school daze

I have so many things I need to blog about (including our INCREDIBLE new house that we can’t wait to move into) But as usual, I seem to only come to the blog when I hit an issue I need input on or need to write down to process. Today will be all about my Monkey and school.

When we were in California, Monkey attended a neighborhood cooperative pre-school. He started there when he was just shy of 3 years old and was there until we moved in late January (just past his 5th bday). He loved school, and everyone there loved him. We were very involved (coop and all – DW worked there one day a week), and knew his teacher and all of the other parents really well. It was a close-knit, safe, welcoming, warm community. We knew we’d never replace it when we moved and we all mourned the loss and wish we could have finished out the school year. But life happens.

We began touring pre-schools in NC pretty much as soon as our feet hit the ground. Still, it took over a month to find one that 1) had an opening and 2) seemed like a decent fit for us. Monkey started at a Montessori school a couple of weeks ago. During his first week, we kept getting feedback from the teacher that indicated he is behind where they would expect him to be. He doesn’t write his name or hold a pencil properly. He has trouble using scissors. None of this is new information to us – Monkey is all about being outside and active and the coop was play-based and focused on building social skills and character, which we fully support. The coop offered daily activities that incorporated writing, drawing, cutting, etc., but Monkey has always been more of an athletic type. He’d much prefer to be outside running wild to sitting at a table coloring (much to our chagrin on occasion).

Last year, I wondered if we should pull him out of the coop and put him in a more academic prep environment for his third year of preschool (December b-day led to an extra year). We toured a few places and found that they weren’t much different from our beloved coop (and they cost quite a bit more), so we stayed put. We also enrolled him in a weekly Kindergarten prep course that many of the coop kids attend. He did very well in those classes and we got nothing but positive feedback from the instructor. My mind was put at ease. He could and did do all of it just fine.

On Monday of this week, Monkey insisted that he was not going to school. He refused to get dressed and cried in a very emotional, sad way (not the tantrumy, get-my-way cry). We were frustrated but didn’t force the issue. When asked, he told us he didn’t want to go because, “Their playground isn’t very good.” Hahahahaha! His teacher told us there had been no issue she was aware of, that he played nicely with some of the other kids and seemed to be doing well. Tuesday came and we had a crying boy again. We tried everything – gently asking why, bribery, loss of privileges and still he wouldn’t budge. Yes, we are softies but it’s hard when we turned his life upside down a mere matter of weeks ago, you know? This is all new. Plus we don’t know these people well, so we didn’t want to force him back in case there truly was an issue he wasn’t able to put into words.

He doesn’t have school on Wednesdays (no room for him), so last night I prepped him for today. I had him pick out his school outfit and praised his choice. I told him that he was going to school tomorrow (today), even if we had to take him in his PJs, but that I really hoped he’d get dressed in the awesome outfit he picked out. My sweet boy did it – he got up, ate breakfast, got dressed, and headed to school with DW. So proud of him 🙂 He was a bit clingy when they arrived at school, but in he went.

At pickup,  the teacher told DW she wants to have a parent/teacher conference that is probably about how “behind” he is. IMO, they are being very alarmist. I’m left wondering how much (if any) of it is of actual concern, how much of it might just be the Montessori way (we have had no Montessori experience previously), and how much of it might be pressure for him to continue next year in this school. They offer Kindergarten and just today acted like they might boot us out of the program now if we don’t enroll for next year as they didn’t realize our intent was for him to finish the current school year with them and attend our neighborhood school for K.

I know that many (probably even most) other kids write their name prior to K (and then some, for some kids) and use scissors, etc. I also know that my kid is perfectly capable of it and I plan for us to work with him on these things to give him a nice start in Kinder. But honestly they are acting like it’s the end of times that this child isn’t doing these things. Monkey is super bright, good with numbers and letters, loves reading books, asks awesome questions, etc. I have no fears that he’s not ready for Kindergarten. But this school has put a niggling little bit of doubt in the back of my head and I really don’t appreciate it. I’m left wondering if Monkey is feeling this pressure and it is causing him anxiety, making him not want to be there. Y’all, parenting is hard.


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9 responses to “school daze

  1. Maybe this school just isn’t a great fit? I teach kindie in a public school in Canada and kids come in all over the place. Many kids are in monkey’s situation and they do just fine. It seems like he would benefit from a school that focuses on project based learning, a school that focuses on individual interests! Poor boy.

