By Molly Isaacs-McLeod.
All around the country, parents have received or are eagerly awaiting envelopes from schools (public, independent, and parochial) that will contain information about their child’s options for kindergarten. Some parents—who now have older children and are thinking about college acceptances, available slots in magnet programs, waitlists, etc. —will certainly recall what it was like to have a young child who was “different” and the worry and concern that went into that K placement decision. Many probably have good advice that would begin with “If I knew then what I know now, I would … .” I, for one, encourage these parents to share their pearls of wisdom on our SENG Facebook page. Until they reply, here are some things to consider as your child transitions from either home or a preschool setting to kindergarten.
Find out what the scope and sequence is for kindergarten in your state or district. If you find that your child meets or exceeds the benchmarks or is already demonstrating many of the skills listed on a “by the end of this year, students should” list, then you will want to continue with your preliminary work.
Investigate services for young, primary gifted students in your district. Specifically, you will want to find out if such services are available and what criteria are used to determine eligibility for those services.
At some point during the preliminary work, you might consider seeking an independent evaluation by a psychologist who has experience with gifted children to better determine where your child is in regard to achievement and IQ. The testing provided by schools at the early stages tends to be more conducive to ferreting out deficits rather than identifying strengths.
If you determine the kindergarten program will not adequately academically challenge your child, there are several options to consider.
You might consider approaching the teacher. It can be helpful to have some idea as to the teacher’s position on giftedness in general and early identification specifically. This is when having connections with other gifted families in your geographical area can be helpful. On the positive side, the teacher may be very receptive and willing to work with you. On the negative side, you may be labeled as “that” parent. Be sure to approach the teacher with respect and caution.
You might see if there are other K programs in your area that might better meet your child’s needs. If you find something, see if it is possible for your child to attend kindergarten in that setting.
If your child is markedly ahead, combining some homeschooling with a half-day kindergarten class might be helpful. There are many things children learn in K that have little to do with academics but can be good to know, including responding to adults other than parents, taking turns, and knowing the “drill” of the classroom rhythm. Some children are very social and want to be with “friends.” Providing academic support for a child in K is not as time consuming as one might think when done one on one.
You might consider forming a co-op for K. In this scenario two or more families form a K class. Parents can teach, or the families can pool their resources to pay someone to teach. Again, the number of hours for ample instruction will not be as high as the typical school day. You want to consider how much of the day you need for instruction and whether, in addition, you (or the other families) will need childcare.
Homeschooling is another possibility to consider. The resources for families choosing to homeschool are tremendous today thanks to the Internet and the exponentially increasing number of homeschooling families. Homeschooling allows you to tailor curriculum to the needs and interests of your individual child. It also requires that you have the requisite time and resources necessary to provide your child with learning opportunities.
Things to keep in mind as you move forward
While you want to provide consistency and stability for your child, your K decision is not etched in stone. You are free to change schools, request accommodations, and make alternate plans.
Despite the very real pressure you as a caring parent may feel to make the “right” choice, your choice of kindergarten is unlikely to determine what university your child attends or what profession he selects. Please do not take this to mean that K is unimportant or that your decision does not need to be thoughtful. K may be your child’s first experience with school or a school-like setting. The experience can impact how your child feels about school, now and moving forward.
Go with your gut. At this stage no one knows your child as well as you, her parent, does. If, after trying to be a bit objective, a situation does not feel right to you, investigate other possibilities.
Listen to your child. Yes, as a parent you are the ultimate decision maker. However, it is important to listen to what your K student is telling you about his experience in the classroom, with teachers, and with classmates.
Advocate for your child. I hear many parents raise concerns about being “that” parent. Guess what? Sometimes it is your job and is in the best interest of your child to be “that” parent. Don’t be afraid to do it when necessary!