Thursday, October 22, 2015

1st Grade

This year, Oscar and Bella would have started 1st grade. On November 2, Gus will do a trial run of 1st grade for four days. I'm an emotional mess.

I don't even know where to start with this, as there are so many things going on in my head and my heart. Last year Gus was in EC4 (Early Childhood 4). At the pre-school conference we asked the teacher, after learning what would be covered during the year, if Gus should be starting kindergarten instead. We were told that because he wasn't 5 on or before September 15 he could not start kindergarten. So, we had him go to EC4. At the fall conferences, he was testing where the teacher wanted the kids to be at the end of the year. We thought she was giving him some differentiation, but sadly, she was not. At the end of the year, we were told nothing about his placement for this school year, so we sent him to kindergarten.

This morning, two months into the school year, we met with Gus' principal (George) and kindergarten teacher (Mrs. L). They are suggesting that we move Gus to first grade. Over the course of his two months in kindergarten, he already knows 155 of the 195 sight words that first graders need to know by the end of their year. He already knows almost all of the math concepts that the kindergartners need to know at the end of the year. Academically, he should be in first grade. Socially, emotionally and maturity-wise, I don't know. Gus has a hard time talking to kids his own age, but can talk to adults just fine. If we move him to first grade, will he be able to related better to the kids in that class because they are older and have a wider vocabulary? I worry.

I have an October birthday. My by age, I should have started kindergarten when I was already 5, and then turn 6 a couple months into school. My mom recognized that I was a bit more advanced, so she had me tested academically and had me meet with the school district's psychologist to assess my maturity and social skills. I passed and started kindergarten when I was 4 and about to turn 5. So, I started a year early, was fine socially, was challenged academically, was in the gifted program throughout school and was an additional year ahead in math. It all worked out for me, but Gus isn't me. He's is own person. What we've seen of Gus socially is that for the first month of school he would ask Mrs. L to play with him, but not his classmates. This has changed in the last few weeks. Is it because he relates better to adults, so was asking Mrs. L to play because he couldn't relate to his peers? Or is it because he was scared to talk to kids his own age and needed time to see that there were kids in his class that shared his interests? If it's the first, then move him to first grade in hopes that socially he can related to his peers better. If it's the second, then is he going to be even more scared of his peers because they're bigger and older than he is?

Part of me is upset. Both George and Mrs. L stated this morning that if Gus had started this year in first grade, they had no doubts that he would be doing just fine both academically and socially. Why didn't we get any information from his EC4 teacher about how advanced he is so that we could have had conversations over the summer, and maybe just start Gus in first grade right from the beginning of the year, rather than transitioning him when the first quarter is almost done?

I'm also upset that Jon and I didn't advocate harder for Gus last year, but did find out some information this morning that calmed me down regarding this. According to Iowa law, it is illegal for a student to start kindergarten or EC5 if they are not 5 by September 15. So, even if we would have pushed for Gus to be in kindergarten, or even EC5, last year, we would not have been able to do it because of the law. I already knew this, but I need to keep reminding myself that kindergarten is not mandatory in Iowa, which it is in Wisconsin, and what I'm familiar with. There could be kids in this state that never attend school until they are in first grade! So, I'm glad to know that no matter what, he would not have been placed correctly last year, but like stated above, I wish his EC4 teacher would have done her job and told us that we should investigate skipping kindergarten altogether. But, I guess this doesn't happen very often. In George's 21-year career, Gus is only the third student that he's discussed skipping kindergarten.

We, obviously, will make the choice that is best for Gus, but there's a whole other component that is hard for me to deal with. Oscar and Bella are supposed to be in first grade this year. That year belongs to them, and now Gus might be in THEIR grade. Gus and Tittle are supposed to be in the same grade. When we do our school supply donations, it's going to feel all wrong. Oscar and Bella are supposed to be the same list. Gus and Tittle are supposed to be the same list. Now it will be Oscar, Bella and Gus on the same list, with Tittle all alone. That's not how it's supposed to be. Oscar and Bella are supposed to be together and Tittle and Gus are supposed to be together. I don't know how it's going to feel going forward, assuming we move Gus, to have him in Oscar's and Bella's grade, and to have Tittle all alone without his twin brother. All I can do right now when I think about it is cry.

So, the plan right now is to meet with Mrs. L and Mrs. Z (the likely first grade teacher) next week, with Gus there so he can meet the teacher and see the school and classroom. November 2-5 he will go to first grade. The week of November 9 we will meet to decide if Gus will stay in first grade this year or not. I just hope that it's clear enough that the decision will feel like it's completely obvious.

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