So DS has started elementary school (first grade) and LOVES it. After his strictly playbased pre-school and K pullout, this is the first time he is in a structured academic environment, however playful the beginnings, and he is noticeably calmer than he has been all summer! He loves the teacher, takes all the cutting, gluing, tracing, colouring and counting awfully seriously, enjoys spelling the "word of the week" with animal names, does his homework with (for him) little fuss and drama and from what he tells us, might actually be one of the more focused kids in his classroom. Whoda thunk?
What made me very happy: while he is the youngest in the classroom (entered early with a birthday shortly after the cutoff), 10 out of 24 kids are fall- and summer-born, none of them red-shirted, the rest evenly spread across the reast of the year, no child more than a year younger than he is. So socio-emotionally it should be a great fit.
We picked the school (Catholic 1-4) for its emphasis on both academics and community and their promises of differentiation. On our first parent-teacher meeting yesterday, the teacher was pleasant and professional and so were the parents - it's a somewhat oversubscribed school due to its reputation but charges only nominal fees so the demographics appear heavily skewed towards middle- and upper-middle-class families who are invested into their kids education but not too invested, no Tiger Moms and no entitled rich people who tend to gravitate towards more expensive schools in the area. Some immigrant families, no language barriers, every single family turned up with at least one parent. So a bit of an odd spaceship environment, but no excuses for a teacher to insist on having to spend all her time to catch up the kids who are behind due to language problems or educational neglect.
The first two out of five periods until first recess are taken up with a Montessori-inspired work cycle which is currently free choice, but which they have explained will be used for differentiation by steering struggling kids towards areas of practice and advanced kids towards areas of challenge. So far, DS loves the work cycles too because he gets to read his favourite book every morning. Which makes him happy but isn't exactly learning. Which leads me to my nitpicky misgivngs which make me worry it'll all come crashing around our ears soon: the teacher talked about the once weekly reading workshop/library hour taken by parent volunteers, mentioning that she had "a number of good readers in the classroom, for whom it is of course boring to sit through reading instruction but who have their chance then to show their stuff." Hmmm. What about actually learning something? Why make them sit through reading instruction in the first place if there is an ideally sized group which might be pulled out for reading practice by a parent volunteer at that time as well?
Also, I asked at the end of the evening about the expensive (29 €, I think about 40 $!) letter tile box they use for "word of the week" activities, saying something like "I feel this is very expensive - I appreciate that there is value in DS currently doing just the same as everyone else is doing, but in the light of the differentiation that is soon going to start, is it possible that DS may not need this box for very long anyway?" (She knows that he is advanced and a fluent reader). She insisted that it was very important that he put together and sound out the "word of the week" until the end of first grade and that it was very important for him to learn how to spell, too. What she does not know of course is that he is currently teaching himself how to spell by now typing his 5th Magic Treehouse "novel", using the word spell check!
So I am worried about the reading and math instruction he'll have to sit through anyway and just how long it will take for him to be totally turned off by those. I will shortly disappear into the NICU for weeks with a special needs newborn and will be out of the loop...should I still just wait and see? Schedule a conference before I disappear? Am I overreacting? I just thought it sounded very close-minded, not at all like the principal who talked to us after his trial day and spoke about 2nd grade work by Christmas and having to keep the option of a grade skip in mind.
Sorry for the novel! Am huge and hormonal and short of breath IRL...