I need some help figuring out what to do in terms of school next year. DISCLOSURE: I had kids much later than most of my close friends. As a result, I was privy to many a concerned conversation about school choices, all prior to being a parent myself. I used to listen to my friends go on and on about the benefits of Montessori vs. the importance of Christian education vs. the state of public schools, and I would inwardly roll my eyes and think . . . seriously? It’s just school. Put them wherever, they’ll be fine. In my mind, I might have added a #firstworldproblems hashtag. And now . . . here I am, spending inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out what to do with my kids next year. Jafta is mostly set . . .he’s doing great at his current school. It’s a wonderful public school and we’ve been quite happy there. I did apply to have him attend a charter school that is closer to my house and COMPLETELY FREAKING AMAZING, but I am trying to keep perspective that no matter what, he’ll be at a good school. Karis is pretty set, too. She’s been going to Montessori for the past year three days a week. She loves it. We love it. All good. I do really wish I could have all of the kids in Montessori. The preschoolers are at the most amazing school right now – it’s extremely culturally diverse and I’ve become a full-fledged Monstessori convert. But at around $6000 a year per student, there is just NO WAY I can send all four kids there. I will be a sad, crying mess at the end of the year when Kembe and India have to say goodbye to their amazing teachers and friends, but I also know that there are amazing teachers at Jafta’s public school. The real conundrum is figuring out what to do with India and Kembe for kindergarten. The two of them were actually eligible to enter kindergarten this fall, with October birthdays. It’s younger than most states allow kids to start school, and California even voted to change the deadline next year, so I was ambivalent about them starting as four-year-olds. It seems like most parents hold their kids back these days. But the bottom line was that Kembe was totally not ready, emotionally or academically, to enter kindergarten this year. He had no preschool experience in Haiti and then moved to the states and had to learn a new language . . . so obviously he was still catching up. I was worried that Kembe would struggle to keep up in kindergarten even with another year of preschool, so I made the decision to put him into kindergarten at a private school, knowing that he’d repeat kindergarten at public school next year. This ended up being a really good decision, because he has learned so much in his kindergarten class. Because it’s a Montessori school, he works at his own pace . . . so the fact that he’s behind the other kids academically isn’t an issue. He loves his class and he’s making great progress, and I think he really needed this year to be able to enter kindergarten next year without major concerns. He’s at the same school with Karis and India, which has been great. The girls are in a preschool class three days a week, while Kembe goes every day. We’ve told him he is in “junior kindergarten” so he doesn’t feel like he is failing this year. I think the Montessori director thought I was a little nuts for this choice, because she thought that based on their ability levels it would make more sense for India to go into the kindergarten class and for Kembe to be in preschool. But I explained that since they were the same age, I was trying to even things out a bit, and get Kembe caught up academically while keeping India in a “holding pattern”. And then she looked at me like I was insane and said, “Are you saying you want me to keep your daughter from learning?” And I was like, “What? Nooooooo. Keep a kid from progressing in their learning? OF COURSE NOT!” Even though that’s sort of what I was wanting. Anyways, it didn’t happen. Hence my current dilemma. So, the big dilemma that isn’t really a dilemma is that India is in preschool and reading at a first or second grade level. She’s also doing math at the same level. She’s just voracious when it comes to academic learning – its literally all she wants to do. If she’s not reading, she’s playing with her moveable alphabet, or writing in her journal, or playing Starfall on the computer. I honestly think she could walk into Jafta’s first grade class tomorrow without missing a beat. Academically, she and Kembe are at drastically different places. (On the converse, athletically Kembe is quite ahead of her, because while India is reading a book he’s in the backyard perfecting his jumpshot or working on his skateboarding tricks. If anyone has advice on getting kids to work enthusiastically on the skills they aren’t already good at, I’m all ears.) I’m not that worried about her being bored in kindergarten. As a former gifted kid myself (whose IQ has been incrementally depleted with each child), I know that India is probably bound to be bored in school at some point in her life. She’ll learn to deal with it, or she’ll work ahead, or she’ll help out with other kids. I don’t really have reservations about putting her in kindergarten next year. Where I have reservations, though, is sending her away all day, every day, for something I’m not sure she needs. I really believe that she could easily skip kindergarten. So why send her off every day? With our current schedule, I have both girls home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with me. I LOVE IT. They love it. They love their brothers but I think it is really nice for them to have some quiet space apart from the loud, wild atmosphere that my boys inherently bring. The boys have big personalities and can be a bit dominating, and the girls tend to be more passive and go along with whatever plans the boys hatch. On the days they are home we do art and read and go to the farmer’s market . . . and they dress up in costumes and play house. It’s so much fun. I’m not sure I want to give it up if I don’t really have to. I’m also really sad for Karis that this time may be over. I think these days home will be quite different for her without a sister around. And I’m just not ready to give up on these sweet moments if I don’t really have to yet: So. I’ve been trying to figure out options. So far, they are: Keep India home and “homeschool” her for kindergarten. I could have her do the public online kindergarten which I think she would plow through pretty independently, and this would mean she’s home on Tuesday and Thursday to hang out with Karis. The problem