Thinking about school

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about school lately.  Widget goes to kindergarten next year, and, as much as I would love to homeschool (and I would love it), we think it’s best for him to get used to the structure and routine of a school with other children.  We’re thinking hard about how to ease the transition, supplement the academics, and help keep the love of learning alive in this little boy who reads himself to sleep at night (at four!) and his baby brother, who takes small appliances apart and puts them back together (at two!).  Both are incredible problem-solvers and little thinkers, and I’m so proud of them.

Read more of this post at Review Planet, my review blog.

I posted this here because I’m looking for current books and articles on kindergarten and the early years of school as we make our decisions — any recommendations?


17 Responses to Thinking about school

  1. Joan says:

    Hi Susan,

    Are you planning on public or private school? How are your local public school schools? I am a teacher and have taught at both, including kindergarten. (Currently, I substitute teach for an excellent public school district.)

    Will the kindergarten be full day or half day? In your case, a half-day program, which you could supplement on your own, may be the best of both worlds — if the time commitment is doable.

    Years ago, there was a book along the lines of “how to get a private school education at a public school.” Perhaps you can track that down. One recommendation I recall was to research and request specific teachers. Not all public schools will allow parent input on student assignments, but even with those that don’t generally/officially, if you can make a good case about why your child’s “learning style” would best mesh with a particular teacher, you may get cooperation.

    Of course I imagine you will be a very involved parent, so will be on the scene and be supportive in efforts to provide more than the basic curriculum.

    My daughter was a fluent reader before beginning kindergarten but her teacher was dynamic and brought much to the classroom from which my daughter benefitted. Plus, as you appreciate, the socialization is something to be considered.

    If you have any specific questions or concerns feel free to e-mail me.

    All the best, (so glad you are doing well!)

    • whymommy says:

      I live in a town with fantastic public schools, but mine in particular has some philosophy I’m not a fan of … hence the quandry. There is no option in my state for half-day kindergarten. . . It’s all or nothing!

      • Joan says:

        Thanks for your response. Oh well, so much for that idea! Yes, full-day kindergarten is becoming the norm.

        I would be interested in the philosophy of your local school with which you disagree. If you do not wish to share that publicly, my e-mail addy is Jyber209 and it is at

        In any event, Susan, I have GREAT confidence in you — based on what you have shared about here about how you have researched and made other decisions, and lived your life so far. Your boys are highly likely to do very well in whatever school situation you decide upon. Maximizing their opportunities and dealing with instructional levels that may not match their ability levels may be the challenges. But teahers these days are supposed to be well trained in differentiated instruction and encouraging of self-direction.

  2. Misty Appling says:

    I think you might look into Montessori. My son just finished Montessori and he loved it. The education was unbeleivable while still having fun. It seems to me to be a compromise between public/private school and home schooling. Good Luck.

  3. Susan K says:

    Susan, I think that if the child is motivated and the parents are involved, it is pretty hard to go wrong unless the school is really terrible. And I’m hesitant to endorse the ‘research and ask for a specific teacher’. Because the truth is, no matter how involved you are and how well you know your child, you don’t see him AT school, you don’t know how he interacts in the presence of 25 other kids and an adult who is not a parent. You may not be aware of talents or interests he has simply because you haven’t thought to go down that route, to explore X with him etc. I had a very good friend tell me – “oh too bad your daughter got teacher X for kindergarten. She is so smart, she should have teacher Y, who is a little more rigorous and academic.” But it turns out teacher X was FABULOUS and brought out my daughter’s artistic side.

    Don’t stress it. You don’t want to turn into one of those Manhattan parent’s who flips out and thinks their child’s life is ruined because he didn’t get into the “right” preschool. Truth is, in the end, where he went for kindergarten and what teacher he had won’t matter. As long as he isn’t miserable, it will be fine.

  4. *m* says:

    My advice, as the mom of two boys who are still curious learners and have been very successful in school: Keep your house filled with books and when your child has an interest in something, feed it.

    In other words: Keep doing what you’re doing! You are your children’s best teacher.

  5. I could go on and on, but I won’t. The socialization that school gives is very important. How can you learn to deal with all different kinds of people unless you are exposed to them?
    I have 2 teenagers – both very bright – who are doing just fine in public school. They will go on to college and be productive members of society.

    I am involved in their education, in their classrooms, in their activities – as you will need to be. You can’t just drop them at the school house door and expect them to be educated in all areas.

    As for public vs private vs montessori…
    You pay tax dollars for the public school system in your town. Use it. Make them do. Be involved. The teachers are required to have certification and usually a Master’s Degree in the subject area that they teach. They are required to continue their education and take classes.

    Private School – Call me a snob, but who is really teaching the kids in private school? Do they have degrees? In the subject area they teach? Are they certified? Are the kids disciplined? Really? Ask around… We can have lunch one day and I’ll fill you in on some of the stuff that goes on in the school where I teach. It would blow your socks off!

    Montessori – The kids who attend Montessori schools are usually behind in math once they leave there and attend another more traditional type of school. Math and Science are too important…

    If I were you, I’d send them to public school and supplement their education with classes, camps, books, and anything else you think will interest them.


    • whymommy says:

      It’s the math and science I worry about most … my kids have an interest, but the local school doesn’t do much at all until 5th grade. I know, because I tried to volunteer there, and there wasn’t anything for the little kids. Am nervous about that. Quite.

      Also, it’s a Spanish immersion program, so all the math and science that they DO learn is learned in another language. I wonder if that affects how their skills develop?

