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Tuesday, March 10, 2009  

Trash Talking Three

Here's part three of the story Trash has been sharing with us. Part two is here and part one is here.

After M. Edium had been in back with the school testing folk for about an hour, the assistant instructor returned him to the main room. She explained that the lead instructor was in back, completing her report, and would soon be out to fetch us. The assistant looked more tired than when she came to get him, so I asked if it had gone OK. She said it had, he had performed wonderfully, he was so friendly and cute and smart…and stubborn. Which he is, oh yes, but he is also quite well-behaved for the most part. We asked if he had acted up and she assured us that he was great. We tried to ask M. Edium how he thought it had gone, but really, what was he going to say? “I excelled at the verbal reasoning but came up short in analytic thought?” No, all he wanted to talk about was the book on volcanoes we were reading earlier.

The lead instructor appeared roughly 10 minutes later and escorted us to the back room. She sat us down at another kid-sized table and started going through her report, doing that annoying thing where you read every line on the paper, as though we were illiterate and needed assistance. We had been there for over two hours at this point, and M. Edium was getting pretty restless, so M. Giant spent most of his time playing while I dealt with the teacher. This division of labor usually works best, because I am somewhat willing to (mostly) pleasantly argue with a bureaucrat for a while, while M. Giant prefers to not talk to them ever, but on this occasion it might have been better for M. Edium to do all of the talking, as the system was pissing off both adult Giants. In any case, she explained that kids were evaluated on a scale (I never received the actual scale) and at age 4 they hope to see children passing with at least a 25 (out of 30? 100? 1 million? No idea) and to enter kindergarten they should pass above 50. M Edium was above both of those numbers, and tall, so they were all ready to start the next phase of testing. I explained – again – that we were uncertain if that was a path we interested in following, but that we would certainly consider it.

She then went through the test itself, explaining that up until the last two sections he had only missed one question, that his reading and spelling skills were advanced and that he could perform basic addition and subtraction. (Heh – see what you can find out about your kid? We had no idea he could do any math at all. Good job, Montessori program.) Again, having seen the requirements earlier I wasn’t convinced it was actual math so much as perhaps a test to see if he could count to one, but she assured me it was indeed math. She then explained that the last two sections were on rhyming and alliteration. Now, I didn’t care that he had missed some – or all – of any of the questions, but those two categories surprised me. M. Edium frequently uses alliteration as a joke (I guess he has his dad’s sense of humor) and will recite long lists of rhymes from the back seat when we are in the car. Makes for some fun traffic jams, believe me. So it surprised me that he had any trouble in those areas, and I said as much.

“Oh no,” the instructor was quick to assure me. “He didn’t get the questions wrong. He told us he was tired of taking the test, and crawled under the table and hid behind the file cabinet.” And I couldn’t help myself – I knew not to be a smart-ass, I knew to just shut up, but I said, “Ahh. Sounds exactly like the behavior of someone ready for kindergarten.” Sigh. Needless to say, we were back to square one. The teacher pointed out that he was a very well-behaved child, had played wonderfully with two other older kids during the adaptability portion of the test, and would certainly grow out of it by fall. I didn’t want to argue any more – and M. Giant was shooting daggers at me after my last comment – so I agreed to tour the school and at least speak with the principal. We also agreed that we would remember that kids who get bored in school can have a lot of problems as well, and we didn’t want that to happen. I could have mentioned that boredom sounded like a problem for the kindergarten teacher, but I refrained. Whatever, we got to leave. I would have agreed to almost anything just to get out of there.

We did indeed go on a tour of the local elementary school, which we liked, and I spoke not only to the principal but to two of the teachers. I expressed my concerns (and those raised by my friend Chao in the comments on my previous post) and they both totally sided with me. The principal told me that they have a gifted and talented program starting at kindergarten in which he would most likely qualify, and that the program allows the students to focus extra energy on the areas where they excel (hello, science!) and lets them work far ahead of the regular class work. One kindergarten teacher said that she would rather have a kid start at age five and then be so prepared that she advances him to first grade, bypassing kindergarten, rather than start too early. Both of these women had been with the school for several years, and they indicated their intent to still be at the school in two years, so we didn’t have a sudden bait-and-switch.

We also spoke with a few friends and family members who had started school early, and with only the one exception they all said they would rather have waited. Most of them did say that they thought we needed to make sure M. Edium felt mentally stimulated (apparently being around M. Giant and me isn’t enough) so we are starting piano lessons this spring and classes at the Minnesota Science Museum – and I spoke to one of the women in the education department and she is letting M. Edium start in the 5 year old and up classes. See? We can be reasonable. You’re welcome, Minneapolis Schools.

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posted by M. Giant 4:10 PM 4 comments

4 Comments:

I love the idea that he needs to be more mentally stimulated when I personally think he's an incredibly adorable and awesome...geek. You know, as it is. And as he should be.

By Blogger Linda, at March 10, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

My parents didn't know I could read until I took the entrance exam for private school when I was 4. I read along with books when they read aloud to me (which was like three times a day) but they thought I'd just memorized the books and was reciting them. Testing DOES come in handy.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 10, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

You did well, Trash. As long as the OPTION to advance is there, I'll be appeased. Plus you and M. are great parents, so I wasn't worried. And I'm proud of you for not listening to me. I'm VERY convincing... (Yikes, I think I just creeped myself out)

By Blogger Chao, at March 11, 2009 at 6:55 AM  

In re: low standards for starting kindergarten:

I just wanted to mention that in my reading about this (I'm not an educator, just a parent with a 3 year old son who missed the cut-off date to start kindergarten by two hours) it seems that kindergarten was initially conceived as sort of an introduction to school, and the academics were very not-rigorous. It was really more about the social element, the "now we sit in a circle and listen to a story" behavior, how to line up and walk somewhere, etc. Now kindergarten covers more ground that used to be reserved for first grade. Of course, this could vary by state. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm sort of surprised (and pleased) that the academic bar for kindergarten is not so high. Kids have a lot of adjusting to do when they start school, and high academic expectations can sort of skew the whole thing.

By Blogger AngieNCSC, at March 15, 2009 at 5:50 PM  

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