Friday, September 02, 2011

Asher is in kindergarten!

Isn't his little uniform so cute?! Just wait til you see the sweater for when it gets colder.  The older boys wear orange neckties.  SO adorable!

Hugging Sayer before his first day.  Look at these 3 sweet boys!

His backpack is so ginormous

Cute Sayer.  He wanted to be starting his preschool so badly.  Soon little buddy.

My handsome little dude.  He is such an awesome little kid.  I love him!

I don't really know where to begin with this post.  I'm warning you now that this will be a long one.  I have been thinking about this stuff for months now, and now it's all gonna come pouring out. :)  

Asher started kindergarten 2 and a half weeks ago, and since then, I feel like I have gone through a million different emotions.  Ok, so even before he came close to starting, I was having lots of emotions. :)  

I actually have pretty strong opinions when it comes to kindergarten, especially for boys, so it is pretty shocking to me that we are doing pretty much the opposite of what I was hoping to do for Asher... I initially wanted to wait until he was 6 to put him in, because he has a later birthday and I have read a lot about boys struggling with the accelerated curriculum in kindergarten, which in turn can lead to them having a negative school experience.  I read a book called Nurture Shock that talks a lot about this one program called Tools of the Mind that is a very successful play-based preschool and kindergarten curriculum, and I became a little obsessed with this idea.  I think because it seemed like Asher would fit into it a lot better.  He is a very active, curious little boy, and I just couldn't imagine him in a more traditional school setting, learning to read and write, etc.  He has never been interested in that until this last summer.  Every time I would try to sit with him and sound out letters or learn to write letters, he didn't want to do it, so I didn't want to force it.  

So there are a few reasons why we are not doing what I wanted to do.  First of all, in New York, they do not let you hold your kids back, unless there is a serious delay.  The cut-off date is December 31st, so you have a lot of younger kids in the classes.  The only way to get around this is private schools.  Not an option. So not only are you not allowed to hold the kids back, but kindergarten in NYC is all day.  As in 9-3 or something similar to that.  This has always been a huge issue for me, and really, still is.

Secondly, as we got closer to the end of his preschool, and the beginning of kindergarten, I started to feel like he was ready.  His little mind is like a sponge right now.  I swear, he remembers everything he hears and is constantly asking questions and wanting to understand things better.  He was also starting to show an interest in learning to read and write.  I just felt like it would be best to start him in kindergarten while he is passionate about learning, and hopefully, he will have a good experience that will allow him to keep his passion and curiosity going.  Him and I also seemed to be at a point where we were constantly against each other.  He was fighting me on everything, and I really felt like it would be a good thing for us to have some separation. On top of that, I feel like it is Sayer's turn to get some more mommy attention.  I feel like I don't know Sayer as well, and part of that is because he hasn't really figured himself out because he always just follows Asher.  It will be so good for him to become his own person without Asher.

So all that was left to do was pick a school for Asher.  Sounds simple, right? Ha!  So. many. choices.  The school system in Manhattan is ridiculous.  Aside from all the choices, you have all the parents telling you what to do and what not to do.  People get pretty snobby about where you send your kids to school, and it is very easy to get caught up in it all.  For some reason, unless it's a gifted and talented program, people have huge issues with just the regular old public schools here. Well gifted and talented was not an option for us, and we didn't want to do a school that was far away, so we just went with our neighborhood schools which we were pretty ok with.  He got into both of them and I was all prepared to send him to one of them, when we decided last minute to enter the lottery for the Harlem Success Academy, which is a nationally ranked charter school.  If you have seen Waiting for Superman or The Lottery, it is talked about in those films.  I had very mixed feelings about this as it is very intense, and goes against everything I believed kids should experience in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be relaxed and fun, mostly play, not a lot of homework.  But this program is very intense.  First of all, it goes from 7:45 am to 4:00 pm.  Ahhh!  Crazy, right?!  For a 5 year old!  Homework every night.  Huge parental expectations.  Very rigorous academically... they are supposed to be reading by January and then reading at a level 5 (whatever that means) by the end of the school year.  Very strict discipline system, lots of structure.  It was very intimidating for me, let a lone a 5 year old.  But on the other hand, they do a science experiment in kindergarten everyday.  Asher loves science! The teachers are supposedly amazing.  Some part of me felt like the structure would be good for Asher.  It is also supposed to be a fun learning environment. So it wasn't all bad.  We were put on the wait list, and watched throughout the summer as it seemed more and more likely that he would get in.  And then he got in.  Both Nate and I went back and forth about whether or not this would be the right choice for Asher, but we eventually felt like it would be a good thing to at least try, and if it didn't work out, we could just pull him and figure something else out.

Well, the first week and a half were half days, which was really nice.  He was all smiles after the few days.  Then one day he had a bad day.  I think he got a lot of check marks (part of their discipline system) and it seemed like he was discouraged and felt sad about it.  He seemed defeated.  He told me on the walk home that he missed his preschool teacher Kathryn because she didn't have a lot of rules.  Gah! It was pretty heart wrenching.  Nate and I talked a lot that night about how maybe it was too much for him.  But we definitely felt like we needed to give it a little more time.  I mean, he has to learn how to be in a classroom setting no matter what school he goes to.  They are going to have rules everywhere, so he might as well get used to it.  The next day he clung to my leg at the entrance to the school (SO not like Asher).  He cried and said he wanted to stay with me.  It took about 15 minutes before he finally let go and walked in.  I watched him walk up the stairs (we are not allowed to go with them) with his huge backpack on, and as soon as he was around the corner, I walked away fighting to hold the tears back.  I wanted to pull him out right then and there.  I thought about him and worried about him all day.  Nate even took part of the day off to take Sayer and Bart so that I could go pick him up alone and spend some special time with him.  I was all prepared for the worst.  When I went to pick him up, he was happy as can be.  He had had a great day and couldn't stop talking about science and how he had stayed on green (another part of the discipline system) all day.  My heart was light again.  It was amazing.  I realized that I needed to give him more credit.  Kids are so resilient and I think can handle so much more than we think they can.  It has only gone up from there.  

