Saturday, March 24, 2012

To Send or Not To Send?

It may seem premature, but Jack and I have been talking a lot lately about when to send our precious, spunky sweet pea off to school. (We actually started these discussions as soon as we found out we were due with her in August - a tough time to be born as far as school is concerned, in my opinion).

Our "Mackie in the womb" convos were brief and mainly came down to when she was going to be born. She was due Aug. 13 - if she was early, we'd definitely consider sending her. If she was late - we'd pretty much have to keep her back as we were extremely opposed to sending her off when she was still 4 years old (school starts in mid-August around here!).

When she was born on her due date - Aug. 13 - our conversations that first year of life basically came down to waiting to see how she did developmentally, socially, emotionally, etc, etc.

Her first birthday came and went. Her second birthday came and we enrolled her in Wee Toddlers, a program for 2- and 3-year-olds through Hutch Rec (conveniently at my office!), that was only one hour, once a week. She thrived in the class despite being the youngest one in there (it helps she took after her daddy and started talking very clear at a young age....mama wasn't that bright!).

We're now approaching her 3rd birthday in about six months and are now back to the discussion of whether or not to send her to kindergarten when she's barely five or barely six years old. You may think it's early, but when we make that decision, we can make the decision of when to start her in preschool.

All along I've been an advocate to send her off as soon as she turns five. I was one of the youngest in my class - having a June birthday - and was also a tall one, so I immediately thought of her already being the biggest in the class if she were to wait another year and how awkward that would make things. I also thought she'd have the smarts to go and social skills to make friends in her class.

Jack, meanwhile, (remember: he's an educator!) took the conservative approach and wanted to send her a year later. Not only would she be really ready for school at barely six years old, but she'd also be mature and a great addition to any sports team with her height. (lovely, dear!)

I was not convinced...until my mama put this thought in my head. (a grade school educator with more than 20+ years of experience teaching 4th grade)

"Don't think of her going off to kindergarten. But think about her going off to college. Do you want her moving away when she's not even or barely 18 years old, or when she's been 18 for almost a year, going on 19 years old?"


Well, mom - you're right. (yes, you're RIGHT!)

My thoughts immediately shifted away from being the awkward tall kid to an immature, barely-there 18 year old possibly going off to a dorm room and experiencing mature things - too mature for her immature head to wrap itself around.

I then started thinking that she's always going to be the tall girl no matter what. What's another year? And besides, I'd rather her be the leader in her class - the one who is a good influence on others and makes mature decisions.

So with that decision pretty much made, we're now shifting our focus on preschool - where to send her? when to send her? for how long? It's a never-ending list. We already know that she'll not be going to an official preschool this coming school year, as she'll just be turning three on Aug. 13 and I want to keep her at home as long as I possibly can.

I'll be enrolling her in our great Wee Wigglers program at Hutch Rec, which is once a week, two hours a day, and the perfect opportunity for her to get a taste of what school is like without going "full-time." she'll be enrolled in several of our youth and preschool programs at Hutch Rec to slowly get involved and experience a variety of activities. We'll then sit down next winter and figure out a timeline for the following two years.

This is probably one of the hardest decisions to make. However, speaking from parents and teachers alike, everyone hands-down says they never regret spending more time with their child and keeping them from school for another year. But they do regret sending them too early. Mackie may be ready and wanting to go when she's just turning 5, but I know she won't be ready for adult decisions and other things that happen in college when she's just turning 18, away from mom and dad and experiencing life on her own.

Besides, school is pretty much a done deal. Once they start, those precious times at home each day are gone. (not forever, of course, but it's never the same)

So why do you even care about this? Again, this blog is a family journal and I wanted to share my struggles and fears with this decision. But I also wanted to share this in case other mamas with late spring/summer/early fall birthdays out there also are struggling with what to do for their little ones. It's a big decision, no matter what you choose to do!

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