by Kerry Rivera
I believe as parents, no matter our differences, we generally agree on those big milestone moments in our children’s lives. First smile, first steps, first words, potty-training … you get the idea.
But as my oldest child is on the brink of another one of those key passages of time – starting kindergarten – I’m not so concerned about myself getting weepy-eyed and reeling over the fact that he’s growing up. Rather, I’m contemplating if I’m crossing one of those milestone moments – those parenting forks in the road – where I’ll look back on our decision on where we sent him to kindergarten and wonder if it shaped his future … forever and ever.
Can this decision determine how smart he’ll ultimately be? How he’ll interact with kids? If he’s Ivy-League bound or destined for community college? I’m exaggerating, but really, I know I’ve made myself crazy about this one choice. What mother thinks like this?
Let me preface the rest of this article by saying yes, I’m a total Type A personality. I’m a researcher, a list person, a planner. You’d think with those traits I’d have had everything figured out about my children’s futures by now. Forget Kindergarten, I’m already daydreaming about colleges, right? But in reality, I only decided about a week ago where we’d send our first-born – and already I’m wondering if we made the right decision.
Let me give you a glimpse into the inner-workings of my obsessive mind …
For the past three years, in part because we’re a dual-income family, my son has attended pre-school. But not just any pre-school … we paid top-dollar for a program that provided structure, enrichment, academics and lots of love. He’s thrived, matured and really developed into a bright little boy. As his mom, I know I’m totally biased. But if you met him, I really think you’d agree.
So last spring we started thinking about Kindergarten. Do we keep him at the private school for another year, since they have a full-day Kinder program? Or do we enroll him in our local public school – something we had planned to do all along? Our school district is definitely solid and we’ve heard nothing but good things about the teachers. The bummer is that it is only a half-day program. They do have an on-site after-care facility offering play, arts and crafts and the works, but is that really enriching and the best use of his time?
We knew if we elected to keep him at the private school, he would continue to thrive in this relatively sheltered environment with children of like-minded parents. He’d also continue to be pushed academically. The major con? It would cost us about a “gazillion dollars” to keep him there, and he would have to make the transition to a new school the following year since this school only offers classes through Kinder.
If we elected the public route, our son would get to start to form friendships with many local children, transition to a new school with kids going through that change at the same time, and he’d likely be exposed to more diversity. Too soon to tell about the academics, but my guess is he will be pretty advanced compared to many of his peers – and this program may be a little easy for him. The great thing, of course, with public education is that it is free, so the “gazillion dollars” we’d save from the private school could be funneled into other enrichment activities, college savings, vacations, etc.
So we debated and debated, and I made list after list. I observed both classrooms. I interviewed other parents. I collected opinion after opinion … and I just couldn’t decide.
For me, this decision seemed like it could be one those moments where I could screw my kid up … no matter my choice.
Since we’re now in the throes of September, we obviously had to make a decision, and we elected the public school route. My son is really excited, and we checked out the “sneak peak” just the other day. It seemed a little chaotic, and I could definitely tell there were a couple of kids who have never even been to school before.
I could feel the snobby side of me coming out … are these children going to hold back my kid? Can he be stimulated in this environment? Will the teachers recognize his gifts and challenge and support him?
I guess only time will tell. My husband, the teacher, says it is up to us to ensure he is challenged and grows. I know, I know. He says everything will be fine, and worst case, we can always move him in the middle of the year … not ideal, but it is an option.
So in the meantime, I just hope and pray we made the right decision. I hope years from now, when I look back on this milestone, I will smile with pride about the choice we made. And I hope to God when it is time for my second child to start Kindergarten, the decision becomes so much easier, because I can’t afford to get any crazier.