Category Archives: School

Beginning Kindergarten All Over Again.

Last year, I entered my girl into a lottery for two local charter schools that are rated exceptionally well. Lottery time came and went and we heard nothing. Just a few weeks ago, I learned she was #90 on the waitlist for one of them and I didn’t even bother checking the second charter waitlist. Who needs that kinds of rejection? Then midweek, I received a phone call from the second charter that a spot had opened up for her. Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt?????  It completely threw me for a loop and all of a sudden, I had to get days worth of paperwork together in three hours. I toured the school, asked questions that I wouldn’t have known to ask before (schedule, recess, homework, etc). I started feeling a little better and I enrolled her on the spot. That was mostly because the school is in such demand that they needed an answer almost immediately because hundreds of others were waiting in the wings. And I wasn’t going to let my girl sit in a school that is rated 5/10 when a 10/10 school was inviting her in. The new school groups students together based on ability, and thus teach to that level so no student is left waiting for others to catch up and other students are not left feeling inadequate.

I know this particular school is very heavy on academics. It’s a nerd’s dream come true, which works for us because both my husband and I are nerds. So is my youngest. I have a strong feeling they’ll make the fit with my daughter too. Something that intrigued me greatly is that the school provides after-school clubs for 45 mins. These happen on-campus, and are mostly free. Clubs like art, reading, music, yoga (yes, yoga for K-2 grades), a fitness club, poetry, creative writing, an environmental club, theater, younger singers, a gaming club. What’s not to love there? Then, when the kids get to the third grade, the clubs mature to science olympiads, math olympiads, sports, gardening, newspaper club and more. The kids have recess every single day, as well as PE during the week, along with art and music classes.

rainbowShe also doesn’t have that mandated extra hour of school every day, like her old school. The only extra time is optional and will be based on my daughter’s interest in the item. She has a school uniform now. I’ll be sad to see the rainbow outfits disappear but it is what it is. I’ll take a better education over fashion.

Tomorrow, my 5-year-old starts the new school. I was a little worried that she wouldn’t care for a transition so I asked her during the week if she liked her teacher, Mrs.V, and the answer was “No, not really.” Well then. For the record, I think Mrs.V is a great teacher and a sweetheart, but my girl did not take her to from the moment they met. After her final day at her old school came to a close (Friday), I drove her to her new school so that she wouldn’t have the weekend to wait and wonder, be anxious, about the new place and she was impressed. She liked it and I think we’re already off to a good start. She got to tour the four kindergarten classes, met two of the teachers and thought the rooms were fantastic.

My shoulders have dropped two inches and while I was still awake at 4am this morning worrying about it all, I have a feeling (a hope) that in a few weeks, I might even be able to sleep through the night, something that hasn’t happened in 6 weeks,  content that my girl is getting what she needs.

I hope.

Superwoman Was Already Here.

homework1My increasing disillusionment with Kindergarten and the traditional school system has rendered me the in-house mental patient for the past month. Last Thursday, I decided to notice the clock as we sat down to do homework. One hour and fifteen minutes later, two weary females left the table. This is ridiculous for second grade, let alone just the fourth week of kindergarten. Not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but we doing chapter 12 of algebra. Because that’s what we’re forced to do now on the fourth week of kindergarten. We never started at chapter 1, we started with chapter 12.

homework4We’ve got the usual writing to practice and we haven’t even finished the entire alphabet yet, but somehow here we are, trying to put letters together. Oh, and she’s supposed to write a sentence at the end of the page. You are correct, she doesn’t even know what a sentence is.

What the hell has happened? More and more, our children have become assembly line robots that are force-fed information, and to what end? So that the school can pass a test at the end of the year. In Florida, there is the joy of FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). A series of tests that begin in 3rd grade that have proved utterly useless.  I spoke with my daughter’s teacher on Friday morning regarding the unGodly amount of homework and her dear teacher, a classroom veteran of twenty years, was ready to cry along with me. Mrs. V doesn’t recognize kindergarten now, not from when she started teaching and she confided that she’s begun speaking to her husband about retiring soon. She warned me that homework was going to get worse after Christmas because the kids (KINDERGARTNERS) will have to take a test on the computer at the end of the year. She even suggested removing my girl early from the school day every now and then, since the kids are already in school so long each day, just to give my girl a break.

