Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The politics of an early start in school (etc.)

Yesterday, I dropped MJ off for her first day of preschool.  Since she’s been in a group care setting before, and since she’s the most social child that has ever been born, I knew she would do fine.  I wasn’t nervous for her, mostly just excited and a bit wistful.  
I can’t believe she’s old enough for preschool.  Technically speaking, she’s not old enough for preschool; at least not public preschool, because her birthday misses the cutoff by a couple weeks.  In Saint Paul, you can test in early to Kindergarten, but not to preschool.  But even if you test in early, you are bottom of the list for priority in which school you go to, which basically means you would only get into a terrible school.
Before she left daycare/early preschool back in March, the hubs and I were feeling that she was being held back.  That she could be doing much more than she was and should be with older kids.  So we (I) set out to find a way to make that so.  We decided to start her early in a private program and then, hopefully, transfer her back to public school for first grade.  She will have less choice than if she started in Kindergarten, because most kids will have already started in the program and will get preference, but she will be able to transfer in without her birthday counting against her. 
At least, that is how we understand it.  And if we change our minds about her readiness, then we’ll start her in public school with her regular group next year.  
Getting to this point, though, was more of a roller coaster than I anticipated.  It was difficult to find a program that supported this desire, and almost everyone said “We’ll see…. she may be fine now but will suffer when she’s older…” This whole argument is so infuriating to me.  The decision seems to be taken from the parent.  I am biased in favor of an early start, in large part because I started early and am so, so thankful that I did.  I can’t imagine how my life would have been different if I had started a year later, and think I probably would have spent much of my schooling bored.  
Furthermore, I think that a parent would be crazy to want their girl to mature before most of the other girls.  I remember those girls growing up…  and they had lots of attention, but it never seemed to take them places they should really be going.  Additionally, she is one of the most social kids I know; she gets it from her Dad, who is also one of the most social people I know :).  
The downsides, though, make me a bit nervous.  She is 7th percentile for height in her age group, so she is a full head shorter when paired with kids that are older than her.  Her personality is big, and she’s not shy, so I don’t think this will be too much to her detriment.  But still… Yesterday, she came home from school so full of excitement.  But she also told me about two boys that were mean to her… one of whom was “so much older… like 6 or something…” and called her a little kid.  One of whom pushed her.  Is this what happens?  This is all new territory for me… 
All in all, though, this school is just magical.  It reminded me of how excited I was for school at this age, and all the possibility school held.  As long as that’s how she continues to feel, I think she’s in a good place.

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