A constellation of feelings about kindergarten

This evening Hazel, who’s fighting a cold and not feeling too well, said, “Mama, I don’t want to go to kindergarten.” And she started to cry. I asked her why, and she said that none of her friends would be at school with her. This may be true, but I don’t know yet. She added, “Because none of them are 5,” which is not true and isn’t adding up logically in my adult brain. So, tomorrow when she’s hopefully feeling better and in a better space I want to see if I can find out more about what she’s thinking and why. And in the upcoming days, weeks, and months I want to try to have a few short conversations about kindergarten, reasonably spaced, and as low-key as I can make them.

I actually think it’s likely that she’ll really enjoy it. But, but, but. I don’t know how she’ll react to homework and tests. I don’t know how she’ll react to being in school five days a week for a full day rather than the three half days she’s doing now. I don’t know how she’ll react to all the rules, to the new social environment, to the teachers. It is going to be a huge change, that’s for sure.

I do know that how we talk about it is important. I do know that she’ll pick up on my ambivalence, so I have to be careful what and how I communicate about it, whether it’s to her directly or a conversation she overhears (a mistake I made today was talking to my mom about it when Hazel was in earshot).

I do know that the teachers at both schools are well-qualified and possessed of good intentions and great experience. I know that Hazel is socially flexible, curious, interested, interesting, and intelligent. I suspect that she will handle school fine. But how she deals with it will be only part of the data with which my opinion of the system is informed. And it’s hard for me to let go of the anger I feel sometimes at how the school system has treated our neighborhood, causing there to be such a lack of consistency and such uncertainty for families whose very young children are entering school soon.

Most important, I think, is to take it one step at a time. Right now we’re in the application stage. Later we’ll be in the stage of speaking to Hazel about what kindergarten will look like in more detail. Before that happens, we’ll be in the waiting period to find out which school she’s going to attend. Of course, it’s not linear. It’s possible that she might get on the waiting list for the closer school and then get into the kindergarten there after the school year has started. So we may have to start talking about school before we know for sure where she’ll be. At any rate, once she’s in kindergarten we’ll see how it goes. And then it’ll be one year at a time.

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