Since then, he has started full days, and aside from me feeling like we don't have nearly enough time for everything in the evenings, he has been doing so great. Thriving actually.  I realize that it is only 2 and a half weeks in, but I cannot believe what a difference I've seen in him already.  It feels like he understands that he is now a big FIVE year old, and in KINDERGARTEN, and he is stepping it up.  He comes home and tells me and Nate all about his day, and sings songs that he has learned, and tells me what Mrs. Kyle and Ms. Reid say, and how he "got only one check mark, but fixed it straightaway" and beams when he tells me he "was on green ALL day!".  He is so proud of himself and his accomplishments so far, and not once has he complained about doing homework.  He actually likes it.  I have been completely amazed.  I realize that this can all change at any point, especially once the novelty of it all wears off, but I just keep hoping and praying that he continues to love it and excel.  I do still feel bad that his days are so long, and he doesn't seem to have near enough down time, but he is being a champ about it all.  It is such a weird thing to have him gone all day... he is off being his own person.  I know he absolutely loves that aspect of it, but that is what is hard for me.  He just seems too little to be on his own without me for such a long time.  I should probably feel bad that he doesn't seem to "need" me, but it makes me feel so much better knowing that he is having fun in school, instead of pining away for his mama.

Anyway... thanks to all of you that have made it to the end of this post.  I really just needed to get all of my thoughts down before I forgot them all.  I will have to get some pictures of his teachers soon.  They are both so cute and amazing with the kids.  I cannot imagine a harder job than being a kindergarten teacher and having to be "on" for such a long day.  Major props to them.


Alys said...

Thanks to my night feedings, I made it through the post. Got to multi-task. :)
I think it is awesome you put Asher in a charter school. I still have a few years to figure out the school thing. Sometimes I feel like I should home school with both degrees being in elementary education. Then other times I think I can find something I like. Charter schools provide parents with more options, which I like.
But, I can't believe they have all day K no matter what. It was hard for the 1st graders when I taught to be with it for a full day. But, I suppose it is what they get used to. In the end I think it really comes down to the teacher. I have taught with a lot of wonderful teachers and some not so great ones, the ones I would NEVER want my kids to be with. If they are making Kindergarten fun (which it should be 100% fun) then I think Asher will have a good experience. We all have our ups and downs and kids do too. The behavior systems are harder for some kids, but if they know the teachers stick to it the kids will learn they need to follow the rules. I think if he is doing well after the first few weeks then he will probably have a good year. I think I would have the harder time not having my little guy there with me. Anyway, goo luck with it. I look forward to hearing more about the school year (it's the teacher in me).

Kristin said...

Oh I'm totally there with you!!
Drake and Gwen just switched over to an accelerated learning school, and it's been tough.
They're coming from Montessori schools which are sooo different! Drake came home from his first day of all day kindergarden and pouted about how he didn't even get a nap! And no snacks! :( They're also adjusting to homework everyday, and we also are having a hard time getting everything done plus dinner and baths, etc.
Ughhh, what happened to kids just going to the neighborhood schools with all their friends, and parents didn't have to worry???

Heather said...

We went through a decision process over here too. It is so stressful and I still worry about if it was the right thing? we held Lucy back, she is august 5th I think the same bday right ? Well we plan on moving next year and upnthere she wouldn't have made the cutt off. I think having her start a new school with kids her age will hopefully be the best choose. we have her in preschool, technically a kindergarten class at a private church school. it is only mornings wich is nice and it works for now, Hopefully in the long run it will still be the best choice. it is so hard to know? Anyways good for you it's and Asher looks so cute in his uniform

mj said...

loved this post. leah is starting her FINAL year of preschool next tuesday and i had a meeting with her teachers/supervisors/aide/therapists last week. i agree with you that they deserve major props. it's a LOT of work. but leah thrives in that environment. they even want the kindergarten team to start meeting with them NOW so make her transition seamless. isn't that amazing!? and the teachers are all pushing for full day kindergarten next year (it's half day right now). aaaahhhhhhhhhh! so thanks for this post. i hope it continues to go well. i keep thinking about that time you came to visit me in my office at byu the week you gave birth to asher. can't believe that was 5 years ago.

HaileyBusath said...

aww this made me want to cry! Little Asher in kindergarten. Can't wait to see you guys!

Lisa Busath said...

I think he looks adorable with his enormous backpack and uniform! He is such a bright and precocious kid, I knew he would do well. He he is in the right place at the right time.

Lauren said...

waiting for superman is an incredibly eye-opening film. loved it.

so happy you're having a positive experience with Asher - I love how you said, "he's off being his own person" - so true.

Amanda said...

I LOVED this post. thanks for sharing. You are an amazing mom. and person. :)