SIXTY-SEVEN

THE GIRL REPEATED kindergarten.  It's true.  We did it twice.  She is a late August birthday, and so turned five a few days after starting Kinder the first time.  She did fine.  She went to school, held her pencil the right way and listened to her teacher, but at the end of the year she couldn't read.  The same child who started talking at 9 months, couldn't read after a year spent in a tiny kinder classroom.  Her principal at the time told me not to worry about it, and went ahead and put her in the first grade.  I had a feeling in my gut, though.  I knew that it was a problem.  It wasn't the first time that my gut had diverged from her principal's advice.  She had faced some pretty tough social days on the playground -- girls who teased her until she cried.  

The downside of private schools are that sometimes classes can be very small.  You are in a room with the same kids year after year, and people get squished into very specific roles - smart kid, slow kid, noisy kid, crybaby, bossy -- there aren't enough "new" kids to mix things up.  I could see her future - year after year after year.

The Husband and I did something radical.  We pulled her out of private school, and registered her at her local public school, putting her back into Kindergarten.  It was the smartest thing we ever did.  She ended up in the SWEETEST teacher's class which was just what she needed.  After a year of being teased, the sweetness of her new teacher gave her little soul a chance to recover.  It took her awhile to adjust but when she did, she was happier and so much more relaxed.

I wish I could tell you that reading then became a breeze.  It didn't.  The Girl reads really well now, but it wasn't any easy road.  Now, we are working on numbers.  The Girl struggles in school, but she has determination and grit, and sometimes I think that is so much more important than a beautiful row of A's.  One of her biggest struggles is that tests make her feel really anxious.  It is a strange thing when you know you have a super intelligent but it doesn't seem to be evident in her school work.  We are VERY fortunate because she has always had great teachers, who recognize that she is very smart even if her test scores don't show it.  They encourage her, and recognize her for her talents.  Last year she won an art award, and she does very well in her reading class now.  Another great thing that has come out of all this is that she has learned to manage her test anxiety through mindfulness.  It has really helped her.

I was walking to the teacher's lounge during her lunch today, and I saw her on the playground.  She was skipping like a pony with her two best friends.  They like to draw together during recess.  They usually draw pictures of  ponies.  It is amazing to think that if I hadn't listened to my gut, she would be in middle school right now.  I highly doubt her skipping around like a pony would happen and if it did, she would probably teased all over again.  Although she is the tallest girl in her class, she fits right in with her friends.  

Next year, she will be in middle school and out of my school day line of sight.  I worry about it.  Although, she is more prepared for middle school than most; our school is departmentalized which means starting in 4th grade, students have a separate math, reading and STEM (science) teacher.  She is used to going from classroom to classroom.  At least I know that going to different classes won't be new to her.  Knowing that she is moving on to middle school makes me long for the old days of K-8th grade schools.  If only.  

The only way to have a K-8 grade school experience is to attend a private school, and once you get the price issue out of the way, there is the issue of private schools not being able to meet the needs of students who have learning disabilities or special needs.  It isn't that private schools aren't great - they definitely can be, but if your child doesn't fit the traditional mold, they don't have the resources that the public school system has.  

I am amazed that The Girl is nearly old enough to be in middle school.  I don't know how that happened.  She is nearly as tall as me now, and no doubt will soon pass my sad little five foot three height.  She takes after her nearly six foot three father, and I am already jealous of her long legs.  She has grown so much, not just physically, but she has grown emotionally.  She is brave, bold and joyful.

Sometimes you have to go in the opposite direction that you expected.  You have to do things that people around you might even questions.  You have to listen to your gut.  You are smarter than you think.

--Jen