I’m done. I can’t take anymore. My paroled mental patient is actually adjusting well but I don’t want her adjusting to that. I don’t want her turning into a robot that stomps on individuality and creativity. She is a high-spirited child and I absolutely do not want that spirit crushed. Regurgitating for the sake of school scores, where the desire to learn is etched away week by week, no, that’s not for us. With my escaped mental patient at home with me (3-years old), I just can’t fathom homeschooling. So what I need is Superwoman. And it turns out, she’s already been here.

Maria Montessori was a pioneer, and slowly, the movement she created is spreading. Most Montessori schools are private, unfortunately, but there are some charter schools out there. My daughter is on the waiting list for one. I urge you to look at this alternative to the abhorrent day that our children are subjected to. Yes, yes, we all did it and survived. How many of us thrived under that system?  How many thrive from Montessori? Ohhhhhhh . . . the Montessori approach has spawned a creative elite, including Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, cook Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. I’ll talk about the benefits and core beliefs of Montessori in another post. If there is anything else you do today, please watch the video above.

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Adjusting to Kindergarten.

Our first week was rough. Rough on the teacher, rough on me and mostly rough on my 5-yr old hurricane.  If I could do over the week again, here’s one thing I would do.

Prepare: Prepare her and prepare me. I know that sounds like a no-brainer and I thought I was prepared, but I actually wasn’t.  I never realized that she would be moving throughout the school during the day or have different teachers (art, music, physical education, computer lab, as well as her main classroom teacher). I have no idea why I never thought to ask when we met Mrs.V. It’s no wonder my paroled mental patient became a nightmare when she had absolutely no idea what was going on. I knew there would be a new routine to learn, but I didn’t realize how varied it would be, and thus, didn’t tell her to expect different teachers. I’m positive they have different approaches or rules to add to her confusion, and when in doubt, defense is the best offense. So she rebelled. For three days.

Every day when I picked her up, I asked her how her day went. Last week’s verdicts:
Monday – “bad”
Tuesday – “bad”
Wednesday – “Ugh”
Thursday – “not too bad”
Friday – “a little good”

Today, she declared “tiring” and she looks tired. There was a struggle when it came time for homework (really, do kindergarteners need damn homework every single night???).

So here’s what I’d say to you – ask exactly what happens during the day. I asked and was told they would be doing art, music, etc, but I didn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams that they would move these little beings around the school as they do. Ask for a rough hourly schedule, even just for one day.  Do this before school starts so you don’t piss off the teacher when she’s wrestling a pack of wolves on the first week. That way, everyone is a little more prepared than we were.

Bad Parenting Day #778

I know I’m in trouble when I feel a little jealous of people who can lock their kids in a closet.

stretchkinsThe kindergartner was walking with me through a store last week when she spotted the highly coveted unicorn stretchkins. I am supremely confident that she would play with it for an hour tops, and then it would join the rather large pile of discarded teddy bears in the playroom. Our rule now is that we only buy toys for birthdays or Christmas, and if they want something specific, it’ll go on their wishlist until the next occasion. She had a rare freak out when I let her know we weren’t buying it that day. I turned it around to tell her that it was good she was upset, because that meant she really wanted it, so isn’t she going to have a nice birthday! Sneaky, I know.

Today, I picked her up from school and along with the 3-year old mental patient, headed off to go back to the store. Made the drive OK. Even started the shopping OK. Until we had to walk by the stretchkins. I shut down any requests quickly, naively thinking that was the end of it. Until my 5-year old decided to try emotional blackmail.

Her: “I can’t believe you aren’t going to buy that. I really want it.”
Me:  “I am going to buy it, just not today. I’ll buy it when it’s your birthday.”
Her: “It really hurts my feelings.”
Me:  (silence)
Her: “Did you hear me? It really hurts my feelings.”
Me: “We’ve gone over this. It’ll make a great birthday present.”
Her: “I don’t understand why you won’t get it now. If you don’t get it now, it’ll change my love for you.”
At that point, I actually started laughing which wasn’t too smart. The beast was already riled up.  Now she was vying for anything she could to gain ground. Demanding Hello Kitty yogurt. Grabbing a book that was for her brother. Rebuking any consequences I was giving her. After about 10 minutes of insufferable behavior, and aware other people are around me so I can’t really scream the immense frustration I feel, I do something I have never done before.

