We've been having a bit of a time when it comes to school for the fall. Mary Grace will turn 5 on August 10. The cut off date is August 1 for the local public schools.
She is tall, and smart, and articulate, and self-selects a slightly older peer group when playing with kids in the neighborhood. She builds robots for fun and uses words like "oscillation." She has already had two years of preschool. Her Daddy is a rocket scientist and her Mommy has a fairly high IQ (although I am kind of the poster child for not-achieving-my-full-potential). We're worried that if she's already 6 when she starts Kindergarten, she'll get bored. Her current teachers say that she would probably be fine in Kindergarten, but she would also benefit from one more year of preschool. I'm anxious to see what her evaluations look like in April.
When I called in January, our neighborhood public school said that there were NOT taking any early enrollments, and that they would not be even if I called after Kindergarten Round Up. Terrific. They suggested Montessori, but I don't have a spare kidney laying around that I can sell. Seriously, Montessori, if you're more expensive than my college tuition for Kindergarten, then you lack perspective. Anyway, we started investigating our options in January.
(Aside: rather than having a firm cut off date, wouldn't it make a whole lot more sense if they said, "Anyone who turns 5 before June 1 is automatically in, and anyone who was born between June 2 and August 30 needs to test in."? Duh, public education. Duh.)
I called the local charter school (which first hit my radar when MG was just a little baby), and they said lots of good things, including "they have to be five by the first day of school," (she will be), and "thematic learning," and "whole child," and "music and art education," and "lots of field trips," and "Spanish instruction from K-8," and, when I asked about homework, "we don't give a whole lot of homework because research doesn't support that it does kids any good..."
Be still my heart.
However, it's not accredited. And they're housed in the annex building of a church downtown, and while it's an adequate space, there isn't an excess of space or storage so there is a lot of "visual noise." I found it distracting to be there as an adult. I would have had a very hard time learning in that environment as a kid. (I hate bulletin boards. Visual distractions annoy the snot out of me). There were open shelves full of boxes of materials, and everything felt extremely crowded... Like the walls were closing in on me. I know I'm weird, and MG won't necessarily be weird the same way I'm weird, but it's a concern. They're building a new building that they'll hopefully be in for fall 2011, but the location they're considering isn't my favorite. The grocery store that used to be there got robbed a lot. To be honest, the current location isn't exactly ideal, either.
Our third option is to keep her at her current school (where we've been very happy) for their four day pre-K program. She and Claire would attend in the same building, which would be convenient. Claire will start in the two day preschool program for 3 year olds in the fall (where did the time go??).
The neighborhood school would be 5 half days.
The charter school would be 5 full days (eek).
I bumped into my friend Casey at preschool drop off on Thursday and she said, knowing what the neighborhood school told me about NO early admissions in January, that there were lots of people at K round up doing early admissions.
And my head flew off.
I marched straight to the school to complain. The principal was very nice, and she said that they'd had new people start in January, and that I probably spoken to one of them. She allowed me to fill out the application and assured me that we didn't miss anything.
However, she also strongly discouraged me from enrolling MG in Kindergarten early (even ten days early) because our school district tends to run "a year ahead" according to her. In other words, the things they're studying in 3rd grade are typically covered in 4th grade elsewhere. Also, she talked about emotional maturity and social maturity.
So as it stands now, our neighborhood school is our first choice, if they have spots and she can test in. After that, our second choice is the charter school, with the idea that she can do Kindergarten there and then stay, or start first grade at our neighborhood school in 2011, or even do another year of Kindergarten at the neighborhood school in 2011 if we don't feel that she's ready for first grade (the answer which appeased the neighborhood school's principal). And if we don't get the opportunity to test into the neighborhood school, and we don't lottery in to the charter school, I've still got a space reserved for her in the four day pre-K program at our current school. Far from being a third choice, though... Our current school is tied for second. In fact, if we hadn't told MG that she'd be starting Kindergarten in the fall, I'd probably keep her there.
I'm totally hedging my bets.
I know it's stupid to feel like the fate of her entire future hinges on this decision - where she attends Kindergarten is not going to make the difference between going to Harvard and working at McDonald's... But it's hard not to feel a lot of pressure to do the "right" thing. There really is no "right" answer, and that's hard.
I'll tell you what, if I ever get pregnant in November again I'm going to ask to be induced on July 31, just to avoid this kind of foolishness in the future!
(Generic picture of a Kindergarten class to break up the constant flow of words words words brought to you by Wikimedia Commons.)