Yesterday Kyle turned five, and that very evening I attended the Kindergarten orientation at his school. That's a pretty symbolically momentous day.
This is actually my first time to send a child off to Kindergarten, although I'm a bit different than many of the other first-time parents who surrounded me. When Amanda finished preschool, we were living in Texas. With an early September birthday, she barely missed the cutoff for Kindergarten admission in Texas, so she had attended a "bridge" Pre-K program, designed for older 5's.
I remember walking to the elementary school to register Amanda for Kindergarten. With newborn Kyle at home, I was ready to send her off to school full-time, and she was ready to go.
In July, things changed. Terry began an interview process with a company in Connecticut. When it looked like we would be moving, we wanted to be sure that we would be there in time for Amanda's first day of school, so things happened pretty quickly.
However, in Connecticut they still had half-day Kindergarten. And the age cutoff was January, not September. So, not only would Amanda be the oldest child by more than three months, she'd only be attending school for two hours fewer than she had for the last year.
Most people don't know that Kindergarten is not mandatory. So, since Amanda met the age requirement for first grade, we had the option to register her for that grade. After looking at the Kindergarten curriculum, and talking with her Pre-K teacher, we determined that was the right choice for her. It worked out perfectly.
So as I sat in the miniature chairs at the low tables in the Kindergarten classroom last night, as a teacher walked us through a (half)day in the life of a Kindergartener, I thought, "Kindergarten is fun. Kyle is going to love this." I almost felt as if Amanda had missed out, except that I'm fairly certain that her Pre-K experience was just as fun, and gave her the right age-appropriate educational instruction as well.
The teacher was talking about the emphasis on reading and literacy, and how the best thing that parents can do to insure that their child is ready for Kindergarten is to read to him everyday. Another big step in literacy is just talking to your child. The number of minutes that a preschooler interacts with their parent has been shrinking, and it's a big factor in early school success (and is one area that differs by economic class, with poorer children missing out on this kind of interaction at home).
The teacher said that they have small classes and a full-time aide as well as a reading specialist, so they divide into reading groups by ability. She assured the parents that kids come in at all levels -- from not knowing letters at all (at which point they have some early intervention so that they don't fall further behind), to knowing most of them, to knowing the sounds, to reading already. "Not many are reading, but sometimes they come in and read the morning message that first day, and we say 'Oh boy.'"
We've always read to Kyle, and not only does he know his letters and sounds, but he'll be classified as an "Oh boy." I was pleased to hear that they offer readers individual attention, and that he won't have to sit and "learn" the a sound for a week.
So, we're ready. We're more than ready academically, and we're both ready socially too.
However, I was challenged by the principal's challenge, "Talk to your child. Go on field trips. Take nature walks. That's how they learn."
Of course I talk to Kyle, and he talks to me -- oh boy, does he. But in this digital age, there is less interaction -- more TV, more computer, more Wii. I'm going to be sure that this summer I continue to challenge and interact with him (and his big sister) in new ways, that I learn from him as he learns from me.