She was standing on the side of the shopping cart. I simply picked her up and placed her next to a freezer aisle. Without a word, I walked away. I didn’t even glance back as I walked forward, wondering how far I needed to go before this bluff was called. It wasn’t far. I got about 15 feet away, and I heard a sobbing, “Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm.” My intention was not to make her cry, it was to jolt her out of whatever attitude was going on. And it worked.

We discussed how I was never going to leave her there, that I merely needed some space because her attitude was something I couldn’t  be around. I told her how much I love her but that she needed to rethink how she was speaking and behaving. Then I told her to give me the biggest hug she possibly could, give it her best shot, squeeze me so tight that I couldn’t breathe (I should be careful here!), and she did, laughing hysterically. And that was the end of the effing stretchkins.

Mental note has been made. She will never come to this store with me until after her birthday.

Aaaaaand it started. The kindergarten struggle.

KindergartenEven before Meet the Teacher, the signs were there. My spirited five-year old didn’t want to go. When we entered the classroom, my tornado did all she could to avoid the teacher. During that visit, I learned about the extra hour that has been tacked onto the school day. That alone had me terrified and consumed my entire weekend. I’m already dubious about the lack of organization in this school. Carpool on the first day was bedlam because newbies like myself were screwing it all up. No one told us what to do. Just like no one explicitly explained the extra hour on the school day. Or what activities the kids do. There has been zero communication from the school apart from a robo call telling us the date of Meet the Teacher. I feel like I’m flying blind so now I’m getting a glimpse of what things are like for my child, who has no idea what is going on.

The first day of Kindergarten arrived and I walked her to the auditorium, hopeful that she would enjoy it all. I picked her up eight hours later (yes, eight!!!!). I had dreams of delightful songs, fanciful art work, best friends for my girl. She got in the car, strapped herself into her car seat. I delightedly asked how her day was and she responded, “I didn’t get a star today. I wasn’t good enough.” Whhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt? Again she says, “I just wasn’t good enough.”  My heart breaks, my head starts spinning, I’m trying to focus on not crashing the car because of the seething rage burning inside me. This is what her first day of kindie has taught her? I’m crushed and devastated. We get home and I ask her for more details. Did Mrs.V tell you this? No. Did you make any friends? No. What happened? Nothing.

Again, I spend the evening crying (out of child’s view), cursing what I’ve done to my child. When I wake my love up for school this morning, she tried ever so hard to persuade me it was Saturday. We finally got out the door and I walked her to the auditorium again. I met Mrs.V and instead of turning into Momma Bear, I politely asked if she knew why my girl would say she wasn’t good enough. Mrs.V then explains that my hurricane wouldn’t participate in anything. When she was reading to her, asking what letter this was, my girl would respond with “No.” She apparently spent most of the day in the corner of the room, after my daughter recused herself from the activities. Her teacher said to give her some time to adjust.

I simply don’t know what to do. I know she’s a strong-willed child. A stubborn individual with her own agenda and own way of doing things. As a side note, I cannot possibly imagine who she got those traits from (insert dripping sarcasm). There’s a couple schools I’d love her to attend. One is a charter school that is very close by, but she is #90 on the wait list. The other does not have any open spots and will not accept a waiting list. I feel like we are trapped. Being new to this school stuff, I don’t know if it’s something that will iron itself out over a week or so, or not. I don’t know if it’s my daughter that is the problem, or the teacher, or both. It doesn’t help that the disorganization of the school has undermined my confidence. I keep remembering last year, when she attended another school. Unfortunately, they don’t offer elementary education. She ran into that classroom every day. By day two, she had made a card for her teacher to tell her how much she loved her. Now she is defeated. In Kindergarten. After one day.

Kindergarten – Terrified before we even begin.

1602140_10152085974543860_1758442243_oWe met with our teacher yesterday afternoon. The classroom looked great. My girl seemed excited. The teacher seemed nice. I was getting comfortable with the notion of her going to school. Since I’m a newbie at this school stuff, I asked her teacher what time I needed to drop her off. I remember looking at the school website last year and classes began at 8.45am until 3pm, so when does she need to be dropped off? Already, I thought the school day was horrendously too long for a 5-year old. I’ve always thought that. My girl is used to spending 4 hours at the playground. She’s always had infinite energy that needs to be expended. And then bombshell is dropped. The kind teacher says she needs to be dropped off at 8am. Whhhhhaaaaattt?  She tells me since “there’s that extra hour, I pick the kids up from the auditorium at 8.10am.”

