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Starting kindergarten--what can I reasonably expect?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

DD is starting kindergarten in the fall, and we have decided to go with our local, public school.  We met with the principal and told her a little bit about where she is with her development (she reads at least several grades ahead--she reads The Magic Tree House books by herself, if that means anything).  We all agreed to start her in kindy, instead of immediately starting her in first grade (socially, I think it would be a complete disaster for her to skip) and were told that a reading specialist is available to work with the kids that are ahead of grade level.  They test for the G&T program in 2nd grade so we're kind of on our own to work with the school and teachers until then. Any ideas about what we can reasonably expect/ask for from the school in the first couple of years? Thanks!

post #2 of 12

We were in the exact same situation as you with my older daughter. She is now 9. She was reading at age 4, chapter books (Magic Tree House etc.) by age 5. Her birthday is in October and our cutoff is September 1st. So she is in 3rd grade now and one of the oldest in her class. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have had her tested the year before and put in K early. She is fine though, and I'm just as happy with her where she's at. 

 

She is at our public school, which is on the smaller side and has been mostly great. Kindergarten was a struggle for both of us to get the "system" figured out. My daughter was bored out of her skull but isn't one to act out so the teacher just let it go for awhile. We had conferences in November and I voiced ALL of my concerns. After that my DD brought her own books in for reading time, was able to pick out level specific books for her from the library, was given TAG homework and harder worksheets in class. Other than that she did everything else the other kids did. She loved kindergarten and had a great time socially. Academically, whatever she learned that year, I taught her at home. We did workbooks a couple of grades ahead for homework every night.

 

Our school does blended classrooms, so my DD has been in a split grade since first. She was in a 1/2 for first grade, a 2/3 for second, and is now in a 3/4. The teachers have been very good about teaching her at her level because it has been easy for them to just teach her with the older grade. Although she is reading at a much higher level than they are willing to teach her at, that has been a problem but I challenge her at home and she reads whatever she wants (within reason) at school. We do a lot of extra stuff at home, based on my daughters interests. She loves science and nature, which isn't covered in detail at school, so we do a lot of fun but educational stuff for that at home. Whatever she's interested in we just go with it.

 

She was tested, and placed in, TAG in second grade. In our district they don't offer much for TAG at the elementary level. They do more with it in middle school and high school. She has got to do some extra classes and extra field trips, but not much else. The bonus about TAG for us, is that now when she goes into a new grade, I don't have to be "that Mom" and have to tell the teacher what a brilliant kid I think I have. They can just look at her IEP and put her where she belongs.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all that.  It really helps to have a sense of some of the options and potential pitfalls coming up.  smile.gif

post #4 of 12

I have a son who is currently in public (charter) school kindergarten and sounds similar to your daughter in reading level. He taught himself to read when he was 3.5 and was reading chapter books the year before starting kindergarten. He also has a late Sept birthday and we decided to hold him back and do a year of Montessori preschool first. We just couldn't come up with a good enough reason to start him early, he would have been 4 the first month of kindergarten and that just seemed so very young. So he is not only working considerably ahead of grade level in reading and math, but is also the oldest in his class. We have committed ourselves to supplementation and work with him on various things at home. The only issue is that he is TIRED after 6.5 hours of school and has homework to do so most of the supplementation we do on the weekends.

 

The school put him in 2nd grade reading but has not yet finished testing for math or for TAG and here we are, half way through the year. It's a little frustrating. So for now the K teacher gives him worksheets out of a 2nd grade math book and he does those...but he is not learning any new math, just doing the worksheets and practicing the concepts we are teaching him at home. Although he reads ahead of 2nd grade level there are other skills he is working on there, mainly doing MUCH more writing, comprehension exercises, spelling, grammar, etc. I have been very happy with his experience there and just wish he could be doing the same with math. He is happy enough with school - he does tell me that preschool was more challenging and that he is bored sometimes but he just rolls with it and focuses on the things he enjoys. So it's working out for us. I just have higher expectations for first grade and hope they are met! It's a new school that just opened this year so I'm trying to be really patient while they get organized...

 

His Montessori teacher was the one who alerted us that he was gifted. She basically told us to expect exactly what we are experiencing, if we chose to send him to public school. She recommended that we have him tested and we chose not to - as you can see, it wouldn't have made any difference in his situation as the school is doing the best they can to place him at his ability level but is just stuck logistically.

