Friday, February 27, 2009

reconsidering



Remember when I talked a couple of weeks ago about Cal being young for his class and a little on the shy end of things and how we were considering retaining him with his current teachers to allow him to grow and become more confident and la la la everything lovely? Well, Joe and I are starting to rethink this. Not because anything has really changed--Cal still is who he is, that being a kid who is essentially cautious and slow to warm up to new things and perhaps a little on the cerebral side (though, I hope, not in a maladaptive way). We're just worried that if he repeats a year in the same classroom again, he's going to be bored as shit.

I mean, look, he's three, academics can take a backseat. But they do do some academic-type stuff in his nursery school class. They write letters and words and read books and learn songs and talk about rhymes and what letter does DOG start with, blah blah blah. And Cal knows that stuff already. He knows that R is for Robot and Ring and Ramp and...whatever, pick your favorite R word. (He has some trouble understanding that C is both for Car and Cereal, but join the club, kid, that barely makes sense to me, and I'm old.) He can tell you that Cat rhymes with Mat and Bat and Fat. As for writing letters and stuff--well, the funny thing is--OK, remember when I was all confused because his teachers insisted that he was left handed, whereas every observation I had of Cal where I had enough wherewithal to take notice of such things, he writes with his right hand? Well, when I went in for that parent teacher conference, they were showing me some of Cal's work, among which was a full sheet of paper on which Cal had written out the alphabet very neatly and legibly. "Oh yeah, that reminds me," I broke in, "what was that thing about him being left-hand dominant? Because so far as his dad and I can see, he writes with his right hand. Like this whole page of letters, he wrote with his right hand, right?"

The head teacher looked confused. "Actually, he did all this writing with his left hand. I took special note. That's why I put that in his report." They had no idea that at home, he was writing with his right hand equally well. My point not being OH MY GOD MY KID IS AMBIDEXTROUS, GET HIM IN A SURGICAL SIMULATOR NOW, rather that there is a big program in the nursery school called "Handwriting Without Tears," wherein they spend basically the entire year learning to write their letters in various multidisciplinary and multisensory ways. So does Cal really need to spend a whole additional year doing letter drills when he can already write the entire alphabet using EITHER HAND? Probably not. Again, it's true, we didn't send him to school for the academics, we sent him to school for the social component. However, since they're doing academic stuff anyway, aren't we obligated to keep him at least somewhat challenged?

The other thing is: Cal's school runs this summer camp-type thing that runs from June through August. It costs a couple of pesos, but what to do, he has to do something, otherwise he'd be so bored sitting around all day (see also: the Christmas Break that would not end) that he would kill us and we would kill him and everyone would be killed and oh, the humanity. Though this summer program runs out of the school, I presume he will have different teachers than he has during the year. The goal of keeping him in the same class next year was so that he would have the same routine and the same teachers, but what, we're going to send him to the summer program, get him used to a new routine with new people anyway, and then...send him back to the same classroom he was in before? Does that make sense? Shouldn't we use the change that is "summer camp" (still at the same school, remember, same physical plant and facilities) as sort of a jumping-off point for transitioning to next year's classroom? I mean, if he will have already made an adjustment to summer camp, what's the point of holding him back?

Part of me worries that our inclination (mostly on the part of me and Joe, though who knows, maybe the teachers feel the same way--they weren't adamant about the retention by any means, just suggested with the idea that Cal might be more comfortable with things the second time around) is this notion now to want to protect our kids from everything. Protect them from ever experiencing difficulty, failure, protect them from having to negotiate tricky situations or adapting to things with which they are not entirely confident. Sure, I want my kid to be happy and succeed, but I'm not convinced that retaining him in his current preschool class is going to have any bearing on that. I don't want to be the parent that wants to make everything PERFECT for my kid, and oh, he's a little younger than everyone else? A little shy, a little reserved? Keep him in the same class, let him be one of the oldest for once so he knows what it feels like to be ahead. I don't know if I want to be that kind of parent. I don't know if that's what's right for Cal. And I know that he's got a handle on the "curriculum" (such as it is) for his school year thus far, so would I actually be doing him a disservice by making him do it all over again, just so that he doesn't have to learn the routines of a new classroom and new teachers? I mean, in one sense, yes, let's give him the tools to be more confident and break out from his reserve...but in another sense, why not move him along and let him just cope? And sure, some things are going to be harder for him than for other kids, but isn't that just life? As a parent, you can't make everything easy for your kid, nor, would I argue, should you try to. I think life is challenging sometimes, and kids should learn that that's OK.

Anyway, the discussion goes on. We'll keep talking with Cal's teachers and we'll see what we end up doing. And thus ends another overly detailed episode of Nursery School Overanalysis. I'm your host, Michelle. Join us next week, as we explore the perverse and often baffling ritual known as "Circle Time."

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