Author Topic: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)  (Read 848 times)

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CakeBeret

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DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« on: September 07, 2014, 03:04:53 PM »
Hello all! My DS is starting kindergarten next year. We are trying to choose what school to enroll him in; DH has left the decision up to me, and I could really use some impartial advice.

We have ruled out public school for elementary education because the educational standards here are really low and the kids have an, in my opinion, disproportionately high burden of homework. However, we will give DS the option of transferring to public school later because he could earn a 2-year scholarship to community college through the public high school (which is not available in private school). Also, DH and I both work full time.

My top criteria are:
-High educational standards
-Have one-on-one help if he needs it and, conversely, have the opportunity to learn more if he's bored
-Plenty of physical activity - I think it's important for young kids to have an outlet for their energy so they are better able to focus during classtime; and I think it's foolish to expect a bunch of 5-year-olds to sit still and shut up for 7 hours a day
-Social development: DS is pretty shy and a little awkward socially and we want him to have the opportunity to develop more social skills

Further complicating the issue: The two schools we are considering are both religious, to different degrees. DH and I are not affiliated with any specific religion. We have no problem with DS being exposed to any and all religion, but we also do not want him pressured into adopting a religion.

So, our top choices for schools:
School A: Tiny cooperative school
Pros:
-DS would be in a class of approx 6 children, with 2 teachers; so the curriculum can be tailored to each child's needs.
-Plenty of opportunity for him to excel academically
-I attended a school like this when I was in elementary, and it was an excellent learning environment for me; since DS is similar to me mentally, I think he would enjoy the same benefits
-Healthy balance of physical activity and classroom time.
Cons:
-Concerns about religious pressure
-Since it's a small environment, less opportunity for social development and growth
-Concerns about the transition from such a small school to a larger and more regimented one later
Undecided:
-School is only 2 days per week; since the classes are so small, the kids are able to get through the curriculum in a much shorter period of time. DS would spend the other 2 days a week with the same family members who watch him currently (and 1 day a week at home with DH). He would have some homework on his off days, but I would feel compelled to supplement with additional learning activities, which I can see being an extra strain
Less consequential consideration:
-Very low cost

School B, highly rated local religious school
Pros:
-Plenty of structure, routine, opportunities for social development and growth
-Highly rated academics
-Probably would have easier transition to another school later
-Less religious pressure
Cons:
-Less one-on-one attention, tailoring to individual needs
-Limited physical activity (one recess period midday)
-Only goes through 8th grade, so would have to find a new school after that
-Kindergarten is plenty affordable, but tuition gets higher each grade level; by 8th grade, the tuition cost would be equal to our monthly mortgage payment :o

Once he is out of elementary school, we will have more options. Also, we don't have a problem with him transferring to a different school if one doesn't work out.

Thoughts? Advice? Please?
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ladyknight1

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2014, 03:58:04 PM »
I would start trying to get your DS involved in more social interaction now. Is there a play group, library activity, or sport he might enjoy with other children? I honestly don't know as a non-religious person enrolling their child in a religious school what the parameters are. I hope you find the answer for you.

Just my 2 cents, we looked at two private schools for DS, but both had much larger class sizes than the public schools and less focus on specials (music, arts, gifted studies) than the public school. We've been very pleased with the teachers and class activities in public schools for him.

camlan

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2014, 04:23:26 PM »
Just from what you've posted about your concerns for your son and the two schools, I'd say go with the second school.

Five days a week equals more socialization, vs. two days a week at the other school.
Less religious pressure.
Better academic reputation.

Re: one on one attention. Do you think your son will need much of that? I agree it is nice, but many students do very well in a regular-sized class, with one on one attention only when it is needed/necessary.

Limited physical activity. I see this as something the parents can deal with at home. Kids can walk the dog before school, play on a soccer team after school, go bike riding with parents on the weekend.  (I also have a bit of school is school bias. I think if you expect a school to do everything, it can, but it can't do everything well.

Transition to another school--it is going to happen for most kids sooner or later. As a military brat who attended nine schools between kindergarten and high school, I was surprised when I got to college and so many people had difficulties adjusting to a new life without all their friends around them all the time. It was quite an eye-opener, and for the first time, I was somewhat grateful that I'd moved around from school to school a bit. Despite the fact that I am shy and introverted, I had skills to make new friends, while others around me were struggling.)

Tuition: You don't have to keep DS there all 8 years. And tuition costs can change, up or down, at any time.
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MommyPenguin

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2014, 04:40:24 PM »
The first option, with just two days a week, sounds sort of like a homeschool co-op, where you would teach your child at home and they'd get together with other kids in a more casual setting for a day or two a week.  So instead of thinking of that option as "school," I'd think of it as "homeschool co-op," or just "co-op," and see if that changes your view of it.  Socially, I think getting to know six kids well is the equal of getting to know 30 kids a little (and maybe a few of them becoming close friends).  So I wouldn't really see an issue with it from the social aspect, especially if he's also doing other activities like soccer, scouts, whatever.  My concern would be that he's just in class two days a week and it doesn't sound like you're available to teach him the other days or have him doing other activities, etc.  I guess I probably wouldn't want to do just two days a week of education at the kindergarten level, the other three being basically babysitting.  If it was preschool, I'd say go for it.

So if you aren't able to supplement at home or have the family members who watch him to do some sort of educational stuff (even just making sure to read to him, have him do some practice reading/letters, and maybe a math activity book), I'd lean towards the second.

