I need some wisdom here.
While DD has not been formally labeled as gifted, I'm pretty confident that she's in the moderately to highly gifted range. She'll be 5 this summer, which makes her eligible for kindergarten this coming fall. I haven't done a ton of research until recently since I've always planned on homeschooling her, but I can't get DH on board and I don't think it's something I can embark on without his support. We're visiting the neighborhood public school this week, and I wanted to know if anyone has any advice about questions to ask to help us see if we can make this school work for DD. As background, DD is extroverted but very anxious, and is pretty much a textbook "highly sensitive" kid. She's extremely sensitive to anything she perceives as criticism and still pretty frequently has totally extreme meltdowns. She gets completely overwhelmed by large groups of people she doesn't know. She's never been to any sort of preschool or other class without me there because even talking about it has always made her anxious, and she currently insists that she's not going to kindergarten because she would miss me and her baby brother too much. The district puts a lot of curriculum information online, and it will really all be review except the handwriting, which she hates. So, basically, I want to know how to find out if the school can be an okay fit for my special snowflake without being all "DD is a special snowflake."
Don't put too much stock in the academic information they put online. Those tend to be the bare minimum requirements of what's expected. Consider that in totally normal classes, there are naturally non-gifted kids within a year advanced and a year behind. This means in kindergarten there could be kids learning their letters along with kids who are emergent readers. Your DD may still be more advanced but the class level won't necessarily be as low as you'd imagine. When you ask about academics, ask about flexibility and differentiation.
As for her anxiety and meltdowns, I'm not sure I have much to offer. I'd take a look at some smaller, private kindergartens to ease her in if she's really as overwhelmed as you described. It might help her to visit them herself and get a feel.
IME, kindergarten teachers are pretty used to anxious kids, and are often able to come up with a plan that will settle the kid in more quickly and smoothly than most moms imagine. I know several kids that were highly anxious about going and leaving mom, and quite a bit younger than your child is, that went from crying & clinging to happy as a lark within a week or so. If you can get a chance to meet the teacher before school starts and show dd around, address any concerns she has, show her where her cubby would be and the bathroom, etc. that would be a great start. A lot of kindergarten is about learning the process of school, lining up, putting up your hand, sitting and listening, managing lunches and transitions and getting along with other kids in the classroom; the cirriculm is light both because not everyone is there yet and because there's a lot of other learning going on. Asking if there is a quiet spot to go if dd gets overwhelmed would be a good accomodation if the teacher can manage it, but without formal identification you kind of have to rely on the willingness of the teacher to play along.
My 2 cents, for what they're worth:
Ask about what a day at school is like. Talk to them about how they transition kids into school when there's a considerable amount of separation anxiety. Meet the teachers. Ask them what they recommend to do at home to get ready for school. Go to Kindergarten round-up.
If school is really non-negotiable for your dh, and you support this, then you're going to have to get wholeheartedly behind school for this to work. Look for the positives. Find a way to get excited yourself. If your daughter feels like you'd rather keep her home, getting her to school is going to be a nightmare. Trust that you both will be OK. If you can't get wholeheartedly behind this, then you need to have some serious talks with your dh.
I wouldn't mention her academic skills for the first month or so. See how she adjusts. If she's not showing at school what she can do at home, then you can raise this as an issue of "hey, this what she's doing at home, and I'm worried that her anxiety might be getting in the way." The first month or so of school, especially kindergarten, is spent figuring out where the kids are and what they need to learn. They should know, by the end of this time, where your daughter is. Our schools have been very good at figuring out what my kids can do very early on. Ds is quiet and I do have to remind them that he needs challenge. Dd, on the other hand, demands challenge.
I don't know what else to ask, but I wanted to point out one thing. When my (oldest, 6 y/o) son's preschool teachers came to meet us before school started (they actually visit the home to meet everyone), my son ran and hid from them - perfectly on spot for how I imagined he'd react. He has a lot of anxiety much like your daughter.
I don't know what happened, but come preschool day 1 he didn't even tell us goodbye. He ran in the class so fast and that was that. I would have put money on it that he'd have freaked out and we'd have go get him. I was thoroughly surprised. =)
Sometimes they trick us..and sometimes they don't. I'd say put her in some summer reading programs or camps. Let her get used to some groups and see how that goes. Let her start and see how it goes. If it doesn't work out maybe your husband would be more onboard with hs'ing.
Mama to 3 boys ( 6, 4, 2 ) and one baby girl!
Thanks, everyone. We visited the school for roundup and it was actually somewhat reassuring. It's a great school and I think DD would probably eventually adjust. But, Lynn, you pretty much nailed down the issue. I don't support this at all. The problem is that I'm a total idealist and find it impossible to settle for great when best is an option. And I also don't like that there really is no way to know how well DD's academic needs can be accommodated until we actually try it. I guess many more talks are in order....