Saturday, June 21, 2008

4K... ok?

(c) 2008 Ms. Huis Herself at

My little girl is going to be going to school soon.

I must admit that sentence does freak me out a bit. I mean, didn't I just give birth to her? How can she be old enough for school? She's only 3!

Here in our town, as in some parts of WI, there's something called 4K, as in kindergarten for 4 year olds. And Pumpkin will be old enough for it in the fall, since her birthday is at the end of August. Yeah, so that "only 3" is actually more like "almost four."

One of the reasons it's freaking me out is because, as a former kindergarten-first grade teacher, I know how any class is so varied, with the ages of the children ranging more than a year. More than a year? Yeah. You've got all the ones you'd expect with birthdays throughout the school year, but then you've also got the summer birthdays. Some of those kids come right away, when they've only been the right age for a month or a few. Other parents have their kid wait, so they're the oldest (or one of) rather than the youngest. So often you get some overlap and your class's age range spans more than a year. And when a year can constitute 25% of one's life so far? Yeah, it can for a LOT of difference between them!

Pumpkin falls on that age teeter-totter. She will qualify as being old enough... but just barely. She will very likely be the youngest one in her class.

That's a bit worrisome for me. Because it means she'll then ALWAYS be the youngest one in her class throughout her school years. Which is a lot of years to be playing catch-up.

But she's so clever! (Well, I think so anyway, even though I'll certainly admit to some mom-blindness!) She's interested in words and letters. She can sort of write her own name (3 of the 5 letters well, if not necessarily in line, but she can spell it out loud), she's doing some rhyming and noticing some words start the same, she can recognize and create some two-part patterns (red, green, red, green, etc.), she recognizes a lot of numbers and has one-to-one correspondence (when she counts objects, each one gets its own number), she loves books and understands and retains their stories, she is heartily interested in science and nature, her drawings are becoming quite complex...

I was an early reader (before kindergarten) and I've certainly seen quite a few during my years in K-1. Not every year, mind you, but a fair amount of them. Since Pumpkin has always been so verbal and loves books, I thought she might follow in my footsteps. In fact, whenever I thought about her birth date in terms of school readiness, I comforted myself with the thought of, "Well, if she's reading by then, we'll definitely send her. If not, we'll think about it more."

But that was regular kindergarten. The kind you start when you're five.

And 4K obviously doesn't start when you're 5. Which means my back-of-my-head plan isn't going to work. I can't sit back and say, well, she's reading or close to reading, so let's send her.

Where she's not ahead of the game is socialization. She's not much used to playing with other kids. That's one of the reasons I signed her up for community ed classes; to get her involved with other kids and with other adults in charge. But since we moved, we're rebuilding our whole social network, which includes trying to find other families with kids the same age for her. And that takes time. (We miss you, Ava, and the rest of the gang!) But when I see her play with some neighborhood kids, I can see that she hasn't yet learned some of those play-in-a-group skills.

But she's not going to learn those social skills here at home with me. So, much as it strains my heart some days, and as much as I struggle to deny my "hover over her and protect her from everything in the world" impulses, I think that sending her is going to be the right thing to do.

I think.

I hope.

I pray.

But it's going to be hard.

And it's obviously weighing on my mind yet.


Happy Veggie said...

I was an early reader (around 4), and I was home schooled for K. I really missed out on the social skills, and the only way to get them is to do it. Just go for it. It will be rough, and there will be tears, but she has amazing support at home. The kids I've seen that have issues with social skills when going to school have issues with politeness and sharing, and I doubt that is an issue in your house. In prep, are there playgrounds you can go to? Or pools? Where she gets lots of exposure to lots of kids?

Jaysan said...

Just remember, if you wait, make sure that she will still be 17 when she is a senior in high school. If you wait a year so that she will be 18, then she can write her own notes to get her out of school. I know I did...

ShoNuff said...

It will be fine, the 4K is for working on the socialization. As for the being worked out fine for me and the way my parents tell it I had some very unsupportive K teachers.

DiploWhat said...

Okay, I won't send you all the articles about kids doing better in kindergarten when they are the "red shirts" (those who started kindergarten on the older end). Sounds like this isn't really kindergarten anyway.

