Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Kindergarten Over Yet?

What good is a blog if you can't complain every once in a while, right?

Our daughter, Brenna, is six and in kindergarten. We knew when she entered kindergarten that, academically, she was well past that level. Testing done last November placed her reading and math abilities several years above grade. We were not surprised by the results, as they validated what we'd suspected for quite a while.

We were, however, extremely disappointed with how her school reacted to the results. Naive kindergarten parent that I was, I expected them to begin providing her with a curriculum that matched her needs and abilities. Unfortunately, that's not exactly what happened.

At a meeting in January, the resource team indicated that the test results more than met the requirements for the school's gifted program. They labeled her and she started services almost immediately. For thirty minutes a week she spends time with the gifted teacher, doing activities like logic problems and analogies.

That's it. Thirty minutes a week. All the rest of the time she's learning her letters, sounding out words, and exploring the numbers 10-20. She is not part of a reading group because her reading level is so far above the top group. Instead, the teacher sends her reading assignments home.

In addition to the books sent home to read, Brenna gets spelling words. The books and words are the teacher's accommodations to Brenna's needs. On rare occasion she may also get a math worksheet. None of these are done at school. During the day, she participates in the regular kindergarten curriculum - considered the advanced kindergarten curriculum, but I've poured over the requirements and that distinction makes no difference in Brenna's case.

When Brenna arrives home from school, she has approximately 15 minutes of regular kindergarten homework, a chapter book to read, and spelling words with new activities for every night. Without exaggeration, we easily spend an hour to an hour and a half on homework every night. Every night. In Kindergarten. Meanwhile she spends six hours at school doing activities she mastered two years ago.

Lately things have intensified as the books have gotten longer (no longer Magic School Bus books, which she read in one night, but rather Beverly Cleary books that take a few nights) and the spelling list went from ten words to twenty. All work, review, discussion, and activities related to these assignments takes place at home. When the teacher remembers, she gives Brenna a spelling test on Friday. If she forgets, the test is taken on Monday - but the words are not sent home for us to review over the weekend.

Here are a few of the lists she's had in the past two months:

there pitch mulch
string which porch
strong bench latch
steam belch bleach
thick munch rich
street march, crouch
stream sketch snatch
stale witch drench
thrill stitch grouch
thread ditch starch
stray itch watch
still crutch each
throb branch pouch
thank pinch match
stood lunch speech
strike fetch ranch
throat church coach
three catch hitch
strange search patch
thin hatch hunch

In some ways we brought this on ourselves by asking for more challenging work. It's challenging all right. Just not exactly in the way we had in mind. I am so over school. This is only kindergarten and I can hardly wait for it for to be over. I'm ready to start over fresh in the fall.

We've made some pretty drastic changes for first grade. In a lot of ways they will be inconvenient changes. We know that. But we hope the options available for her will outweigh the trouble. For example, she'll be in a homogeneous class, rather than one that spans such a wide range of abilities. Another huge benefit is a full time gifted teacher who only works at one school. (Brenna's current gifted teacher works at five different schools.) And perhaps most encouraging, is a principal who is open to options like grade skipping, subject compacting, and double grade enrollment. Even if those things are never necessary for Brenna, I'm grateful for administrators who recognize that some kids need them and are willing to do what's best for that one kid.

All has not been lost in this strange year of kindergarten. Brenna really enjoys the other kids. I always know when the teacher has moved their seats because I start hearing stories about different kids. She makes friends with whoever she's near. She also loves her art class. Her creativity with simple art supplies at home has been fun to watch. Several months ago she was making detailed play-dough sculptures. Last week she made a large paper quilt. Brenna didn't need to learn social skills or classroom behavior when she entered school, but she's learned a lot about interacting with other kids who did need to learn those things.

One more set of nine weeks left. We can make it! Spring is here and, with so much to be thankful for, we'll count our blessings where they lie and accept the challenges that make us better in the long run.

And I'll start praying for next year's teacher - now. : )

1 comment:

Room for Grace said...

We've experienced some of the same things. I was concerned when my son qualified for G/T, but our district doesn't have a special G/T program. Instead, all of the teachers go to a 5 day training to learn how to teach gifted kids in their classrooms. He has had an awesome teacher this year(2nd grade) who truly meets his needs. She gives him special research projects that he does AT SCHOOL, and presents them to the class. He too gets so much out of art and music. I hope Brenna has a much better year next year, I know it can be super frustrating!