I went to a lecture the other night about kindergarten readiness. It was a panel consisting of two local kindergarten teachers (public school), one teacher from a private school, and one teacher from a "5's" class-a public school class for 5-year-olds who were beyond preschool but not emotionally ready for kindergarten. The room was packed with parents, and the question on everyone's mind was: how do I know if my child is ready for kindergarten?
My older daughter Lucy is still nearly two years away from this transition (she's 3 ½), and I know that when the time comes, she'll be just fine. She's quick, and extremely smart, follows directions, speaks up for herself, and gets along well with other kids. I'm confident that she'll do well in whatever school environment we choose for her. But what I'm not confident in (I'm sorry to say) is the public school that she's assigned to in our neighborhood. I've heard rumors of overcrowding (up to 29 kids in a kindergarten class, which is huge), and that scares me to death. As much as she's self-sufficient, I still don't want her to be lost in the crowd.
As the question and answer session began, it became clear that this was the concern among many other parents as well. If a mom was concerned about her shy son, she asked if he would get enough attention in the classroom. If a father was concerned about his gifted daughter, he wondered if she would get enough stimulation in a classroom that was stuffed to the brim. The private school teacher was the only one who seemed to offer invariable hope to all of our questions, but her school costs $10,000 a year (for kindergarten!).
The phrase that stuck with me long after the night was over came from one of the public school teachers. She said, "If you're concerned whether your child is ready for kindergarten, there's your answer." What she meant was that if you're questioning your child's readiness, you might want to seriously consider holding off on kindergarten. My gut tells me that Lucy will be completely ready for kindergarten. But will the public kindergarten down the street be ready for my daughter?
I wish that we lived in a society where I didn't have to worry about overcrowded public schools. But it's the reality, and Lucy and I will just have to deal with it the best we can. Toward the end of the evening, a parent asked what they could do to ensure their child has a positive experience, despite all the challenges schools are facing. A teacher answered, "Be their advocate. Be in the classroom. Talk to the principal. Get to know everyone in the school." It's good advice, I think. And you can bet that I'll be there (maybe more than they want me to be), making sure my daughter gets what she needs.
Do you think your child will be ready for kindergarten? Or if they've already been through kindergarten, how did they do?