is, this would also mean she’s home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while I’m trying to work. At this point, I can barely fit my work into those mornings, so I’m not thrilled about the idea of having a child around. I really, really love those quiet mornings to myself. I also think she would get really bored. Send India to public kindergarten with Kembe. I think she would enjoy this, but again, I’m not anxious to send her off every single day if she doesn’t need to go, and I would love to somehow eek out one more year of our girls-only mornings. Keep India at the Montessori at three days a week I haven’t spoken with the director but I’m pretty sure she would let me send India to kindergarten only three days a week. Since it’so individualized it wouldn’t be a big deal if she misses class, and she can work at her own pace. However, we don’t have the budget for this, and I don’t know that I want Kembe and India at different schools. Let India skip kindergarten and enter first grade. This was the suggestion of her preschool teacher, but we have this unique situation in that India and Kembe’s birthdays are on the same day. I feel like it would be a constant source of embarrassment for Kembe to have a “twin” who is a year ahead of him in school. I’m also not keen on having India be the youngest child in her class. We had that situation at her last preschool. I put her in a class above because she was so advanced, but the problem is that she just never fit in with the older girls in her class. She is short (a whole head shorter than Kembe) and looked so much younger than everyone else. Her classmates were actually quite mean to her, babying her and excluding her. At recess, she would play with the younger kids from the other class. Even though she’s academically advanced, she’s still very much a little girl and I don’t think she’s socially savvy enough to really click with girls who are a year older. Being in a class with kids her age this year has been much better for her socially. Also, do I really want her going off to college at 17 instead of 18? Not so much. Send all four kids to the Monstessori. Well, yeah. That would be my dream. Anyone have $24,000 laying around? Send India to a three-day-a-week kindergarten. Does this exist??? That would be cool. Send India to an arts academy on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, A part of what is killing me about the kindergarten conundrum is that India will be spending so much time away from home reviewing things she’s already learned. If she’s going to be away from home, it would be nice if she was learning new skills. Especially dance, piano, or art. Is there a place where she can just do that all day on M/W/F? During similar hours as the public school so I’m not driving her around on my “work days”? Yeah. I didn’t think so. Have India skip kindergarten and hire a sitter on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ve thought about this since apparently kindergarten is not mandatory in our state but again, it’s out of the budget, and it’s also really hard for me to work when there is a sitter here. I don’t have an office and my house is small. I think I need the space. So . . . yeah. First world problems and all, but seriously, I cannot figure this one out. Is there an option I’m missing? How can I have India involved in something valuable and stimulating on M/W/F while I’m getting my work done, without having her also gone on Tuesday and Thursday for our girly-girl mornings?
On occasional, an issue will arise in my life or in my marriage where I will say to Mark, “I’m going to ask the blog” . . . because I just cannot be trusted to make decisions on my own. Yesterday was one of those days. I’m going to need some feedback. So . . . we have a kid down the street who has taken to walking around the neighborhood while wearing a plastic machine gun. Our house sits between his house and his friend’s so we get the pleasure of seeing him pass by several times a day. I’m certainly no expert on gun models but I’d say this was a replica of an AK47 that he proudly wears on a strap hanging from his back. It’s a disconcerting sight, especially because he’s not a little boy. He’s as tall as I am, and I’d judge him to be about 13 or 14 years old. I’ve had my own reckoning with the fact that boys are going to play with guns and I’ve pretty much accepted that it’s inevitable. But the thing that bothers me in this situation is that he’s really beyond the age where I think this is about games of cops and robbers, or pretend play. I think he’s getting a kick out of walking around the neighborhood like a badass packing heat. He’s practically strutting and looking around to see who is watching. He thinks he is HOT STUFF walking around with a gun, and you guys? It’s driving me bonkers. I’m annoyed because my kids see him do this all the time, and my boys are equal parts freaked out and fascinated. Kembe has many memories of Haiti, where he regularly observed UN guards walking around with AK47’s, not to mention the guards at the orphanage who carried them. I don’t think these were usually pleasant interactions for him, so I don’t love that he’s got a neighbor walking by with a gun (fake or not). Every time he sees it, Kembe stops and stares. I’m also bothered by the fact that my boys give carte-blanche admiration to ANY male over the age of 10, so by nature, they probably now think that this kind of gun-toting is cool. India, on the other hand, repeats to herself “it’s just pretend, it’s just pretend” whenever she sees him, like she’s trying to calm herself down. I’ve been slowly brewing about this issue, and then the other day saw the news of another school shooting and sort of snapped. I told Mark that I was worried that this neighbor kid thinks that it’s funny or cool to waltz around with a fake gun, and that he strikes me as a kid who would also be susceptible to some violent ideation if presented with access to the real thing. Not to mention, I’m sick of being startled by an armed figure out of the corner of my eye as I’m unloading groceries. I told Mark I was going to talk with the parents and ask if he could just leave the gun at home. Mark thinks that talking to the parents is a bad idea, and while he’s not a fan of the behavior, he thinks that we’ve just got to live with it. I think that it’s reasonable to talk to the parents and explain it’s freaking my kids out. What to you think? Am I overreacting? Should I just let it go, or say something? [if you vote for me at Apartment Therapy, that’d be cool]