Monday, May 30, 2016

Kindergarten Transition: A Dad's Perspective

Kindergarten Transitions: A Dad's Perspective
So here we are.

Both of the kids have hit their milestones, moving from ankle biters into full on window lickers. It's an unofficial graduation into life as the rest of us know it; the official graduation is Wednesday when our son says good bye to all of his preschool playmates and hello to his last summer break before real school begins.

Our daughter also has her last summer before school starts but for her it's into the land of preschool, into what was for my son.  Short days, short weeks, and even shorter kids, where snacks and hugs still reign supreme.

I like that place.

Our kids have and will attend a small community preschool attached to a church. It has good vibes.  It feels like a safe place even though the gate into the play area has seen better days and swings open when the wind blows. It has been a place of great experience for my son, soon to be for my daughter, and was/is/will be for my wife. (Honorable mentions here as my wife and her brother went there when they were children!)

It's a small piece of America that has in many ways restored some of my faith in human beings. The people there are genuine and kind hearted, the families are involved, and the cost is nothing compared to the gain my family has experienced. And in life there is no substitute for experience.  Especially good ones.

My wife and children have had a wonderful time growing together. Being the full time worker bee to the queen and her hive, my experience has been slightly disconnected, yet satisfying. They have had each other full time from the beginning in part because of me. I say this with all humility as I know in reality it's equal parts luck, grace, and skill on my end.

Our roles are clearly defined; we are mostly modeled after a 50's family without even meaning to be.  My wife's domain is the house and kids; my domain is the outside world and the kids. She does most of the cooking, as well as the stable work and I take care of the finances, cars, yard, etc.

Don't get the wrong impression here either...

My lady has a Masters Degree and her teaching credential. She is an accomplished woman who made a conscious choice to put her career aside and raise our babies (Gladiator, I salute you) and it's right for our family and seems to work well.  

We have a dog, a cat, enough room for a large garden, and 4 chickens.  We ride dirtbikes and grill on the weekends.  

It's the American dream come to life.  

Aside from Mr. Slate yelling, “Flintstone!” and always threatening to fire somebody, it's a damn good life.  

Have you bought in yet? Can you smell the flowers in the garden and the steak on the grill? It's sizzling and delicious and medium rare, usually topped with crispy onion straws, sautéed mushrooms and melted blue cheese.  Mmmmm...

Good beginnings and a true story, but it doesn't end here.  It begins here.

Like my wife, McKenzie, said the mood around education and starting kindergarten has changed.  The once upon a time is over and the storm on the horizon is heading our way. The 800 lb gorilla wants to wrestle and I'll be damned if I can't find a way around it.  Homeschooling isn't an option yet, no way can we afford private school, and the Montessori schools are all full. The missus still has far more faith in the government and humans than I do though. If it were up to me, we would move deep into the mountains, grow beards, and live like Hobbits.

Instead it's almost time to wrestle the growing incompetence and ever tightening budgets of the public school systems in California, Common Core in the country, and the growing trend to give everyone a participation trophy.

What’s your experience been like as your children face kindergarten? How is your child’s other parent involved in supporting your child’s educational careers, or if you’re a single parent, how do you handle it all?
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Riding off to kindergarten

Mom2MomEd Blog: Riding off to kindergarten
Several articles have come across my Facebook feed lately on surviving the end of the school year and the upcoming summer.  This year is particularly important for my family because my son is transitioning from preschool to Kindergarten! It's a huge milestone for us and brings along a ton of happiness but also anxiety for us.

I tend to be laid back on processes and adopt the attitude that what is meant to be will be. So when kindergarten open enrollment rolled around, I filled out my one allotted transfer form and just assumed that my son would get into our school of choice. After all, that seemed to be what most of my friends had experienced over the last few years. Of course he’d get in, right?

Queue real life: he didn't.

He ended up on a waiting list and we were told we'd be notified sometime between now and December if a spot opened up for us at our chosen school.  That's not  really the kind of plan I can wrap my head around.

I need to know now!  

After the shock and panic settled, I did my due diligence and toured schools, participated in all the parent interviews, and practically sold my soul to get us in at a California Montessori project  school. Two lotteries and a bunch of tears (on my part) later, we're placed on those waiting lists as well.

He didn't get in.  

What does any good parent do in this situation?  Well, I did began to dial frantically, calling anyone and everyone at the district office that would listen to me. I poured out our story, my fears, my tears, and begged to know which schools had openings and if he even had a chance to get into them. Finally someone patiently walked me through every possible school that would be an option for him and told me what their enrollment situation was.  

Of course, I was flooded with relief. I had options! Finally! Several schools had no waiting lists.  My son was going to get in!  

After frantically filling out all of forms and sending them in, I sat back and waited, knowing a solution was around the corner.  A week later I got a stack of letters from the district office.....I began to open them, knowing my little guy was going to have gotten in somewhere.  One by one I read, “We're sorry but your request has been denied.”


What happened to those schools without lists? What happened to the “OPEN” part of open enrollment?

We are now on three more waiting lists, all of which could have us waiting until December. Ugh!  Long story short, we are. . .

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

As a busy mom, and an admittedly impatient person, this doesn’t work for me.

My point in sharing this experience is that I cannot believe the ridiculousness in getting into kindergarten. And, this isn’t even the craziness of Manhattan uber elite private kindergartens! We’re talking about PUBLIC schools and PUBLIC charters and PUBLIC educational projects! When did this process turn into Ivy league school admissions where you pretty much have to know someone who knows someone who might might know someone else who can pull strings just to go to school? I thought education was supposed to be accessible and free?!?!

{{We’ll tackle “free” education in the future….because once you’re in at kindergarten? Whoa! Fees, costs, supplies!}}

So what are we going to do now? To be honest I'm not sure.

I'm holding out hope that one of the several schools will have a spot open up this summer and we'll dive right in and everything will be peachy.  The reality though is that this may not happen.  

So, I've desperately began making connections at our neighborhood school to know my son has a spot somewhere, but it’s a school that I don’t really want him to attend due to a number of issues, not least of which is that it simply isn’t a good fit for us.

I won't let him go to the neighborhood school beyond kindergarten, but have resolved myself to the fact that it would be an acceptable alternative should none of our other (million) back up plans work out.  I'll spend the next year pounding the pavement to make sure that he gets into our school of choice for first grade and all will be great. (I hope!)

The problem though, is that we haven't even started school yet and I already feel like the system has failed us.  

I want our son have a successful first year in school. I could just send him to any school and hope for the best, but I believe my children (and yours) deserve better.

We really don't have the educational options that are promised to us and it's much harder than I ever would have imagined to simply, enroll in kindergarten.  My husband and I have seriously considered homeschooling, but to be honest I'm not there right now.  I have another child starting preschool and I want to devote time and attention to her class and her school. Plus, I'm ready for a little break. I've been a full time stay at home mom for over 5 years now and I've been looking forward to Kindergarten, damn it!  It's definitely a real option for us in the future and we'll cross that road when it comes, but at this moment in our lives, homeschooling is not the right fit for our family.  At least I don't think so....

So, while all of my son’s friends and their parents are talking about where they are going next year, we are stuck on the tarmac in a holding pattern, waiting for takeoff.

But, I'm going to be ok with that.

I know that I've started this process as my son’s best advocate and that will set the tone for the rest of his education.  

He'll be ok, I'll be ok, and meanwhile we will just wait.

Stay tuned to see what happens next! The neighborhood kindergarten? Montessori? Homeschooling?

In the meantime, have you tried to enroll your child in kindergarten only to face frustration, or was it smooth and easy? What kind of options are available where you live? Share in the comments!

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