the kindergarten conundrum: good news and bad news

The kids have their first day of school tomorrow. At the end of last year, I wrote a post about the confusion I felt about where to send them this year. Let me just tell you, this summer was a comedy of errors as I tried to figure it out. I wrote before about how I was really ambivalent about sending India to kindergarten at all. She's already reading chapter books and I was feeling sad about not having her home with Karis during the day, so I had contemplated having her skip kindergarten in favor of staying home and doing some unstructured homeschooling. Then there was the fact that the school Jafta attends only has a half-day kindergarten, which was going to mean me running back-and-forth dropping off and picking up in the middle of the day, and then going back for Jafta. This was going to be bad for my work schedule, and bad for Karris's nap schedule.

The shining yet elusive solution for our family is a local magnet school that has a full-day kindergarten. This school is right by my house, even closer than the school that are actually zoned for. It's an amazing, brand new school, with stellar teachers and rave reviews from all of the parents whose children attend. The problem? Because it's such a great school, and because so many of the schools in my town are not great schools, it is very difficult to get into. They choose students with a lottery system, and we had all of our kids names in that lottery for this year. I was feeling pretty confident about our chances, because if one sibling gets in, all of the siblings in that family can attend the school. I had three names in the hat, so I really thought we had a good chance. But alas, none of my kids got chosen. India got the smallest number on the wait list, at number 14. I felt just like Katnis’s mom at the reaping. Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  I felt just like the moms in that Waiting for Superaman movie. Okay, not really like that, either. I guess I felt like a privileged middle-class lady who was sad that her kids could not attend an amazingly awesome school and had to attend a slightly-less-awesome school.  So, you know. Devastated.

After the crushing blow of none of my children being chosen for the charter school, I decided that I would just send all of the kids to the school that Jafta attended last year.  This option was less than ideal because it is a little bit of a hike from our house, and I was going to have to make some plans for childcare because the kindergarten was just a half day. Still, I felt okay about it, because it is a very, very good school. Jafta has an inter-district transfer to attend there, and my understanding was that when one child from the family had a transfer, all of the children from that family can attend. This is the first of many mistakes on my part.

I licked my wounds about not getting my kids into the charter school and went to sign them up for the Jafta’s school. I ended up enrolling them on the last day that the district was open in June before going on summer break. I had been holding off, waiting and hoping that somehow, a kindergartner at the charter school would drop and the 13 students in front of India on that waitlist would decline their spots. But I  finally gave up on that dream, and went to sign them up only to discover that they did not, in fact, have an automatic transfer to attend the school that Jafta attend last year. In fact, they weren't likely going to get one. That timeframe for transfer requests had been over for months, and I had missed it. My twins were approved to attend our neighborhood school, which was not a great option at all. Unfortunately our neighborhood school is one of the most poorly rated schools in our school district, and also has an awkward half-day kindergarten. I was also bummed because Jafta was still set to attend his previous school, which meant even more driving and chaos for pick-up. This revelation was at the very beginning of the summer, and I was basically waved out of the office with instructions to call them back you the end of August, when they resumed after summer break. This basically gave me all summer long to stress about where my kids were going to go to school. And stress I did.

I hated the idea of them going to our neighborhood school while Jafta went to another. I was already iffy on kindergarten for India, anyway, and was even more concerned about how Kembe would fare there.  I thought about homeschooling. I contemplated sending Kembe to private.  I fretted, I googled, I lost sleep.  It was embarrassing.

As soon as the district opened again in August you can imagine I was there, politely knocking on the door and asking what could be done for my family, with siblings slated for different schools. The district took pity on me and offered me a transfer to a different local school. It wasn't as good as the one that Jafta attended last year, and it meant that Jafta would have to attend a new school. But it had an all-day kindergarten, and they would at least be together. I have some friends with kids there and, while it’s an “underperforming school”, everyone thinks it’s improving each year. A lot of parents are beginning to get involved, and it seemed like a nice neighborhood school that we could pour ourselves into. I like the fact that it was closer to my house, and that it would feed into the junior high that my kids will attend. I made my peace with this school, and accepted this transfer for all three kids.

The very next day, I got a call from the district letting me know that India had, in fact, made her way up the wait list, and was given a spot at the charter school . . . the super awesome charter school … the one I’ve always dreamed of my kids attending, the one where I cried during the school tour because the principal and the educational philosophy was just so completely amazing. You can imagine that when I got the phone call, I said yes without thinking or asking any questions. It was also my understanding that if one child from the family got into this charter school, then all of the children did. (Where have we heard this before?)

After I said yes, I texted Mark with the great news… “India got into the charter school so therefore ALL of our children got into the charter school!!” I wept with joy. I did a little dance. I prayed. None of this was overdramatic at all, of course.