  2. Jeannie

    I’ve read for a while and never commented … I don’t think! I have to agree with jennandm — if your spider sense is going off here, it’s not a good fit. It’s crazy to think he *needs* all those skills to start kindergarten. I have two, and one did and one didn’t and the latter has done just fine. In fact, most kids I know didnt, and all are fine. Boys (and my unskilled one is a boy!) sometimes don’t. They need to move and run and do gross motor things, and I’m guessing you have a centre that just doesn’t cope well with active boys. It’s not uncommon — I have plenty of stories from me and friends with active boys who were chided for their normal behaviour as four / five year olds. They are all nine now. And — I repeat — just fine in school.

    Good luck!

  3. Oh Mama, how difficult! I would very much suspect that at least some of the reluctance to go from school is from feeling unable to live up to (IMO unnecessary) expectations. Like Jenn, I also taught kindergarten. Nearly all my SKs (5 year olds) could write their name when they started, but if they couldn’t we worked on it! Definitely not the end of the world. I can so picture us in a similar place with The Bean. He is very smart, knows all his upper and lower case letters, but his pencil grip and control is not very well-developed at all!

  4. Irish Stout & Mommies

    What a rough situation! I would listen to your mom instincts and maybe it isn’t a good fit but maybe you could also inquire about the public K and find out what skills they consider , or deem, necessary to start in August. If they agree with the preschool, maybe you can focus on specific skills. I know all regions are different and have different expectations upon entering school.

    Also, all kids are different and move at different paces. C has been writing his name since age 3, but still has a hard time with other skills that might come easier for some. Do you know if he will be required to take the DIAL test for kindergarten readiness? Amanda and I were just talking about this yesterday and you can google a list of expectations for entrance to the public school if your district uses that standard. Parenting is definitely hard and there is always going to be another mountain!

  5. No need to apologize for being sensitive to Monkeys feelings and needs. Sounds like you did what Monkey needed to do and listened to him. This is a huge transition for him and it sounds like he is already feeling inadequate or out of place in a school he has just arrived at. I don’t know anything about Montessori except it seems like sthg a lot of the more privileged kids attend, but I agree with the other posters and you. It sounds way too intense and focused on stuff that kids get eventually when they are ready. Learning is not about practicing a set of skills ad nauseum. It’s about discovery and exploration – esp at that age! I’m so mad with their little anal retentive selves! If you go to the conference before you pull him from there make sure you tell them that putting pressure on him about these inconsequential imposed milestones is heinous.
    Why don’t you take some more time to find him a school? Or find activities for him to do at the local park district or sthg and not worry about it for a while until he acclimatizes and you have found a better fit. Or do a bit of homeschooling til you find a better fit and let him enjoy himself. DW and MM are home anyway, right? Let him enjoy the university of life for a while. Good luck and yes, parenting is hard!!!

  6. He’s still young. I wouldn’t worry too much.

    I hated Montessori. We sent our kids and Riley was 3 in the age 3-6 room. It was so boring for her and she hated it. She said there weren’t toys and I felt like that was a bit much for that age. I like that kindergarten here in Canada is play-based but on top of that, they do work on writing/reading. They don’t really require too much until Senior Kindergarten.

    I can tell you that my kids fight school and my middle son (just turned 6) is downright awful about it. He’s fine when he’s there but he complains, cries, says he’s sick a lot of mornings. For him, school is hard because he’s a mama’s boy and he doesn’t like always having to follow rules set out by other people nor does he enjoy sitting and listening to things he doesn’t care about. I get it. It is hard. So some of it is adjustment. My older daughter (age 8) was pretty awful about kindergarten drop off but grew out of it and was good about going in grade 1, even if she complained that they didn’t get to play all day any more.

  7. I think for them to tell you he’s “behind” is not cool. Kindergarten is for learning this stuff, not for entering in already knowing. They really should’ve approached this another way…tell you what you should work on with him, etc. I’m so surprised that it’s a Montessori school acting like this! I expect public schools to freak out about the core curriculum stuff, but not Montessori. Blegh. I’m sorry.I hope you can express your concerns at the conference and find a plan together.

  8. Mine girl is 4.5. At her conference, the lead teacher spent a lot of time reassuring us that it is developmentally appropriate that she doesn’t read or write, and that the important thing is building her social and pre-literacy skills (we didn’t actually need that pep talk, my mom is a literacy specialist who always warns against pushing kids into early academics). I would say that it’s not you (or Monkey), it’s them.

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