And he’s off…

Today was the day. Corin got up to his alarm and followed his schedule, just like we’ve been practicing, only this time, it was for real.

Monday, he went in for his kindergarten evaluation, and last night at 5:30, he got a recorded call from Miss Davis, letting us know she would be his new teacher.

He listened to the message about 10 times and has radiated excitement ever since. For those of you who know what this summer has been like around here, you’ll know this was good news. Corin has been very apprehensive about the approaching school year. I was pretty sure he’d be fine once school actually started, but his anxiety had me a little worried about how he would navigate the change.

It’s so like him that the summer was high drama, but the actual start of kindergarten was smooth as butter. He dressed himself and ate a little less breakfast than usual while repeating, “I’m ready to go to school. I can’t wait!” He let me take pictures without protest. When we arrived at his classroom, he walked in with almost no hesitation, struck up a conversation with his new teacher (whom he had apparently already chatted up during evaluation), went with her to find his seat, and settled right down to the first project of the day: drawing a picture of himself on his first day of kindergarten. I got a couple of big good-bye hugs, and then he went right back to his work.

What were you worried about, mom? Easy-peasy. I was so proud and relieved, I didn’t shed a single tear. (I might have shed a few as I made his lunch last night, but that’s between me and the peanut butter and banana sandwich.)

He came home from his half-day looking a little tired but reporting a good day. He’s home tomorrow, another half day on Friday, and then Monday begins the full schedule – and his first time riding the bus.

And so my firstborn begins his honest-to-goodness school career. So far, so good.

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K minus one month

In just over a month, my oldest will head off to his first day of kindergarten. This proves denial is not working, so I’ve decided to embrace looming reality. For this reason, we are currently making a picture schedule for Corin’s school morning routine. This will hopefully take the currently unachievable goal of being ready to leave the house by 8 a.m. and make it a calm and effortless daily reality. Stop laughing. This needs to work.

My dad called this morning as we were shopping for paper and magnets to make this magic picture schedule. He was subjected to a constant stream of asides: “No, Corin, we’re not buying a 1,000 piece puzzle. Because it’s too many pieces for you. Why don’t you choose a 300 piece one? No, you don’t like any of those? Okay. We’ll go without. Please stop whining that you want a puzzle. No, we’re not buying minion flip-flops. Do you have the money for them? No? Neither do I.” (Can someone tell me why they need to carry minion footwear at the Jo-Ann register?) My dad seemed wildly entertained. I was not.

On the plus side, we’ve been checking out lots of early reader books at the library, and Corin is doing great with them. Teaching an almost-kindergartner to read is reminding me how terrible English is at following its own rules. “The silent e at the end makes the vowel say its name, except, you know, when it doesn’t.”

Lina has also fallen in love with books. When she was very little, I worried her short attention span would mean we’d have a hard time reading books, but I guess persistence has paid off. She will gladly bring you a book to read, and she spends hours every day flipping through pages on her own. She can be rough – I’ve taped more pages back together in the past few months than I ever have with Corin – but I figure it’s a small price to pay for a bookworm.

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(Full disclosure: Corin had already read the book in this video at least once. The first time through was much slower. Also, the dog’s scratching is super annoying. Sorry.)

Sneaking a peek

Today was Kindergarten Sneak-a-Peek at the local school where Corin will be attending come August. The parents and upcoming kindergartners met at a nearby park and boarded a bus for the ride to the school, where we heard from the principal and teachers and a handful of current kindergartners and then toured the classrooms, art room, library and gym.

Corin was SO excited. He asked about Sneak-a-Peek for weeks, and he was nearly beside himself by this morning. I wondered if he might get overwhelmed with so many people and so much to take in, but he did great. He was really pretty confident and self-assured, and he loved every minute of the event. Jon was able to go with us, and Lina enjoyed herself, too, so it was a win for everyone. I will say that one of us is looking forward to August more than the rest…

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School decisions in Reality Land

Things are getting all kinds of real around here.

Today, I pre-registered Corin for kindergarten at our local public school. (He now has a nap mat and official Scales Elementary canvas bag!) I also met with Lina’s TEIS (TN Early Intervention Services) coordinator for her six month review, in which we updated her therapy goals and discussed her transition to the public school system in September. (Kids under three who qualify for special ed receive therapies through the state early intervention system and then transition to the local school district on their third birthdays.)

I’m thankful to still have five months to prepare for the fall; it’s going to be something. In August, I will be putting my firstborn on the bus for his first taste of full-time school (and the first taste of public school for all of us – but that’s a different subject). A few weeks later, I will begin driving Lina nearly 20 minutes one-way for a four day/week, three hour/day preschool. In addition to her highly-qualified teacher, she will have speech, physical and occupational therapists in the classroom all day. Her class will be 50 percent special education preschoolers and 50 percent “peer models” (typically developing kids her age).

This may not sound like a big deal to a lot of parents, but to this “let little kids run free and learn by reading cereal boxes and digging in the dirt” mom, it really is. My instinct for as long as we’ve been thinking about the subject has been that the ideal early education for very young kids happens mostly in an unstructured home environment, with educated and engaged parents. I’ve read some pretty solid research along those lines, particularly related to the key role of play in early learning. I have concerns about increasing academic pressure on kindergartners, who are still at an age when a highly-structured environment can backfire.

But life is life, and we don’t dwell in the ideal. We live in our own complicated reality, as does every other family on the planet. We don’t make decisions based only on research and ideology; we make them based on our unique kids and our specific life circumstances.

That’s why my kids have been in a Mother’s Day Out program. It’s how two church school-educated parents moved to the other end of town, to a painfully expensive housing market, to access the best public schools in the region. It’s how a “less structure is better” mom is enrolling her five-year-old in a public kindergarten and her three-year-old in a four-day-a-week preschool. Jon and I have spent a lot of time wrestling with competing needs and priorities. We’re working to find the right balance of what’s best for the entire family. We’ve prayed a lot, researched a lot, talked a lot to other parents and therapists, and this is where we’ve landed. I am (mostly) at peace.

Just don’t ask me about it as I’m putting Corin on the bus in August or dropping Lina off at her classroom in September.

And, just for kicks, I will leave you with this gem of Corin dressed for Dr. Seuss day at pre-K. (That would be my belt as a tail and a hat I stapled and glued together this morning, between packing his lunch and combing his hair for school pictures.)

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