You all know our struggles (mine really!) with deciding whether or not to send Mackie to kindergarten next year - at barely 5 - or wait a year, when she just turns 6. I've blogged about it and talked with several mamas and educators about it (sorry if I have bored you all with it!).
It's been a decision that Jack and I knew we had to make the day we found out her due date, which happens to also be her birthday: Aug. 13. We knew it was going to be a tough decision. We went into this preschool year saying we'd see how the first half of the year went and start making a decision as the spring semester began.
Well it's here.....
And while we said we'd make the decision together, I'm ashamed to say that I was manipulating the situation. Because of my stinkin' awful pride, I just "knew" Mackie would have a great first semester of preschool, that we'd be thinking kindergarten was the way to go next year, and we'd be making arrangements to meet with teachers and kindergarten round-up dates. I tried convincing Jack that Mackie was ready despite the fact that she still takes 2-2.5 hr naps most days of the week, that she gets really cranky when she doesn't sleep and is a nightmare the rest of the day, and that she indeed has some maturity and following direction issues. I told myself that every 4 yr old had these issues (I'm sure most still do to an extent) and that she'll suddenly "outgrow" them once school arrived.
Meanwhile, my loving, smart, and patient husband (who I'm sure knew what I was doing all along!) stood his ground - as he's done from the beginning - and said we would continue to wait and pray on the decision.
Let's just say, in these last few months, God has worked wonders on my heart!
We have decided to have Mackie go to preschool one more year and send her to kindergarten the following year, when she will have just turned 6.
I'm here today telling you how much peace I'm feeling with our decision - and even more so, how I'm completely amazed with the fact that God worked on my heart and softened it, stripping me of my pride and showing me how ugly, selfish, and stinkin' sinful my heart was with the decision we faced months ago.
From the start of this summer through now, a constant prayer has been that God gives us clarity and peace with the decision we made. Of course when I first started the prayer it was out of selfish pride - why on earth do we ever do that? Like we could manipulate God! But over time, my prayer changed to one of submissiveness - instead of telling God what I wanted (even though my words weren't saying it, my thoughts and heart were saying it!), I asked for HIS will to be done...and also that I have complete peace with it and not go to my usual comparing her to other kids and the "what-ifs" and falling back into the "I know what's best" trap.
And I'm at complete peace - complete, freeing peace!
I don't even "care" anymore, really - that she won't be with several of her friends from church who are a few months older and will be moving up to kindergarten next year. Same goes with not "caring" that she'll be the oldest and some of her classmates will seem so little and young compared to her (that was a big pride struggle and the biggest issue God revealed to me!).
(Please note: I use the term "care" loosely because yes, I do care - and I care for the sweet kids who we've surrounded her with - I just don't care to the point where it consumes my every decision and stirs up the pride in my heart.)
I don't write this entry to announce that we're waiting to send our child to kindergarten like it's some sort of celebratory deal - because it's not. I write simply to those other mamas out there who struggle with such decisions that there is a LOT to consider - and it comes down to what God has placed on your heart for your family.
I'm fortunate that we're surrounded by educators of all levels - grade school, middle school, and high school - and it helps to speak with them. (Side note: My mom, a fourth grade teacher, I think has some great "research" that she's done on her own and should totally write a book on her "findings!")
Ultimately only God and you know what's best for your child and your family!
Here are some things we constantly considered in our decision process - in case you, too, are going through the anguish of deciding whether or not to send your child:
1. Is it all day or half day kindergarten? Does your child still nap or require continual rest time to function the rest of the day/evening?
Naps are a big part of happy afternoons and evenings in our house. My 4-yr-old is unique in the fact that she loves her sleep - the girl will go to bed between 8-8:30 most nights, sleep until 7 a.m., and then take a 2-2.5 hr nap most afternoons. She will skip from time to time, but there's 95% sleep/rest time in our weekly schedule (100% most weeks) and you can definitely tell the days that she skips a nap are harder in the evenings because she is so tired. Think about how your child will be without a nap five days in a row, going to school about 8 hours a day, and how that will affect your after-school to evening schedule.
We talked with several kindergarten teachers and they indicated that the current full-time set-up does have some rest time at the start of the year, but it gradually goes down or possibly ends as the year continues. Our school does full-day kindergarten....and this coming year, they will have an even longer day (due to construction and bond issue), meaning a day would start around 7:50 a.m. and not end until 3:15 p.m.
2. Can your child handle a full 8-9 hours of school and then after school activities, church, events, homework, etc?
This falls in with the above statement, but we really took a hard look at how we thought our child's temperament would be after 8-9 hours straight of school. It was going to be a difficult transition going from two mornings of preschool a week straight to 8-9 hours of school every day, with no real nap time, and then go on to after-school activities, church, games (on the seasons Jack coaches), homework - yes, they'll probably have some type of homework or activities in kindergarten! - etc.
3. Think of all the other factors you can possibly imagine.
I can't help you with every single scenario, except encourage you to think outside the box: What is the school set-up like? The school year and breaks like? Your own family schedule?
One factor we faced: The school our children will be attending will be in its first year of existence this coming year. That means a brand new building and teachers trying to acclimate themselves to this brand new building. We took this into account with our decision and preferred to wait a year for the "dust to settle" in the new school building.
4. Think 5, 10, 12 years down the road....
Do you mind if your child is the "baby" in his/her class, age-wise? Is it okay with you that he/she will be one of the last kids to drive? Are you fine that he/she could be 17 years old (or barely 18 years old) and possibly entering college and/or heading away from the house and on his own for the first time at that age?
Obviously we don't have a magic 8-ball to look into the future like that. But we can somewhat anticipate the future based on what we do know in the present - for us, that's knowing about the world she'll be facing at school, the decisions that she may or may not have to make, life experiences that are part of being a teenager (driving, dating, etc). We feel it was in Mackie's best interest to have her as the older child in class and pray that by doing so, she's naturally be a more responsible leader with her classmates.
Again, it comes down to prayer and complete reliance on God's will for your child and family. For those of you out there who've had to make the decision, we can totally relate on the difficulty of it! For those of you still pondering, pray! Pray for clarity, pray for wisdom, and pray for complete peace with the decision that God lays on your heart.