Yesterday, our oldest child was scheduled to be tested for kindergarten readiness, which has actually been a subject of intense discussion around our house for months. The little guy is (if I do say so myself) really bright and precocious and outgoing so there was never any question in my mind that the September he turned five would be the optimal time for him to start real school, and I never gave much (any) serious consideration to holding him back a year for any reason. However, the flipside of his high intelligence and big personality is that he can be incredibly stubborn and willful, and easily frustrated and emotionally volatile over the gap between his reach and his grasp. So it was at least theoretically possible that while I knew he was ready for kindergarten, an outsider assessor might disagree.
The little guy’s daycare pre-school program is somewhat oriented toward preparing the tykes for school, e.g. every kid has a journal notebook in which they practiced writing, first by tracing words written in highlighter, then by copying them freehand. They started with their own names and when they mastered that, they moved on to other vocabulary words. The little guy, however, stalled out a bit on that front, which ended up being a purely motivational issue. His handwriting was small child sloppy, and his teacher wouldn’t let him move on from writing his name to writing other words until his handwriting improved, but that meant he just got insanely bored writing his name over and over again, so he lost interest in the whole deal. (I believe this is a very low stakes and small scale version of what happens to sub-median kids in public education all the time, which basically sucks.)
Personally, I didn’t care if the little guy was all in on the journal-based lesson plans or not, until my wife pointed out that if he stopped trying and never mastered writing his own name legibly, then they might not let him go to kindergarten this year. Which was a bit of a shock to me. I could understand the school asking the parents to hold back a child who was seriously developmentally delayed, whether socially or intellectually or whatever, like if they’re not potty trained or don’t speak in complete sentences or whathaveyou. But how could a publicly funded school system put arbitrary achievement benchmarks up in front of kindergarten admission? What about the kids whose parents can’t afford pre-school, how are they supposed to have pre-learned anything? Apparently, though, this is the world we live in now, and we’re lucky to have had our little guy enrolled somewhere with a Montessori program, if only we could get him to actually take advantage of it. And he did, eventually, of his own accord, so that was good.
Still! The requirement for kindergarten was not that we turn in the little guy’s Montessori journal, but rather that he demonstrate his own readiness by meeting with one of the teachers and going through some basic tests. And I gotta be honest, I was a little nervous yesterday because of the timing and the circumstances. Eight weeks in, we’re still dealing with some minor regression behavior and acting out thanks to the newest arrival in our family, which I am trying (not always successfully) to unconcernedly allow to run their natural course. But I could foresee the little guy having a freakout at kindergarten testing, for any number of reasons: he could go into shy mode and refuse to talk to the teacher, or succumb to a complete meltdown and refuse to separate from his mother, or just decide to be a crankypants who huffs and sighs about how he doesn’t want to do any of the tests. And the teacher would have no choice but to make some notes in her file about emotional unreadiness and give my wife a sympathetic smile and a “maybe next year”.
The fretting was for naught, as it turned out. The little guy is excited about the prospect of kindergarten and was eager not only to visit his future school but to follow the teacher with good-spirited willingness. There was no self-defeating behavior impeding his ability to demonstrate that he does, in fact, have the goods. The little guy does like to show off, and he usually will given the opportunity assuming no other cognitive interference (like anxiety or the irrepressible urge to pitch a fit). The teacher was duly impressed with his ability to recognize sight words, so it’s possible that my wife and I might have pushed him a bit farther in areas like reading than we absolutely had to. I suppose, come this fall, we shall see!