If it makes you feel any better, my dad repeated kindergarten due to differing age rules in different states (CA vs MN), and he turned out to be the brightest person I've ever known. Though still lacking the social skills. =)

But, who am I to talk? If lucky, I'll be dealing with a kid who is only 1 year behind on any and every developmental skill.

Ms. Huis Herself said...

Diplowhat - Yeah, I know about the benefits of them being older and having a whole 'nother year of life experience before going off to school. But I really think that Pumpkin is academically more than ready for 4K. She's doing some of the skills we looked to have the beginning kindies doing when I was a K-1 teacher, so I'm a bit worried that if I wait, that she'll be so far ahead of her class academically she'll be bored in a 4K. I mean, if she's reading at 5 (which I still think she MIGHT) and they're just starting letter recognition, then it'd be a very poor fit.

If she was a boy, I'd wait. They develop at a different rate and while I'd not consider myself sexist at all, I saw enough consistent difference in those early years in terms of readiness that I'd err on the side of "red shirting."

Allknowingjen said...

I am sure she will be just fine! In fact, I will bet she is the kind of kid who is going to LOVE school. You know she will. :)
Is 4K all day or half day? Is it 5 days a week? Will she be in 1st grade the following year or some kind of K-1 hybrid? Do they have regular K as well? I am just so curious about the many ways different school districts handle it.

kittenpie said...

Pumpkinpie is going to the same in fall - what we call Junior K.

And I thought she might be reading by now too, for all th same reasons - I was an early reader, she loves books and has good language skills and had the ingredients, but we haven't "worked" on it or anything. She did sound out her first word a couple of weeks ago (BAG), so she's got the pre-reading skills, for sure, but I've been leaving it alone so far. I have a feeling it's coming, maybe in school.

Bet both our girls do terrifically!

Mary Beth said...

I think if she's doing all that already, she's more than ready for 4K and the social skills are so important. It's nice that there's a 4K program available. The school district I taught in only offered pre-school handicapped programs so if your child wasn't disabled, your options were paying for your child to attend a program.

Ms. Huis Herself said...

All - Rereading my response to Diplowhat's comment, I think it comes across more "my kid is brilliant at everything!" than I'd intended. While I do think Pumpkin is ahead of many of her peers in some areas, I do know that she's right in the pack in a lot (probably most) and even likely a tad behind in others.

AKJ - It's a half-day (well, not quite 3 hours) program all 5 days a week. The next year is 5K, which is also half-days all 5. THEN is first grade.

Kittenpie - I've always enjoyed reading about what Pumpkin is up to in those areas, and being impressed! Then several several months later, Pumpkin might do something similar and I'll be like, "Oh! So there's some rhyming!" or "My, her drawing are becoming complex." or whatever. Not that we're "working" on it either, other than exposure and taking advantage of some teachable moments. No sounding out yet, or spelling of OM DPT (!), but yesterday while looking at the frig magnets, she asked, "Where is /t/ /t/ T?" I think we just got a couple of smarties! :)

Ms. Huis Herself said...

Ok, in that first sentence to Kittenpie, read "I've always enjoyed reading about what PUMPKINPIE is up to...."

Those names are just so close and my fingers are just so used to typing "Pumpkin" all the time. :)

Pusher said...

Yikes, scary growing-up things. *hugs*

For whatever my totally ignorant opinion is worth, I think erring on the early side is the right way to go with Pumpkin. She's smart and curious and, as you say, as far as learning development she's there. You don't want her to be bored.

But aside from that, you & Mr. Kluges are really good parents. Of course you want to protect her from all the social strains she's going to face, but I think you'll do even better than that. You'll understand her frustrations and support her and help her learn from them.

Kashka said...

I concur with Pusher. Me, I was on the younger side of my class, but I was also reading, writing, and doing math at three (thanks to two older siblings who loved to play "school," and _not_ my mother the ex-teacher who is, however, still willing to take credit for it). The social stuff will sort itself out.

You can be clinical about it and say that she has the "support structure" to handle it, but "really good parents" does just as well.

DiploWhat said...

I vote for the early as well, not so much for the development (because of course she's smart), but for the socialization and because you want her to be one of the younger ones in school who can't leagally buy the cigaretts for the younger kids in highschool, right? =)