Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Is she ready?

Penny is five years old. She is starting to sound out simple words. She can identify all her letters and numbers. She can write her name and a few words. She loves school. And she has Down syndrome.

Is she ready?

I am planning to register her for kindergarten today. I haven’t done anything in particular to prepare. So I wonder if I’m negligent when I read articles like “Fast Tracking to Kindergarten” about toddlers who are drilled on their academic skills every day. Or if I’m asking too much of her when I read Motherlode’s post about “Redshirting” little ones, or as I hear my friends talking about holding their kids back for a year so they won’t “fall behind” later on. These same friends are already talking about college.

I can’t say whether Penny will go to college. I can say with confidence that she will be one of the smallest (if not the very smallest) children in the elementary school (as was her mother, way back when).  I can’t say that she would pass a kindergarten readiness exam with flying colors. I can say that she’s ready to learn.

Penny has been talking about kindergarten all year long. And her teachers say she’s ready to go. And as much as I know it will be a challenge for her to sit still and keep up, I also trust our daughter and I trust her teachers. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I want to make decisions for her not based upon what might be doing years from now. I want to make decisions for her based upon who she is right now.

And who she is right now is a little girl who loves circle time and books and letters and friends. So here we go.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Lisa Tyran says:

    I had almost the same thoughts a few weeks ago when I registered my daughter for kindergarten! Our pre-K teachers did a readiness test and she scored typical average so along with her other testing they placed her in a regular class with co-teacher support for math and reading. It scares me she’ll have so little support as much as it make me proud of her. I just have to keep reminding myself that we can always adjust the situation later if she has trouble and to go one step at a time. I guess we just have to hold our breath & jump off that cliff to find out!

  2. Lisa Tyran says:

    I had almost the same thoughts a few weeks ago when I registered my daughter for kindergarten! Our pre-K teachers did a readiness test and she scored typical average so along with her other testing they placed her in a regular class with co-teacher support for math and reading. It scares me she’ll have so little support as much as it make me proud of her. I just have to keep reminding myself that we can always adjust the situation later if she has trouble and to go one step at a time. I guess we just have to hold our breath & jump off that cliff to find out!

  3. I love that Penny is so enthusiastic about learning in Kindergarten and hope she has a great experience!

  4. I love that Penny is so enthusiastic about learning in Kindergarten and hope she has a great experience!

  5. Tricia Tice says:

    Kate’s been in a public school for three years now. Her first year of Kindergarten was in a private UCP school and by the time she finished there she was in about the same place that Penny is–thoroughly proficient at sounding out three letter words, knowing all her letters and numbers. We’ve ended up on the “two year plan”–two years per grade, but this has kept her in a typical classroom without even a hint of complaint from the administration or staff. The second year of kindergarten (which was in the public school) and the first year of 1st grade were largely focused on getting her stubborn behavior in line with her peers. For the first 6 weeks of KII she would run away from PE every day. After about 2 weeks, her Principal waxed philosopical about it: “Her PE coach is a retired arena-league football coach. She’s just giving him his workout.” She did ultimately fall in line, though she would have mysterious fall-backs that aren’t so mysterious now. The day after she learned to climb the monkey bars, she ran away again, only this time she ran directly to the monkey bars to show him (to his horror) how she had learned to loop both legs over the third bar and then move her hands to the second, leaving her head pointed to the ground the whole time. After she had shown him, she ran right back to PE and finished the day without any other problems. For awhile, the biggest problem was getting her to leave PE.

    During KII and 1st-I she had a cadre of girls with her that partially mommied but definately befriended Kate. They still remain friends though it is harder since they aren’t in class together anymore.

