Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top 10 Questions To Ask When Exploring Kindergarten

Two years ago, my husband and I were already thinking about kindergarten. For "fun" we toured and fell in love with the private schools in our area. We enjoyed VIP treatment, munching on hors d'oeuvres and schmoozing with other like-minded parents seeking the best possible education for our little ones. At the time, we didn't bother looking at the price tags figuring we would certainly be eligible for financial aid. We explored Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs and fantasized about all the wonderful things that Lila would learn and do-- she would speak two (maybe three) languages, develop exceptional leadership skills, master reading, writing and math beyond standard expectations, enjoy organic lunches and a variety of enriching after school activities...

Now, it's time for reality. We are in the midst of the kindergarten enrollment process. Come to find out very little financial aid (if any) is available for these fabulous kindergarten programs. And although we have high expectations, we have a middle class income; truth of the matter, the $30-$40K tuition is a bit unrealistic. And so we find ourselves exploring our local public school system...

In our city, there are four highly-desired magnet programs, each with a different speciality: Math, Science & Technology, Social Studies, the Arts, and the gem of our city-- the International Baccalaureate program. In order to be considered for the magnet schools, parents must attend an orientation for each school and enter their child's name into the lottery. In March, we would find out if Lila has been accepted into one of the magnet programs. If not, she would enter the public school in our district. For the next two days, we will be attending orientations for each program, including a tour of our district school.

Lila is a smart kid. She's receiving a solid foundation in preschool. She is fortunate to be in a classroom of ten students with two teachers plus interns. She loves learning and is developing new skills and knowledge in leaps and bounds. We want so badly for this to continue for her-- to know that she will be in a place that will provide the opportunity for her to grow and explore as she is currently. I worry about large classrooms, the lack of individualized attention (that she is used to) and the overall quality of her education. I am entering this process with an open mind but A LOT of questions!

There are so many things to consider, but here are my Top 10:

1) How are differences in learning styles and levels accommodated?

2) What are the curriculum goals for the year? What is my daughter expected to learn and achieve by the end of kindergarten? (I know what my expectations are and I am hoping they match up!)

3) What is the school's educational philosophy? How is it reflected in their teaching methods and programs?

4) How many students are in each class? What is the student-teacher ratio?

5) What are the safety and security measures in place for the school? (This wasn't originally on my list, but sadly it has become a huge concern.)

6) How diverse is the student body? The faculty and staff?

7) How is technology incorporated into classroom learning? What resources are available?

8) What is their policy on discipline? How do they handle common school concerns such as bullying? 

9) What are the available options for after school enrichment activities? Who supervises these activities?

10) What are the menu options for school lunch? Do they provide healthy options? (If not, Lila will be brown bagging it!)

Wish us luck!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thumbs up for Lila!

This past summer I wrote about Lila's struggle over sucking her thumb. Despite her sincere desire to stop, it seemed she was fighting a losing battle (or should I say thumb wrestle). Her dad was constantly on her case about it, while I was the enabler, totally coddling her and making excuses-- "She just needs it to {fill in the blank} relax, calm down, stop crying, fall asleep... She doesn't do it that often anymore."  In the back of my mind, I worried that she would be in high school still sucking that thumb.

Well, who would have thought that a little holiday magic and a whole lot of stubborn will power would do the trick. I have discovered that when Lila decides (for herself) to do something, then you could count on it being done. She is a determined, independent little person with her own goals and agenda. We did, however, get a little help from Santa.

A couple days before Christmas, (thanks to a suggestion from Annabelle) Lila received a video email message from the North Pole. It was Santa Claus! He had a personalized message just for Lila. He knew her name, age, favorite color, what she wanted for Christmas... but what was most fascinating of all was that he had a special challenge for her. For the new year, Santa suggested that Lila should "stop sucking her thumb."

Lila gasped and covered her mouth. "How did Santa know?!"

A few days later, Lila asked if I would buy her the "special nail polish." During one of my motivational / I-can-relate talks with Lila, I had shared  that I used to bite my nails as a child and had to wear bitter-tasting nail polish to break the habit. So, we went to Walgreens and purchased "Thum," a disgusting-tasting product made with cayenne pepper extract (described as "harmless"). After applying it to Lila's thumb, without her looking I tasted it myself. "GAK!!!" It was so bad! I was worried for Lila.

That night, Lila faced her challenge head on. After storytime, came the tears and the pleading, "I want to suck my thumb! I can't sleep! I want to suck my thumb!" I got back in the bed with her. She tossed and turned and tossed and turned. She shook and snapped and tugged the blankets, flipped and hit her pillow several times. She whined and yelled and cried. But she did NOT suck her thumb. Finally she calmed down enough for me to wrap my arm around her. I held her hand and within a few minutes, she fell asleep. Success! She made it through one night.

The next day she was so proud of herself and as a reward she got to download a new Ipad app.

When I thought now I would have to spend every night holding her hand, Lila came up with her own idea to move forward with her goal. She now sleeps with a puppet on her hand. Brillant!

By January 1, Lila successfully completed her New Year's Resolution. I tell ya', this little girl is my hero. I can't even tell you how many resolutions, goals, and intentions I've had that were left undone. Lila truly amazes me and inspires me everyday to do a little better.

Happy New Year!