  6. Susan K says:

    Oh man, if there is a Spanish immersion program, sign up! There is so much to be gained by doing an immersion program that any possible detriment to how they develop their science skills would be offset. And I don’t see why there would be a detriment. The philosophy of HOW you teach science and math is the same, regardless of language of instruction. If anything, doing it in a “foreign” language – which quickly will be a second language – if anything is going to improve critical thinking etc.

  7. Malaina says:

    You’ve probably seen this in the NYT but I found it interesting: It talks about the decline of play in kindergarten and the increasing emphasis on test prep, accelerated instruction, etc. Though Amelie is not quite two, we’ve been thinking about this a lot (because we will need to move before she turns five given the neighborhood public school she would go to where we live now). Are your main concerns that science is later and that it’s spanish immersion or do you have other concerns?

    • whymommy says:

      Well, of course the overtesting and overemphasis on structure, conforming, and such concern me … but in our county, everything is set up to be high-pressure, high-expectations. The kids are required to know their alphabet before kindergarten (okay) and to be able to read before they start first grade (wow). That’s a full year earlier than it used to be … which surprises me. I just want them to still have some freedom to explore topics that interest them. Even if it is construction work and how bugs behave.

  8. Joan says:

    Well, one plus of a full-day program is that there is time for both structured academics and more low-key exploration. Many kindergarten classes do such projects as raise butterflies or chicks in the classroom. The kids keep their own science investigative journals (with pictures they draw of each stage of the process and whatever written comments they can make).
    The “pressure” testing does not usually begin until around third grade — any testing done before that is generally just for diagnostic purposes (for the teacher to know what needs to be addressed, who needs to work on what skills) and is very low pressure, often done one-on-one.
    By no means do I think things are just perfect, but I have two kids who went through public school, and I did end up writing several letters of appreciation for their experiences in our local district.

  9. Hi Susan,

    My son is very bright… like your boys and his biggest problem has been keeping him interested. His preschool teacher had warned me that one of the biggest problems will be keeping him interested and if he is not that would be when he would get into trouble. She was correct. It was not too bad until second grade. The curve of kids that the teachers have to teach to can be very challenging. My personal feeling is the smarter ones can be left to fend for themselves. He gets into trouble because the teacher has to repeat instructions 3 times (to meet all the kids learning needs).. he is bored..he tends to read instead and then gets into trouble that he is reading… go figure????
    I also found that once they start second grade they teach to the test more and the creative writing etc. started to go by the wayside. Luckily our district is just starting a Science, Math and Technology magnet school that he will be attending.
    I would not worry too much right now… everyone has a different opinion and each child is different. Trust your gut and you can always make changes if need you need to.Volunteer as much as they will let you and that is the best way to see what is truly going on.

  10. An interesting post and even more interesting comments. I struggle with this issue as well, but more so because I have become a non-conformist when it comes to the current state of education and think it is just silly that children are expected to be reading before 1st grade. Silly. I’ve found it helpful to read about other teaching methods: montessori, reggio emilia, waldorf, etc. to see what things strike a cord with me that I want to incorporate into our at-home learning stuff. I’ll look at my bookshelf and re-post some of the ones I thought were most helpful.

  11. I might also add that I think that somebody with a science background needs to develop a supplemental math and science after school program. It would be focused on exploration and pique their curiousity, rather than rote learning and memorization.

  12. SuzyQatHome says:

    Well, obviously you know where I fall on this question. I just don’t have the great county schools to fall back on. They have recently opened a great (but pretty pricey) private school near us, so I’m trying to decide if I want to go back to work to put the kids in private school and then not have the time to do the extras with them. We could do it on one salary, but I don’t think we’d do well on the miser budget plan 🙂

    What I’d really be looking into (with 2 boys) is how boy friendly the school programs are. Sitting in class all day with very limited movement times is NOT the right program for active smart little boys. Unless you want boys who hate school by the 3rd grade.

    I would jump at the opportunity for Spanish immersion, but NOT at the detriment of math. (check out Math-U-See – it is great and takes little enough time to do on top of a school program). My 4 yo understands the concept of algebra just from being around while the older one is being taught and from playing with the manipulatives!

    I am REALLY tired of the whole homeschool/socialization garbage. Please. The kids are not locked in the house all day. My kids actually meet and socialize with MORE people (not just children!) than the kids sitting in school do. We do school, we go to church (Sundays and Wednesdays), my kids play a sport per season, attend PE and music classes with other kids their age, visit a nursing home on a weekly basis, take tumbling classes, sing in a choir, and join us at the local food pantry weekly to help those less fortunate. My kids have lived and learned in other countries on other continents. They have lived in learned in the country, in town, and while living in Manhattan. We visit museums and science centers on a biweekly basis.

    We have time to do these things b/c we are not socializing during school. We are doing school work with curriculum that is personally tailored to each childs’ needs. My bright child doesn’t have to wait for the common denominator or the slow kids and when he struggles the problem is addressed immediately.

    Homeschooling is definitely not for everyone, it is NOT easy (though you’d be awesome at it!!!) But I don’t think anyone can argue that there is any public or private school education that can compare to a well thought out personally tailored curriculum.

    You just have to figure out how much extra you need to do on top of the school to have him where you think he needs to be – when I realized that I would be nowhere close to where I thought J should be unless we spent all his free time on math and science, I ended up being a homeschooler. 🙂

    Good luck figuring all this out – I have this same back and forth every year!

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