 

In an attempt to be more concise here :) I would say that good communication with teachers/administrators is essential, along with a commitment to supplementing at home, which can be a bit of work. Although the teacher wants to do more for him, the reality is that she has 16 other children to tend to as well and is limited in what she can do.


Edited by Gracecody - 1/29/12 at 11:51am
post #5 of 12



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracecody View Post

 

In an attempt to be more concise here :) I would say that good communication with teachers/administrators is essential, along with a commitment to supplementing at home, which can be a bit of work. Although the teacher wants to do more for him, the reality is that she has 16 other children to tend to as well and is limited in what she can do.



 Yes. This. I don't have an official diagnosis on DS so he may or may not be gifted but he sounds just like your DD as well. I really wasn't aware of what grade level he was at on reading but for assessments during the 1st qtr, his teacher had him read a section of a 5th grade science textbook and proceeded to question him on contents and she said that he had shown a good understanding of the text. Compared to his classmates, he is also very advanced in Math. We supplement at home although not as much as I want to. He gets home tired and between that and Karate, there's only so much I can subject him to. Hopefully, he develops more endurance next year.

I constantly communicate with his teacher and she sends him home with supplemental work sheets and the principal is in constant communication with me as well.

 

Although DS is way academically ahead of his peers, he truly enjoys school. His school offers a very hands-on, exploratory type of instruction so I think the lessons are more open ended so his teacher is able to tweak it a bit for him.

 

post #6 of 12

Kindergarten may go surprisingly well depending on the program.

 

My son was about where your report your daughter being and he really enjoyed kindergarten. He liked meeting new kids, and K still has plenty of play time. Now one year of that was more than enough for him and at the end of K he let me know that he'd like more challenge the following year. We ended up skipping 1st grade.

 

Had I known we were going to skip I probably would have pushed for a mid year skip to 1st to ease what ended up being a rough transition to second.

 

However, K itself went so much better than I thought it would. K teachers are used to getting a really wide range of abilities into their classrooms and it seems do better than teachers in other grades accommodating them all. My son's teacher regularly borrowed content from the reading resource room to give my son at reading time. She also had him read a lot of nonfiction as he really enjoyed it and she figured he might as well be interested by the content even if it was easy for him. She really did work very hard to meet his needs, with varying levels of success.

 

I'd wait until the school year and evaluate once you see what your child thinks.

post #7 of 12

It really depends on the child, the teacher and the culture of the school.... it really does. We have two gifted children who had completely different experiences in kindergarten.

 

Our eldest started Kindie 2 to 5 grade levels advanced, very driven, very mature. Her teacher understood where she was at within 2 minutes of DD walking through the door first day. The teacher did try many different methods to accommodate her but DD became depressed, rejected advanced work and pulled away from her classmates (though they absolutely loved her.) The principal suggested a mid-year skip to 1st and we accepted. She still needed substantial differentiation and additional subject accelerations over the years but our school was very flexible and we made those years quite nice for DD. Our youngest just LOVED kindergarten. He was younger when he started due to a late fall birthday and late cut-off date in our state. He was only about 2-3 grade levels advanced academically (and below average in fine motors.) He had no interest in accelerating academically and enjoyed the freedom and extra time his advanced abilities gave him... more time to play and socialize! His K teacher didn't even know he could read until end of the year and since he was so happy and eager to attend school, we just let him be. I will say, she did understand he was unusually bright, she just didn't get to see his academic skills in action until later.We did transfer him to an immersion school for 1st grade where the base level academics were much higher (though his K class was already quite high.) With a subject acceleration in math and the new language he did quite well those early years of school.

 

My advice is to make sure your kids have a pretty realistic idea of what school will offer and how their peers may not be in the same place academically. Certainly stay positive but you don't want them to assume others will be doing the same things. Give your teacher a full 2 weeks before going to her for accommodations. She needs the time to settle the class in, get to know the students and breath a little bit. This gives you a chance to see how your child is doing too. When you talk with her, set-up a meeting, don't try to catch her after class. Consider that your child may not need to accelerate in everything. She may not need to "work" on reading at this time. She may just need the flexibility to read what she enjoys and not have to do phonics worksheets. She will grow as a reader simply from continued reading at this stage. I used reading as an example but I mean for any particular subject. It is ok for a child to rest on some laurels while they grow in other less academic ways ( independence, social skills, athletic skills, ect.)

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by puffingirl View Post

Any ideas about what we can reasonably expect/ask for from the school in the first couple of years? Thanks!


