It’s summertime! For those of you who have older kids, you are taking time off, planning vacations and summer camps. But those of us who will have kids entering kindergarten this fall are looking at the calendar. It feels like school will start tomorrow. How did our kids get so tall, learn to say that, grow up? How can we trust someone else with this precious being?
I mentioned in my researching schools post that some schools offer parents the opportunity to include a Getting to Know Your Child letter with a registration packet. Even if they don’t offer, you might ask if you could include one to be considered when making teacher assignments. For a newly entering kindergarten student who has no academic records yet and no other way that the school might make an assignment besides last name, gender, or race, anything you can give the school to help them and your child is worth doing.
Figuring out what it was I wanted the school to know about my son was the challenge. I know what kind of learner he is with me, what the director of his mother’s day out playschool has said about how he plays and learns there, but I don’t know what will happen when he’s in a group of 22 kids all learning at a different pace and coming in with varying levels of exposure to letters, numbers, etc. What he knows right now isn’t a great way for the school to make a decision because they don’t know what the other kids know either and they’re not making teacher assignments that way. Beyond that, the academics and standardized tests don’t top my list of school concerns. As I wrote the letter, I came to understand that I care most about who will be with my son and how they’ll speak to him, what messages he’ll receive about himself and how safe and confident he’ll feel.
My concerns for my son may not be yours. I share the letter I gave to the school with you in hopes that it will help you think about what you’d want a school to know about your child. Many schools won’t make teacher assignments until mid-summer or so. Call the school to find out if you can submit a letter. Whether the school s/he’ll attend will take such a letter or not, I highly recommend writing it. Trying to describe my son in one page or less taught me a lot about him, and about myself.
Dear Principal ____ and Anyone Else Deciding My Son’s Kindergarten Future:
Cavanaugh has been in playgroups and taken classes since he was three months old, but left to his own devices, he would rather stay home and build Star Wars LEGOs, listen to audio books, or play with our cats than go out with other kids, to the park, or even to a bouncy castle place.
He’s been in an in-home playschool since January 2010. He attends until 3:30 on MWF. Five children attend and the kids can pick out their own activities, so he’s not used to being in a large classroom with big group activities. Ever since he began attending, Cavanaugh says he would rather stay home than go to school. He is happy once we get there and happy when I pick him up, but he still doesn’t want to go. He has expressed repeated concern about starting kindergarten, though he is beginning to sound more excited (or, at least, happily curious) about it. In the last year, I’ve watched him become more outgoing and gregarious, but the social aspect of public school is my greatest concern for him. He doesn’t eat lunch at preschool because his best buddy eats fast, then rushes outside. Cavanaugh insists that he has to go because his friend is out there. He’ll get his feelings hurt and never show the teacher. Having a kindergarten teacher who really observes the social interactions between kids and can help Cavanaugh stand up for himself and navigate being in groups would be optimal.
Cavanaugh knows his alphabet, though he reverses j and k. He can count to twenty and we’ve been discussing the concept of counting by 10’s and multiples of 10’s because he wants to know how to get to “a million.” He’s learning to write letters and spell his name, though his fine motor skills for writing need further development.
Since he was little, he has had a much longer attention span than most kids anywhere near his age. When he was three and a half, we started listening to 400+ page-long audio books. We were on a 14-hour road trip and he wouldn’t let me stop at parks or restaurants. He just wanted to hear what came next in the story. Road trips are still like that. We’ve listened to the Peter and the Starcatchers, Septimus Heap, Fablehaven, Erec Rex, and other series. When a series runs out of audio books, we’ll read the remaining books as bedtime stories. He is adept at predicting outcomes. His understanding of cause and effect and his deductive reasoning constantly surprise me. We had read every book in the Magic School Bus and Magic Tree House series by last summer. His vocabulary is incredible. Recently, in an effort to get me to buy him stickers to customize LEGOs, he said, “This is a foolish idea, but not too foolish for my liking.”
Cavanaugh is eager to learn and has always been good at expressing his ideas and feelings to adults—if he feels safe with and heard by them. Cavanaugh needs to be in a classroom where he’ll be stimulated, where there is a great love of language, and where he’ll be emotionally and socially nurtured. I truly appreciate the opportunity to help you get to know Cavanaugh. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.