About school, part 1

Our oldest started kindergarten last fall. I was rather hesitant in sending him to a full day program* after having him home with me until then. I seriously considered holding him back a year (he’s an April boy) but at the end felt it was best for him to enter the public education at that age. We spent a month in Finland at the end of September and I was glad about the break it offered to him from school.

He’s a delightful and smart kid. Kinda introvert, takes after his Daddy, but has good social skills. I knew going to school every day would likely be a challenge but I did not anticipate the crying and begging that ensued most nights. He complained the ‘day was just too long, could he just stay home?’ He was counting days until the next weekend/holiday/vacation. It was puzzling because in the mornings he would be happily skipping to the bus stop and did not even look back to wave good buy.

Both my parents were teachers. I believe in good solid education. When I had mentioned the possibility of holding him back a year my mother did not believe I was serious**. Education is important. Teachers are important. I know this. But I also know my son. I know when he’s had enough and over the  Christmas break I decided I needed to do something. Something to change the course so that in years to come he would still have that desire for learning.

I had a meeting with his teacher (what a treasure she is!) and the principal in January. I wanted to pick him up at half day once a week (making his week 3 full days, 2 half days). The principal very reluctantly agreed to a trial for 6 weeks. We’re half way through that trial. It has made a big difference. But now I want more (of course I do!). I want to go to the next meeting and request he get picked up at half day every day. I can already see the principal object to this .. because ‘his school attendance is my responsibility’, that’s what she told me at the first meeting. Honestly, I could care less about his attendance. I don’t care if he misses music, or gym, or library or the social experience or does not get to practice lining up one more time …. What I care about is his well being, his enthusiasim for learning, him getting enough time to play and rest. He is 5 years old!

I realize that I have a different mindset than most of my neighbors. But I come from Finland where kindergarten is for 6 year olds, where 1st grade is no longer than 4 hrs/day (yes you read that right) and where kids score on top of the world year after year. I am all for great education. I am not for chronic fatigue at the age of 5. Or 6. Or 7. I’m also not entirely sure how to proceed with the principal (or with my son). Would love to hear your thoughts. And if you happen to know the MA education law could you tell me what my legal rights are to pull him out at half day, please?

 

*As of past fall our town offers full day program at no cost and while not mandatory it is strictly enforced.

** This was before she realized that kindergarten was for 5 year olds and was a full day.

 

Hanna is a wife of a wonderful man, a mother of a kindergartener and 4 year old twins. They make a home in Lexington, MA. She is grateful her own parents made her get a degree in nursing before letting her move to America. 

 

10 thoughts on “About school, part 1

  1. I could not agree more. I didn’t send my twin boys to preschool & we are specifically sending them to a half day kindergarten even though full day is far more common now. I don’t have any words of advice for speaking to the principal, but I wish you good luck & I hope it goes well!

  2. Jane,
    you’re right, kindergarten is not mandatory in MA. That’s why it’s so puzzling to me that the principal is making such a big deal about it. She said that once they enter into the school system they’re required to attend what is offered. … I contacted a lawyer but her response confused me even more ….
    Janna, thanks for the encouragement.

  3. I’m in MA too, with preschool-aged twins, and I don’t know the law but LOVE the idea of half-day kindergarten. Maybe see if you can get a like-minded doctor to write a medical note excusing your son from full-day attendance?

    I actually think the school day is too long for all kids – I wish it could be like college where you have 1-3 classes a day.

  4. I think Finland has the right idea when it comes to starting age and length of school day, and IMO a better idea of early childhood development. School days ARE long. When I was in kindergarten, I went full days on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday — by the time my (twin) brothers were in kindergarten a couple of years later, the school had switched to mornings or afternoons only. My own just-turned-4 year olds go to preschool three mornings a week. I wish they could do so throughout kindergarten.

    Is there a Finnish expat online community? Maybe it could provide some feedback or resources on how others have handled this, plus legal tips.

    As a last resort, you could consider withdrawing your son from kindergarten, since it’s not mandatory, and enrolling him again next fall. Many ECC teachers think it’s beneficial for boys at the younger end of the age range to be held back a year. Your son’s teacher seems sympathetic and might give very good advice.

  5. How odd for the principal not to recognize that parents, especially ones as thoughtful as you, are the best judge of what is right for their children! I can understand that she find it difficult to make exceptions for fear of not being able to handle a huge flood of one-off exceptions, but she should certainly respect the teacher’s opinion too!

  6. Is it possible to put your son in private (half-day) kindergarten? Or in 3 day/week full-day? I have friends whose kids do both of those. I live in the South and a LOT of churches around here offer private kindergarten. It might be different in MA but it might be something to look in to. Also, if you can afford private school, there are lots of “alternative” kinds of private schools where the emphasis isn’t on sitting in a desk and doing the prescribed work day after day. Maybe you can look into Montessori schools or something like that. Sorry your kid’s school isn’t being more helpful.

  7. I agree with you completely on this one. My 3 year olds have been in two schools for now. The first one had the option for a half day. That’s what I took and I was the only mum doing this. At one point My daughter asked to do a full day. Then it was fine. My son tried it and refused. At their new school, again they are the only doing a half day. I will continue that way as long as I feel they need it, and as long as I am able to do it! Good luck with it in your city and school!

  8. Pingback: From the Archives: Back to School | How Do You Do It?

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