It's reasonable to expect/ask for an enjoyable, engaging, nurturing environment that provides different kinds of opportunities for growth and development - academic and otherwise. It's reasonable to expect/ask for open communication, support, and flexibility - on both sides (school and parents). There should be recognition of your child's abilities and achievements and some attempt at individual accommodation - and that's true for any student. It gets tough when a student's abilities (and thus, accommodations) are far out-of-step with the rest of the class. That's where the communication and flexibility come into it. For us, having a good relationship with the administration and teachers helped. I did a fair amount of volunteer work, in my kids' classes and at school generally, so I got to know everyone fairly well. 

 

My kids enjoyed kindergarten even though they were well ahead of their classmates. I don't think they saw it as a place for academics, but they are both quite sociable and enjoy group activities. Once they entered primary grades, the schools became more involved in finding accommodations for their academics. It takes some trial and error, but generally public school worked well for my kids. 

 

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post

 

My advice is to make sure your kids have a pretty realistic idea of what school will offer and how their peers may not be in the same place academically. Certainly stay positive but you don't want them to assume others will be doing the same things. 


Lots of good advice in this post, but this especially. And if you can find a few peers who are at the same place, or even ahead, that can be very helpful too. 

 

post #10 of 12

DS also entered kindy reading chapter books. I didn't realize how far ahead he was, so it never occurred to me to let the school know in advance. We were very lucky to have an amazing teacher (who he looped into first grade with as well!).

 

I think so much depends on your kid. DS is very extroverted and was very happy to be in school all day. He is a natural leader, and the teacher was happy to have him facilitate calendar time and things like that. Although she didn't spend a ton of time teaching him separately, he always had differentiated math and writing homework. We agreed that he'd just bring appropriate books from home to read at free reading time.

 

I was able to volunteer in class a few hours a week, which definitely helped. Oh, another concession we got was that DS took his tests by himself in the back of the room. The teacher is required to read everything aloud for k and first, which made him crazy because it takes so long. So he just took tests by himself, and then read quietly when he was done.

 

He's in second grade now and still happy and engaged. Our school doesn't have much in the way of extra money or gifted programs, but in spite of that, the teachers and I have made it work. Best of luck!

-e

post #11 of 12

Kindergarten usually has a mix of different kinds of activities. For me, it helped to have a different strategy for the different kinds of classroom learning.

 

--Whole-class work, where everyone is taking turns to act out a story, or being quizzed on sight words, or listening to books--probably the teacher's least flexible part of the day. Ideally, I think, these activities are open (lovely books, science experiments, good music), but it takes a pretty talented teacher to regularly include the wide range of abilities likely present in the classroom; on the other hand, these activities can be fun even if review and are often a small part of the day.

 

--Individual or group work on assigned work. This may be differentiated beautifully or modestly or not at all; you may have to advocate; the teacher may not have a lot of choice in the materials, as was our case. But this is where it can be useful to come in with examples of work and ask for ideas to continue building those skills.

 

--Bonus work, after the required work is done. Here, there really should be no reason a child can't work at his or her exact level, moving on to more challenging work as needed. Don't be afraid to offer to bring in your own workbooks (geography or reading workbook or a favorite book to read or math puzzles or history book or.....) *if* your child seems interested.

 

Finally, I have seen the suggestion that afterschooling, if you do anything, concentrate on areas that don't overlap with the next few years of the school curriculum, so that you're not continuing to teach (for instance) math that the child will then be bored when all the topics come up later in school. That works less well if the child is really excited about reading or math specifically, but for some kids it does seem to work well to supplement with lots of history or science or music or art.

 

Good luck! Hope it's a great fit.

 

Heather

 

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all the information and ideas.  I had already been thinking about the issue of whether to/how much to supplement at home, leaving her even less to learn at school.  For a little while (between ages 2-about 3.5) she was a bottomless pit of interest---space, geography, science, whatever.  Honestly, some days I felt like I could barely keep up.  But it all changed before she turned 4 and she seemed to shift away from that to more imaginative and physical play.  Her big accelerated interest now is in reading, so I'm just letting her do as much as she wants in that area.  Her interests in other areas are less intense--we'll look something up when she gets curious about it (usually something about animals, nature or history/culture), but otherwise I'm content to let her run around, cut paper, play with her dolls, dance. Her handwriting isn't that good (mostly, I think, because she keeps switching back and forth between her hands and can't make up her mind which one to use) but I'd rather leave that for school and do other stuff with her at home.

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