Then I called the charter school to see what I needed to do to get my three kids registered. The woman there kindly explained to me that, no, not all three of my children were able to attend. Only India had a spot. She looked at my paperwork and noted that my two kids into in kindergarten have the same birthdate. She began talking about how tough of the situation that this was for two twins. You know, because twins share DNA, and they share their mother's womb… “I mean, they're practically the same person”, she says to me. And let me just confessed right here and now, I did not correct her . AT ALL.  I just let her go on and on about the special bond between twins, listening and offering an emphatic yes and mm hmm every so often. I mean, I wasn't about to interject since she seemed to be talking herself into making a spot available for Kembe at the charter school ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SPECIAL GENETIC BOND. I'm not exactly sure what happened. I got a call back from the district later that day, telling me that since they were twins, I would be able to get my other kindergartner into the charter school. Great news! More joyous dancing!

But then she informed me that Jafta would have to attend the other school by himself.

Womp womp womp.

Ugh. Talk about a buzz kill. It was hard to be excited about our big break with the charter school when it meant that Jafta was now attending a brand-new school by himself. The school, I might add, that I really only chose because of the kindergarten hours. So now I have pulled Jafta out of the school that he's attended for two years, out of the school where all of his friends are, out of the school where he's known and feels comfortable, and stuck him in a school in order to have a full day of kindergarten for his siblings WHO ARE NOW NO LONGER ATTENDING SAID SCHOOL.  Needless to say, I was pretty sick about this whole thing. He lost his spot at the school he attended last year, and there is really nothing that can be done. Poor Jafta is pretty much taking one for the team next year.

I still feel a pit in my stomach thinking about how this is playing out for Jafta. I've been told that next year, he will be a shoe-in for the charter school. Apparently, it's only at time of the lottery that they offer priority for siblings. But they don't offer priority for siblings when kids get pulled off the waitlist. This is great news for next year, but essentially it means that in three years, Jafta will have attended three different elementary schools. I hate this for him.

It's amazing how, in all of my over-analyzing and concerted effort to find the best school placement for my kids, it seems like I've kind of fouled things up for this year. The hardest part was when I had to tell Jafta about this. When I told him that he wouldn't be attending school with Kembe and India next year, he cried. And actually, he didn't cry about not attending school this friends. He was most upset because the second grade graders often go into the classroom of the kindergartners and read to them. Apparently, he'd really been looking forward to doing this.

Surprisingly, though, today he seems more upbeat about the change than I am. He's a resilient little guy, and I think he will make friends quickly. We were able to have a playdate with another student who attends his new school, so he at least knows one other person. So tomorrow, will take the kindergartners to school for their first big day, and then we'll drive to another school and send off Jafta, and then we'll drive to preschool and sendoff Karis. It's a bit stressful that I've got kids at three different schools next year, but I'm trying to just be thankful that each of them are in great schools with seemingly great teachers.

I'm anxious for how things will go down tomorrow, for all of my kids. Kembe is certainly the child who makes friends the most quickly. I’ve been worried all summer about how he will do behaviorally. He had a great no-nonsense teacher last year who was impervious to his attempts at control, but things unraveled a bit this summer when he had a different teacher at the montessori.  For kindergarten, I requested that he be given a teacher who was firm, consistent, and structured.  We showed up for “meet the teacher” day last week, and his teacher is a big, burley guy whose nickame is Kindergarten Cop. I couldn’t have casted him better myself. So awesome.

Photo Aug 31, 8 27 23 AM

ME: OHMAHGAH THIS IS AWESOME!!!

KEMBE: This is not what I had in mind.

India can sometimes be shy and introverted, so I'm hoping that she will push past her tendency to withdraw when she's in a situation where she feels intimidated. And for Jafta, I'm really hoping that he's able to find a good group of friends. I know it's hard being the new kid, because everyone has already formed their friendships. We had this dynamic a little bit last year, when his best friend moved away from his school. Jafta had not done a great job in kindergarten of branching out beyond his best friend. So when his friend left, it was almost like Jafta was the new kid again. Last year, for the first week, every day at pickup he informed me that he played alone at recess. I cannot even tell you how stressful that week was for me. I was even in tears a few times, thinking about him wandering around on the playground with no friend. Every day that I picked him up and he told me that that situation had repeated itself, and I just wanted so badly to fix it for him. Of course, a few weeks in and he found his tribe. I'm just hoping he finds it more quickly this time around. And I'm hoping that for all of my kids, too.

Of course, I think I am more stressed out about the whole thing than any of them are. They all went to that bed happy and excited for tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm feeling anxious about all of their potential social interactions. It's funny that I stress out a lot more over their social well-being at school that I do their academics. Maybe because I feel like the academic stuff I can have some control over, or at least assist them with. The social… you can’t really help with that. You just have to let them go and hope for the best.

Of course, all of this is coming from the lens of my own projections and experiences. I can remember awkward times at school of having no one to sit with. I remember being the new girl a few times, and trying to figure out who my friends would be. I remember wanting so badly to approach someone, to ask for something to play with me, and I remember crippling social anxiety overcoming me. I don't want that for any of my kids, even for moment. Of course, I can't shield them from it, and these kind of childhood losses are inevitable part of growing up.  But knowing that doesn't make it any easier to watch, does it?

Alright, our backpacks are laid out, and lunches are made. Time for this mama to get some sleep. I have a feeling tomorrow may be an emotional day.

Photo Aug 24, 3 16 01 PM


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