I’m confused. What the heck is going on? Maybe there’s some super secret process I don’t know about. There’s nothing in the literature about this. What am I missing? Instead of asking her, because I already feel like an idiot, I go home in a state of shock. Aside from the average how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-her-to-school-at-8am freakout, I then remember I saw a sign at school that pickup is at 3.30pm. I turn to Google to research and to my horror, discover that her school performed in the bottom 33 of schools in our county for reading and the school board mandated that her school add an extra hour of studying every day. Oh.My.God. Now, the already ridiculously long school day just got longer. My 5-year old is supposed to attend school from 8.15am-3.30pm. I’m horrified. I’m devastated. I knew her school wasn’t the best in the county but oh dear God, I didn’t realize it was that bad. This board decision on school hours only came down 4 weeks ago so all my research, all my agonizing, over the past year was moot.

Last year, her VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) hours were 9am-12pm, and she was burned out by March. This will have her strung out by Halloween.

Now I can’t stop crying. For the immediate future, my hands are tied. She will begin school Monday morning and I will see how it goes. I suspect that in a few weeks, I will be knocking on the doors of other local schools, requesting a transfer. If all else fails, I may have to turn private. I only know that I’m not having her completely jaded from school at the mere age of 5. Kindergarten is supposed to be fun. I know it’s only an hour more, but already the day is much too long for little kids. Now it’s just ridiculous.

The Final Stretch.

548300_10151612207823860_1221813303_nIt’s close. The end is near. Summer is almost over. My oldest is starting kindergarten on Monday. The kids are sick to death of each other and while I’m all emotional over the experience she is embarking on, I’m counting down the days to some peace and quiet. The summer has taken its toll on us all. I started it out like Mary Poppins and now I resemble The Exorcist. The mental patients are alive by the grace of God (and alcohol).

I will be sad to drop her off at school. I will resist the temptation to screech away from carpool lane, giggling hysterically and pumping my fist in the air. I will actually miss my tornado and I am very nervous for what will get thrown her way. She’s a tough bird, my girl, but she’s also very sensitive. She may feel like a Mac truck as she runs over you, but she’s still a little girl who can get overwhelmed easily. And when she’s feeling vulnerable in any way, she lashes out. Her defense is offense. God help us all.

By the way, I’m including Valium in my bag of school supplies for the teacher.

Summertime!

10401455_10152208389778860_5846474580722256848_nOh I’m in so much trouble.

My daughter completed VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) this year where her schedule was  9am-12pm every day, but yesterday she was invited to spend the whole day there. The school’s end-of-year celebration was at 5pm. So I dropped her to school at 9am and didn’t see her again until 5pm which was the longest school day she’s ever had.  She was so excited about the full day. Oh how aware I am that that will be a fleeting joy come next year. Anyway, school celebration came and went. We all came home about 7pm and I watched something happen that was wholly abnormal. The kids played together beautifully for an hour. The time limit was self-imposed because it was bed time, but they both seemed happy to play together and there wasn’t one scream of “Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!!

I realize this only happened because she was gone all day yesterday. Neither was sick of the other, they may have actually missed each other. Here’s what else it tells me – I am so much trouble come noon tomorrow when her school year ends and she is home full time for three months.

Oh boy!

Tell me what you do to keep the kids entertained in the summer time! I’m going to need lots of help. Or alcohol.

 

Kindergarten, damn it.

First Day of VPK.I registered my little girl for Kindergarten today. I’m not ready. She’s not ready. OK, maybe she is, but I’m not. I’m not prepared for someone else to spend more time with my child during the day than me. I’m dying here just thinking about her running into hooligans on the playground. Having her away from me for a whole school day (8.45am-3pm), five days a week just seems wrong. She’s my girl. My life. She belongs with me.

She only began preschool this year at aged 4, almost 5. That was hard. But this? This may kill me.

I’d love to home-school her, but then I’d be drunk by midday, everyday. I tip my hat (with a hint of envy) at those who are able to do such a daunting task. I wish I had it in me, but I don’t. I feel like a failure for not having the ability to do it.