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Monday, March 02, 2009  

Trash Talking Two

Trash continues the story she began last week.

We weren't there to discuss early admission, nor were we interested in it, so we were a little surprised. I this I suggested she had the wrong file, but she confirmed that she meant M. Edium. She explained that she was observing him, and while he still had to go through parts two and three of the screening, she could say with confidence that he is ready and able to start in the fall. I then pointed to our child, ensuring we were discussing the same child who was attempting to figure out how to steal a toy car from another child without getting in trouble, shooting furtive glances our way to see if we were watching. The evaluator confirmed she meant our child, and pulled out a pamphlet asking "Is your child ready for kindergarten?" It had several lists of skills your child should be able to master, and instead of convincing me that M. Edium is ready for school it convinced me that they don't ask for much from the average child entering the city's kindergarten program. Can identify at least three numbers? Really? Not write them or spell them or even count them, but identify them?

I explained again that M. Edium misses the birthday cut-off for the coming fall and besides, he is a boy. Doesn't the district usually recommend that boys might need to wait another year even if their birthday is in the summer? She agreed, but said it wasn't the case with M. Edium. He was articulate (well, sure, if you want to discuss NASA or WALL-E or which dinosaurs ate which other dinosaurs) and played well with other kids (ummm….) and was emotionally ready. I think I snorted. At this point M. Edium had lost interest in the car and had moved to another table, insinuated himself between a young girl and her mother, and was Eddie Haskell-ing his way into getting to take the girl's blocks.

M. Giant jumped in and stressed that M. Edium's birthday was supposed to be the end of November/start of December, so he didn't really qualify for early enrollment. She was unimpressed with this logic and stated she would have given him an exception anyway. Note, she has thus far spent a grand total of 15 MINUTES observing the boy, talked to him for maybe five minutes, but she can just tell. I think this was when I asked if she said this to all the parents to make them feel better, but she immediately pulled out pamphlet after pamphlet discussing why the district wouldn't take your child early, and said that they almost always discourage people from even trying since most kids fail so miserably when they start kindergarten too early. Reassuring.

I should take a moment to explain something about our parenting philosophy, which is that every child – yes, EVERY child - will decide which areas of life interest them, and given encouragement and support will excel in those areas. They might be an amazing artist who at five can draw a beautiful picture that is identifiable to anyone as a dog or a tree, not just their parents. Or perhaps they have a way with spatial reasoning, and can build massive towers out of blocks and paper and cats. Maybe they are mechanically inclined or love to read or can tell jokes (and actually understand timing and punchlines) or maybe they can get along with everyone and can HAPPILY share their toys. Or maybe they have an unreal fascination with all things science and can tell you the first five astronauts in space and every character in WALL-E and ask for a microscope for Christmas and will TALK FOR HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS about the space program until their parents are ready to strap them into a real space shuttle and send them off for a week. Ahem. So while M. Edium is very articulate and outgoing, he can't start the DVD player, hates using the computer mouse, and refuses to dress himself. We don't want to appear as though we don't believe he is the BEST. CHILD. EVER. because, obviously. We are so very proud of all he can do. We also know his limitations and acknowledge that he is FOUR years old.

In any case, we explained that we really weren't all that interested in starting school in the fall, because we wanted to make sure he was fully ready when he started, because even if he can play well with others (M. Edium was now sitting in the little girl's chair, next to her mom, and her mom was reading to him. I would say reading to them, but the girl had wandered off to play with someone else. Right – plays well with others.) and can count above 2 and thus is prepared academically, we wanted to make sure he was fully ready. And that's when she explained that it would be fine, because HE IS TALL. Yes, apparently the road to early admissions is paved with the bodies of those who are brilliant and socially confident, but sadly too short. We have a friend who once applied for a job working with a private eye. He had all of the qualifications, it seemed like a great job, but the last line in the ad stated "Must have own van. No exceptions." I understand that maybe the PI wanted to make sure the associate could drop everything for a stake-out, but the requirement made the job seem less shiny somehow. The height comment did much the same for us.

Our discussion continued for some time, with the Giant family arguing against the early placement (well, two of the Giant family. The third member had abandoned the book and the mom and was trying to figure out how to scale the back bookshelf) and an increasingly surprised and somewhat irritated case worker arguing for it. I think she recommends early placement so rarely that she expected us to be ecstatic and flattered, rather than obstinate and a bit put-out. At this point she authorized M. Edium to go into the back room to be tested. She signed us up for a school choice fair happening in January and said that if he tested as highly as she thought he would, they would send the results to our local school, which has an incredible school ranking and would probably be one of the two choices we will consider when he does start school. She then left us alone to stew with the booklets and the paperwork and the list of acceptable schools for early admission for high potential kids.

Except I didn't believe her. I mean, I didn't believe that she didn't say it to every parent, so I sort-of stalked her around the room as she met with the other parents. After all, we were supposed to just sit there for the next 45 minutes while they tested M. Edium, and I hadn't brought a book. What else was I supposed to do. I was a little surprised to see that not only did she not encourage the other parents to try early admission, but she argued against it and flat-out refused one parent. I had to admit that I might have been hasty in my assumption that she was trying to boost numbers for the school district. I still didn't agree with her, though.

