(c) 2008 Ms. Huis Herself at musenmutter.blogspot.com
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.
But it's going to be hard.
And it's obviously weighing on my mind yet.