Mergatroyd

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2014, 05:19:02 PM »
Is your child happy to be at home? My oldest would have done better at the first school, he loved being at home. The youngest used to get upset that there was no school on saturdays, he would have done better at the second school. (He loved routine). As it happened, the school they both attended kindy at was five days a week, full school days, and they both did fine (the school did not have nap time as part of its curriculum so they were tired at the end of the day, and went to bed right after supper).

Overall, my opinion is that you should go for the second school. If it turns out to be too much for your kid you can switch into the other school. School usually goes five days a week, so it won't be such a shock when he switches into public school later.

Slartibartfast

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2014, 05:22:54 PM »
Babybartfast just started first grade - she went to a ritzy expensive private preschool and started at the local public school last year for kindergarten.  (The school we're zoned for is terrible, but she got into the magnet elementary school for kids who like the arts - much better!)

In our experience:

- What you do at home is FAR more important than what they do at school, at this age.  The best thing you can do for your kids is to read with them and help them become confident readers, because if they're ahead of the curve there they're much more likely to enjoy school, enjoy learning, and do well in other academics later on.

- The private preschool was a smaller class size with more teachers, and they continued that with their kindergarten program, but I honestly think Babybartfast has had better academic instruction in the public school.  There's a big gap between "all the toys in our classroom are educational!" and actually having an adult sit down one-on-one with your kid even if they're not struggling, and our conclusion was she wasn't getting all that much extra for the extra tuition.

- If you're not paying for private tuition (or not paying as much), you can do a LOT more enrichment on your own.  Family vacation somewhere educational, special extra-curricular activities, more expensive hobbies, etc.  If your DS thrives on one-on-one attention (like Babybartfast does), consider starting him on piano lessons.

- Safety is very important, so if that's a factor in your no-public-school decision, ignore most of this ^^^^^^^^^  ;D

cicero

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2014, 06:59:42 AM »
personally i think the second option is better for you, for a lot of reasons but primarily because has a school-like structure, as opposed to 2 days a week and then sending him to a baby sitter. By age five, i think a more structured environment is a better choice (obviously you may have a different opinion).

as for physical activity - are you saying that the children "sit" for 7 hours a day? i doubt it - preschools, from what i see, are usually dynamic. children have free play time in the classroom which usually involves some running around, they usualy have some music/dance based activities, they go from desks for learning to floor for reading to costumes and play acting, etc so that the seven hours a day are not usually spent sitting in one place.


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Deetee

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2014, 09:03:49 AM »
I think our responses will actually come down to how we feel about the schools.

My thoughts
1) I completely agree that kids need to run around and they need to do that during school hours. Are you sure it is just recess at the first school? What do they do for lunch? Do they do outdoor field trips with such a small class?
2) Being closer with a small class sounds better for socialisation. Or at least equal. Unless your kid is highly social, they will generally be good friends with only a few kids anyho out of a large class.
3) At this age, learning will be highly supplemented at home. My kid's reading improved dramatically over the summer with no formal work. School plants some seeds and ideas and the kids little sponge brains take over the rest.
4) I'm nervous about a school that has high educational outcomes for primary grades. Kids at that age learn through experience, hands on activity and lots of play.
5) Despite what may sound like a laid back approach above, I have quite high standards for my kids and myself ( both my husband and i have a lot of post secondary. He's a prof and I'm about to get my law degree -which will be my third degree) But from teaching in universities, I have a great disdain of bubble sheet learning.
6) How much of a burden will the two days only be? Also what happens in the higher grades? Two days a week sounds fine for primary school but you may want more as he gets older.

bopper

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2014, 10:28:24 AM »
If your kids was going to pre-school, I would pick option A.
By Kindergarten, I would think 5 days a week and more kids would be the way to go.

CakeBeret

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2014, 12:37:14 PM »
Thanks all. To answer a couple questions....

Both schools will accept non religious families, so that's not a problem. He is in 2-day preschool now, which is fine. I am leaning towards the second option, because I do think the 5 days a week would be better in the long run...but of course I'm getting a lot of pressure to go with the first option.
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."

Deetee

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2014, 01:51:39 PM »
Thanks all. To answer a couple questions....

Both schools will accept non religious families, so that's not a problem. He is in 2-day preschool now, which is fine. I am leaning towards the second option, because I do think the 5 days a week would be better in the long run...but of course I'm getting a lot of pressure to go with the first option.

Pressure from whom? Information, advice is all OK, but this is YOUR kid and as long as your DH is with you, no-one else should be applying pressure.

If you think the second option is better, go with that.

mime

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Re: DS is starting kindergarten next year...advice? (Long)
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2014, 03:00:56 PM »
I'm leaning toward the second option.

The class size is nice for younger ages, but I think it is important to eventually learn to socialize with larger and potentially more diverse groups of people. Many schools also address the needs of 'larger' classes (my son has 20 in his class) by having special units for advanced work or additional help. I also spend my own time teaching him in-depth about topics that are interesting to him-- which I personally would not enjoy as much if I were supplementing his basic education like you may be doing in school #1.

My oldest is in 4th grade now, and he's going to a religious school. It is a Christian school, and I am Christian, but it is not my denomination. Religious education is part of the curriculum-- and I want that, but it often leads us to discussions to clarify and understand that his school believes ABC and his church believes XYZ. These have been great discussions for us, but not everyone wants to deal with that.

Do you know how limited the physical activity is for the kids at school #2? Many schools do appreciate the need for kids to get some physical activity during the day to keep from getting lethargic by 2:00.