In fairness to her, she was a very nice person who probably thought she was giving us a great compliment. She had worked as an early education teacher for years, and before that as a teacher throughout the elementary system. None of that mattered, of course, because now we were irritated. We didn't want to attend any school choice fairs or additional testing or meet with principals of schools. We want to leave him in his current school for another year and THEN worry. We comforted ourselves in the thought that he might fail the pre-screening and it wouldn't matter anyway. We could shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well, thanks anyway" and they would leave us alone. Of course, that didn't happen.

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posted by M. Giant 7:07 AM 12 comments

12 Comments:

That's funny about the height thing...

I have a late summer birthday and started school in my "appropiate" year, but was generally the youngest in my grade. My parents knew I was ready for school, but the private school they were putting me in encouraged them to hold me back a year because I was so small.

Guess what? 25 years later and I am still short. Maybe if my parents held me back a year I'd be tall? Pffft...whatever

By Anonymous nicole, at March 2, 2009 at 10:48 AM  

Trash is funny! I thought M. Giant might be the only one in the family who could write, yet I am enjoying Trash's description of your school decision. You guys are both so talented.

By Anonymous Emily, at March 2, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

Many parents would jump on the "early admission" thing - I'm glad you two are giving it more thought. Being ready socially is just as important as being ready intellectually. My parents had to fight to get me into kindergarten at 5 because although the school agreed I was more than ready socially and intellectually, they thought since I was not yet 3 feet tall I should stay back a year. Yeah. That makes total sense (I started at 5 and remained short throughout school. It made very little difference.)

I think your little fella is probably a genius, but preschool seems to be working pretty darn well for him right now and why mess with a good thing?

In some ways, your son sounds a lot like a child with Asperger's Syndrome. I'm NOT saying he has it, not at all, but that he has some traits. An early and intense interest in a particular subject, high verbal skills, and relating better to adults than to other children are extremely common in Asperger's. Clearly there are many other aspects to Asperger's and he probably doesn't have any of those. If he's happy and you are happy, then everything's cool.

By Blogger Bunny, at March 3, 2009 at 8:33 AM  

He is a delightful, chatty, friendly little boy. I'm sure he will be fine, but good for you, as always, for being in his corner.

By Blogger Linda, at March 3, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

My boyfriend's son was tested recently for gifted kindergarten, and based on the practice tests...I have to agree that the bar is set kind of shockingly low (at least, out here). MBS cruised through the material, and he's certainly bright, but I don't quite know how they would even get that from those tests, which seemed designed primarily to weed out children with vision problems.

By Blogger Sarah D. Bunting, at March 3, 2009 at 12:33 PM  

Just to play devil's advocate, is there any evidence showing that NOT starting a child early (when they're obviously ready), might hold him back and make him as daft as most of the students today? I'm just saying if he gets bored next year because his mind isn't being challenged enough, then that's a bad way to begin his elementary school career. (I sound like that scene from Uncle Buck now.)

You know where I stand on it, as someone who skipped kindergarten all together...

By Blogger Chao, at March 4, 2009 at 7:45 AM  

My son is also a Fall baby ( hes 5) & the best advice I got was from parents of older kids. The thirteen year old boy who said " I wish you'd held me back" is what did it for me. It's not so much the academics, it's the social stuff that hits much younger than it used to.

Loving M Giants Recaps! Big Love misses you, you sure you don't want five? ;^)
-Honeycocoa

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 4, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

My parents had the chance to skip me from 3yr pre-K into kindergarten midyear (I found this out much, much later). The teacher in pre-K said there was nothing left I could learn in pre-K - 3 or 4 yr. old.

My parents refused, knowing that I was overall a shy kid, and that while I may have been ready academically, I was no where near ready socially. When I understood what all that meant, I thanked them profusely.

You know what is right for your kid. Go with your instict.

By Blogger Sheryl, at March 4, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

@Bunny: I have training in, among other things, identifying Aspberger's; I've met M.Edium in person many times; and rest assured, he ain't got it. He's just very much wonderfully weird.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at March 5, 2009 at 7:38 PM  

@Feb: Thanks. I thought that was probably the case, but just wanted to throw that out. I'm so glad he's just a wonderful, if weird, incredibly curious and intellectual kid. Go M.Edium!

By Blogger Bunny, at March 6, 2009 at 1:24 PM  

If you guys haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers (the guy who wrote The Tipping Point and Blink), there's a section in there about how kids born just a few months earlier in a hockey league will have a much higher chance to excel because they will be slightly better than kids a tad smaller/younger and then because of that, get additional coaching, get on a better team/section of the league next year, get even better coaching yet, etc. The same thing works in schools- the kids who can sit still longer learn more, so kids that are the older ones in class learn more at the beginning and get ahead more and more each year. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but it was interesting to read about and makes me think that holding a kid back might be a better choice. Then again, I was always bored as heck in school and I was even one of the younger ones in my class.

By Blogger Auburn Tiger, at March 10, 2009 at 3:49 PM  

Identify 3 numbers? Wow, that bar is low. By that standard, by 2 1/2-year-old should go to kindergarten.

By Anonymous Julie, at March 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM  

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