This past fall, my six-year-old daughter began a new journey as a kindergartener. A full-time, big-girl, walkin’-the-cross-walk, public school kindergartener. And I could not be more proud.
It was her second time around as a kindergartener.
At the end of her four-year-old preschool year, her teacher felt she wasn’t quite ready for public school. My daughter is an amazing, creative, bright girl who also happens to be a strong-willed, highly sensitive kid. Basically, she is greatly impacted by her environment, the behavior of the other kids, the emotions of the teachers, and her own stubbornness.
It’s fine. I can call my own daughter stubborn.
That four-year-old year had been a struggle. She went from loving school as a two and three-year-old to absolutely hating it. The first semester, she came home crying almost every day. With this whole four-year-old pre-K thing came more structure and less time for free play. More focused work towards learning to read and writing practice.
She hated it. All of it.
In fact, she put her foot down that year and flatly declared she would never learn to read, thank you very much.
So let’s just say, I wasn’t incredibly surprised to hear the teacher recommend private kindergarten for her.
Her first kindergarten year began as a significant improvement over the previous year. She was enthusiastic about school. Willingly participated. Actively engaged in learning.
It was good.
The meltdowns were less but, bless, she was still her. Exhausted from the work load (a full-year kinder curriculum in only a half-day class). Overwhelmed by the pace. Frustrated with her less-than-perfect left-handed writing. She managed it but I knew it just wasn’t all falling into place for her.
During that first year of kindergarten, I committed myself to being a student of HER, reading and studying as much as I could on strong-willed children and, more importantly for my girl, the nature of a highly sensitive child. All that study and observing and focused attention on how my daughter was created and built by her Creator led our family to a decision.
As the year was nearing its end, I felt as if finally I had a pretty good understanding of my daughter, her needs, her strengths and her weaknesses.
It’d only taken me six years. (Insert eye-roll here.)
On to Round Two. At our local public school.
It’s not a popular thing to hold a girl back. It’s not unpopular, either. It’s something parents in my world did not really discuss or consider. It’s not a “thing.” Lots of parents willingly, even eagerly, hold a boy back, especially if he has a summer birthday. But holding back a daughter? With a spring birthday?
The truth is every child is unique. We all say that, don’t we? And we mean it but, how do we put it into action? For me, that looked a lot like more listening, less talking. More observing, less correcting. More seeking to just get her, to fall in love with her all over again, to truly see her. And not trying to fit her into some sort of mold I expected my daughter to fill.
This year, my amazing daughter has bloomed. She is confident and strong and determined. I’ve witnessed a complete transformation. From the girl who cried every day after school to being the Star Student her first six weeks, watching her thrive has been an incredible blessing. We made the absolute right decision for her and for us.
And she has learned to read. In spite of herself.
We celebrated this year with her kindergarten awards ceremony. She got an award for citizenship, being a star student, knowing all of her site words (aka READING) (just don’t tell her that), counting to 100 (which she could do last year) (numbers come easily to her), and excellence in math (see?).
As someone who cried every day in her required college math class, Pumpkin’s math award and the general ease with which she does math are amazingly exciting for me. I have hope she won’t hate the subject. Right now, she thinks its “fun” and I am not telling her any different. In fact, I don’t even tell her I hate math. Nor that I wasn’t any good at it. She’s her own person and she needs to be able to learn it and enjoy it without my opinion coloring her view.
Besides, life will be much easier for her if she gets math. Because crying yourself into a D (for diploma, y’all) is not the recommended method for education.
Sure, she’s walking that stage, graduating from kindergarten at seven years old. And it hasn’t escaped the kids that she’s as old as the first graders. But those kids are gonna be green with envy when she’s driving while they’re still carting their parents along with their permits.
More importantly, she’s exactly where she needed to be for her to thrive.
And the thriving, instead of striving, has been the true reward of this second round of kindergarten.