We decided not to have Ali start kindergarten this year even though she turned 5 in June. This is largely based on the advice of the preschool she attended last year as we greatly value their expertise in this regard. Ali was adopted only 2 years ago and is therefore a little less mature than 5 year olds who have not spent 3 years in an orphanage. Also, English is her second language, so her communication skills are still getting caught up. However, this was a very difficult decision for us as parents considering that her cognitive abilities are age appropriate for 5 years old and her gross-motor skills, appearance/height and athletic abilities are advanced for her age (more like a 6 year old). So far my dear husband and I are confident with our decision to have her start kindergarten next year at age 6 and since she will most likely continue on the path of multi-age classes, it may be a non-issue over the long term, or perhaps she will have the opportunity to advance a grade in future years. As for right now, we feel like we are giving her an extra year of childhood, which can only be good considering how much she missed out on in the first 3 years.
Ali and Zen are going to a part time alternative education preschool this year and they are super excited to be in the same ‘class’ together. (Actually, there are no classrooms, it’s basically an indoor/outdoor play space). They are enrolled for 10.5 hours per week and we have the option to extend to 15 hours per week if they decide they want more time there. (We’re life-learning the rest of the time). It’s a play based school which is extremely respectful of children, practices non-violent communication, does not use rewards/punishments, and allows the children to truly follow their interests. Yippee! I feel like we definitely found the perfect fit for our family this time around. Last year they attended a Reggio Emilia preschool which had a more beautifully aesthetic environment and was also wonderfully respectful of children, but this new school is a better fit for a couple of major reasons:
- It’s more of a “yes” environment. As an example, Ali asked her teachers at the Reggio school last year if they could do face painting as a project. The answer was “no, that’s not what we have planned” (even though they told us that it was an emergent curriculum which would unfold according to the children’s interests). This year, Ali asked about face painting on Day 2 and came home with her face painted like a cheetah! I was beyond thrilled that the teachers really are taking the children’s interests seriously. Unfortunately, last year’s school said “no” A LOT. (No you can’t use that piece of driftwood as a tool, No you can’t run down the hill, No you can’t kick your legs against the rung of a chair at meeting time, No you can’t use any of the beautiful and elaborately displayed art supplies unless a teacher plans it in advance, No don’t put too much glitter oil pastels on your picture).
- The parents seem Way More Laid Back at the school this year. Phew! It took ages last year to get to know the parents and although most of them were nice, there were a lot of “good job!” type parents and ‘privileged private school’ type parents. We walked away with a handful of connections which we are happy about, but it wasn’t the sense of community we had hoped for. This year, mostly everyone we have met dresses casually, is very easy to talk to and have similar parenting styles. We are really hoping to make some great family friends.