Hi there. I’m new to your group, and desperately looking for resources. My daughter turns 5 next week and is reading at a 4th-grade level already. I see some advanced aptitude in math and science, too. We’re wrestling mightily with whether to send her to kindergarten at the neighborhood elementary (test scores there aren’t great, high poverty, high ESL rate, no gifted program until second grade) or keep her in the Montessori school where she’s been since age 2.5. It goes through kindergarten. I feel like this next year could be a really crucial one in either fueling or dampening my girl’s love of learning.
We’re trying to balance a million different issues. Whatever we do for her, we want to be prepared to do for her little sister, who also seems to be shaping up into a smart cookie. We are just breaking even right now as we pay two part-time Montessori tuitions, and the kindergarten class there costs more, so I’d have to work more hours, and is that really best for our kids? … and on and on it goes. We could “choice” into another public school or even another nearby district, but those options are also complicated when we start thinking about transportation issues. Right now there are just so many choices, and none of them are perfect – I’m overwhelmed.
I think my first step probably needs to be a meeting with the local public elementary’s principal. I’ve already seen some good ideas in this forum, like asking how the teachers handle differentiation and whether there are any split-level classes.
But anyway, mostly I wanted to say hello, and please chime in if you know of questions I should ask or actions I should take. Thank you.
Absolutely, meet with the principal and ideally with the kindergarten teacher(s). See if you get the feeling that they are eager to work with every child on her own level, or if it's more like they think smart kids have it easy so don't need attention.
I also was reading very well when I started kindergarten. My public school was not an unusually disadvantaged one, but it was very different from the super-warm, enriching preschool I had attended. The class size was large, and there was no student teacher, so of course my teacher had to focus most of her time on teaching to the majority: learning the alphabet one letter per week, colors, numbers, stuff I already knew. Yes, I was bored sometimes! But I did enjoy the many songs we learned, so at times when the assignment was something like practicing writing M, my teacher would assign me to write out all the words to the song about M, and then she would check my spelling. She also got some magazines on a higher reading level and at times would send me and the several other gifted students to the book corner to read the magazines while the others were working on something. I did learn new things in kindergarten: some basic American history, how to use a calendar, how the water cycle works, basics about the solar system.
Also, a valuable experience for me in kindergarten that continued into the later grades was realizing that, although I was extremely gifted in the literate, verbal, and "academic" skills, in some other areas I was behind my peers. We did a lot of crafts, and I saw that others could cut a smooth curve with scissors and easily color inside the lines, while I struggled. We had gym class once a week, and I found many physical feats that seemed easy for others were things I just had no idea how to do! This gave me a clearer understanding of my place in the world: I am very good at some things, but other things are harder for me; different versions of this are true for each person. If I had gone to school only with kids like myself, and spent the rest of my time with my parents who are very smart and hate sports, it might have taken much longer to understand this.
My advice is to go with the public school if you feel that it is acceptable, if it will make enough of an effort to educate your individual child, even if it seems not as perfect as Montessori. But if the school seems very uncaring, especially if they act like your desire to get a good education for your child is some kind of weird snobbery, I'd stick with the Montessori for next year and look into school choice for first grade.
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I had that kid! Entering K with 4th grade comprehension (minimum--content bored him so he stopped trying with the testing), college level decoding and blew math/science off the charts. Our school (which sounds so much like yours that I was looking for your location!) refused to skip him to first or second grade even though their own psych review said he was mature enough to handle it.
I asked a first grade teacher in the school (one I really respected) what to do and she told me that if I could--I'd be best to keep him home and teach him there.
We did. He's turning 10yo and is still home. We don't live large and we don't drive a Honda Odyssey, but we eat healthy food and have safe housing and our kids are able to learn as needed when needed.
If you're unable to find a good placement after K by way of school choice (or private school--look for financial aid and scholarship opps), consider exactly how much of your income is going to tuition and see if you're close enough that maybe this is a possibility...?
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My kiddo is gifted (we just did the formal assessment today as we're applying to a chartered school for gifted kids) and in kindy.
The kindy good: She has friends, she is very social, she is learning the structure of a school day (which has its pros and cons but still is part of life). In terms of 'newness' this year isn't too boring for her, even though the academics are mindless.
The kindy bad: No differentiation. None. Nada zip. Go be bored in the corner, kid. No learning for you. She races through tasks assuming that b/c it's easy, she knows the directions so she makes silly mistakes. She's a diligent rule follower, so she does her work and homework, but she's sloppy and not invested in it. She has occasional frustration with how boring the classwork is. She doesn't want to read b/c "my BFF isn't reading so I shouldn't read." The class environment holds her back that way and to fit in, she eschews her own talents.
But mostly kindy has been fine--being the first year, the newness makes up for a lot. We won't be staying at the school though, b/c she needs a better environment long term.
If you are in a district that does differentiate at 2nd grade, then just focus on enrichment activities at home and see if the teachers can make some attempt to provide more challenging work when possible. It can be frustrating to feel like you're spinning your wheels, but if your kiddo can handle kindy and 1st w/o enrichment beyond what you do at home, that's not bad imo. I met Dr. Sylvia Rimm recently (pretty much THE expert on giftedness in the world) and she shared that boys focus on academics and abandon social skills, while girls hone social skills at the expense of their academics. So given that, there's nothing wrong with having a year or two where they can just work on friendships/social skills which are just as important imo as those early academics.
(Naturally, if your kiddo can't tolerate regular school, you should do something different. But I guess I'm saying, try it and see what shakes out. Adjust as more data becomes available.)
Our goal to date has been enrichment that doesn't hit her completely out of the school's ball park. We don't want to make it so she never learns anything at school. Since she's a 'hider' (she purposely obscures her abilities to fit in) she's not one to want to investigate a subject in depth. She feels very strongly she should be like her peers (hence our need to get her into a gifted school where her peers are doing things at her level).
But we do a lot of reading and crafts based on reading. I take her to the orchestra kid's program. We attended a Day of the Dead festival. We just went to a gospel concert at my alma mater's music conservatory. We read biographies and will go visit Thoma Edison's lab later this year. We'll also be going to a pow-wow and any other cultural events I can find. So very broad experiences that don't push her even further ahead of the school curriculum.
I feel really strongly that family health and stability is important. If it's going to hurt the family by doing Montessori full-time for a child next year or require an increase in daycare for both then certainly, looking at your options is a good idea.
Personally, my eldest started Kindergarten at 5, was 2 to 5 grades advanced all around, started shutting down from misery and moved to the 1st grade class full time after Winter Break. DS started kindergarten on schedule but at 4 in a high red-shirting district and was very happy without any accommodations at all. We did move him to a tri-lingual program for 1st grade though. We do a lot of driving. I haven't worked more than part-time since the kids were born largely because we wanted the flexibility to get them where they needed to be. My kids only spent one year in the same school. We have always gone public outside of preschool but there are lots of alternative options in our county.
Let go of "perfect." Nothing is perfect. You are looking for not only what works for your children but what works for the whole family. Our favorite school didn't have high test scores, had a high ESL population, no gifted program and while not impoverished, was a title one school. However, they didn't teach to the test, were creative and flexible in their teaching and invested in giving our daughter as good an education as they could. They offered us options no other school would and it worked really well for my eldest all through elementary. We only moved my DS because he's a very different kid... very smart, not as driven. He has mild dyslexia that made an oral environment more attractive. He also loved languages and so the immersion school was just tailor made for him.
It can be overwhelming but take it a year at a time. Don't expect to figure out her whole educational career now. Life isn't a straight path and so expect that you may have to make turns or try another road once in awhile.