    She lost a lot of academic ground during KII, which was discouraging at the time but isn’t as troubling now. Adjusting to the classroom rules and a typical classroom population was harder than I thought it would be. Academically, she’s mostly on grade-level, though she should be writing short paragraphs now. That will take a bunch of work this summer. It’s hard to write paragraphs when you still don’t speak in full sentences. One day at a time…

    The administration has been the champs through all of this. We’ve demanded (gently) a level of expertise from them that is uncommon and they have stepped up to the bar, though some issues have taken longer for them to catch up than others. I’ve usually just demanded that they add the goals they don’t quite believe in yet, and ultimately they figure out why I wanted them. For instance, I’ve had a “digit-span” goal in her IEP for all three years and this has been the first year they really got it and worked directly on that goal. Her biggest issues are still tied to behavior, but it’s basically in line with her peer’s behaviors now–with occasional runs of stubbornness like any other kid.

    I wish I had not held her back this year, though the academic issues made that decision easier than it should have been. She really is socially ahead of the kids in her class now. She’s had some time in dance to keep her in line socially, but I’m pushing to skip 4th grade (that’s when the state writing exam is anyway–I think I’ve got friends in the staff on that one). That will put her closer to her peers when she goes through the changes of puberty. We’ll see.

    Be patient with your administration, especially if you have her in a typical classroom. Treating them as experts and expecting expertise from them seems to work best, at least for us. We’ve all heard (and had) horror stories about backwards administrative staff that oppose inclusion and see our kids as an annoyance. Don’t believe it till you see it.

    Good luck. You’re both going to have so much fun.

  6. Tricia Tice says:

    Kate’s been in a public school for three years now. Her first year of Kindergarten was in a private UCP school and by the time she finished there she was in about the same place that Penny is–thoroughly proficient at sounding out three letter words, knowing all her letters and numbers. We’ve ended up on the “two year plan”–two years per grade, but this has kept her in a typical classroom without even a hint of complaint from the administration or staff. The second year of kindergarten (which was in the public school) and the first year of 1st grade were largely focused on getting her stubborn behavior in line with her peers. For the first 6 weeks of KII she would run away from PE every day. After about 2 weeks, her Principal waxed philosopical about it: “Her PE coach is a retired arena-league football coach. She’s just giving him his workout.” She did ultimately fall in line, though she would have mysterious fall-backs that aren’t so mysterious now. The day after she learned to climb the monkey bars, she ran away again, only this time she ran directly to the monkey bars to show him (to his horror) how she had learned to loop both legs over the third bar and then move her hands to the second, leaving her head pointed to the ground the whole time. After she had shown him, she ran right back to PE and finished the day without any other problems. For awhile, the biggest problem was getting her to leave PE.

    During KII and 1st-I she had a cadre of girls with her that partially mommied but definately befriended Kate. They still remain friends though it is harder since they aren’t in class together anymore.

    She lost a lot of academic ground during KII, which was discouraging at the time but isn’t as troubling now. Adjusting to the classroom rules and a typical classroom population was harder than I thought it would be. Academically, she’s mostly on grade-level, though she should be writing short paragraphs now. That will take a bunch of work this summer. It’s hard to write paragraphs when you still don’t speak in full sentences. One day at a time…

    The administration has been the champs through all of this. We’ve demanded (gently) a level of expertise from them that is uncommon and they have stepped up to the bar, though some issues have taken longer for them to catch up than others. I’ve usually just demanded that they add the goals they don’t quite believe in yet, and ultimately they figure out why I wanted them. For instance, I’ve had a “digit-span” goal in her IEP for all three years and this has been the first year they really got it and worked directly on that goal. Her biggest issues are still tied to behavior, but it’s basically in line with her peer’s behaviors now–with occasional runs of stubbornness like any other kid.

    I wish I had not held her back this year, though the academic issues made that decision easier than it should have been. She really is socially ahead of the kids in her class now. She’s had some time in dance to keep her in line socially, but I’m pushing to skip 4th grade (that’s when the state writing exam is anyway–I think I’ve got friends in the staff on that one). That will put her closer to her peers when she goes through the changes of puberty. We’ll see.

    Be patient with your administration, especially if you have her in a typical classroom. Treating them as experts and expecting expertise from them seems to work best, at least for us. We’ve all heard (and had) horror stories about backwards administrative staff that oppose inclusion and see our kids as an annoyance. Don’t believe it till you see it.

    Good luck. You’re both going to have so much fun.


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