool class next year when she is clearly the oldest? Will she be too bossy? Most of all, will she be bored and subsequently have no interest in learning? (My biggest fear having witnessed this with many of my friends in high school.) And looking at the kids I know that will be in her kindergarten class in 2011, I feel she is light years beyond them. I know a year can make a huge difference at this age, but it is still hard to imagine her friends being the kids that were in the younger class at her daycare when she was with the older kids the whole time.
The conversation with Mason’s teachers was very helpful, though. They told us to not always think of the negative parts of keeping her in preschool another year. She may become a natural leader, having been the oldest among her classmates. She will be able to build her confidence and then have a much more emotionally stable time at school. But the big kicker to us was their suggestion that putting her in kindergarten early may work now, but being the youngest could catch up to her eventually. It would be much less traumatic to keep her back now when she has no idea what’s going on than to have to hold her back in 3rd grade when she has established friends and is more aware of the situation. So true. We have not discussed any of this with Mason, so she truly is unaware of the possibility of going to kindergarten (Or at least we think so. Who knows what her friends at school are telling her? I’ll have to check on that one.) All in all, her teachers definitely understood our conflicted position and said that Mason was right on the fence and could go either way.
As we left our parent/teacher conference, Jeremy and I were both about 90% sure of keeping her in preschool another year. We keep telling ourselves that we are not “holding her back.” We are just not “pushing her forward.” We are keeping her on the natural track she should be in. Yes, we’ll have to deal with preschool costs for another year. Yes, it means Mason and Cooper will only be two years apart in school, and we will then have to deal with two college tuitions at the same time for two years. Yes, we may have to answer some tough questions in the fall when she is the only one in her preschool class again. (Note: We were assured by her teacher that the curriculum will be different next year anyway as this was a transition year at the school. We were told that they would definitely be pushing Mason beyond what the other kids are doing, so that she is still progressing and will not get bored.) But we feel that this decision is really what is right for Mason at this time.
We want to do what’s best for our kids all the time, and this is one of the hardest decisions for me so far as a parent. I know many more hard issues will come up, but we’ve done what parents should do… We’ve looked at both sides of the table. We’ve considered how Mason would handle either decision, and in the end, we realize that putting her in kindergarten in 2011 is most likely the best choice. (Remember, I said we’re 90% sure right now.)