It had been decided for a month or two that since their daughter would stand on their living room couch and cry to watch the neighborhood children go to the school across the street that she would attend a pre-kindergarten the next fall. So the mother dressed herself in a cute maternity outfit and dressed the daughter in a pink dress and headed to nearest pre-kindergarten to sit in on a class. The daughter watched in awe, gripping her mother’s hand, as the school children listened to a story and went to their seats for seat work. The mother introduced herself and her daughter to the teacher. The teacher smiled and asked the little girl when she would turn four and thus be old enough for the school. Without hesitation, the daughter looked up and said, “On my next birthday.”
I rushed around the house trying to find the perfect shirt, the perfect shoes, the perfect necklace, wondering when was the last time I even cared what I wore. My husband said Evan was dressed and ready to go. I yelled downstairs that Evan needed to brush his teeth and hair and that his face still had traces of syrup. Of all the days for the boys to actually allow us to sleep in! I raced down with a warm washcloth, a wet brush, and toothpasted toothbrush.
Me: Evan, what’s your last name?
Me: Good job. How old are you?
Me: Good. When will you turn four?
Evan: (puzzled look)
Me: Evan, when is your birthday?
Evan: I’m going to have a Mickey Mouse-Kung Fu Panda birthday party, and Grandma is going to make my cake. She makes the best cakes for me. But it’s not my birthday.
Me: You’re birthday is July 5th. Can you say July 5th?
Evan: July 5th.
Me: Good. Here. Brush your teeth. Up and down. Up and down. Back and forth. Back and forth.
We rush to the school, making it just in time as I had forgotten how bad traffic was at eight in the morning. We headed for the office. Excited my husband and I sit down with Evan in my lap as we waited for the vice principal.
We had discussed this for months. Evan needs to go to school next year. He’s too bright. He needs social interaction. He needs friends. He needs to learn to write his name and coloring within the lines. He needs some sort of structure. He needs some time away from his mother.
We get up and meet the vice principal. Who asks if Evan will be . . . five next September. Excuse me? Oh, pre-kindergarten is actually for slightly less mature five year olds, but it’s the same thing as kindergarten, falling under the California state curriculum for kindergarten. Oh, we would love to still see the class. We are here anyways. Thank you for the suggestions of pre-schools. Of course, we understand. It is a lovely school, and the teacher is a lovely woman who seems thoroughly disappointed that they can’t take four year olds but makes several more suggestions of pre-schools around the county. But my, he is a bright boy.
The class was small just five boys and five girls, counting the days, saying the day of the week, counting by ten to hundred, discussing patterns, talking about the weather, saying the ABC sounds all the way to L, and listening to the gingerbread man story. It was just as I had imagined. A small class snuggled in a class room filled with educational toys and activities.
As we left the school, I explained to my husband what the difference between pre-kindergarten and pre-school was in Arizona. See pre-kindergarten was like a prep-high school; it existed to gear the child up towards kindergarten in the same way a prep-high school gear its students for college. In the pre-kindergarten, there were more academics then in a pre-school setting. Sure, there were still lots of fun and games, but the children left the class being able to write the ABCs and read a few words. I had never heard of a pre-kindergarten that was actually a kindergarten. But then California’s cut off date is the beginning of December; while Arizona’s is the beginning of September. It had to make for some immaturity in the early grades.
So with a heavy heart I realized that I had only just begun my research for some sort of school for Evan, though I was glad to hear that no one recommended a five day, full day class schedule for four year olds as was the case at my old Catholic school. Damn, I thought I had everything planned. Guess it’s back to the old drawing board.
Me: So, Evan, did you like the school?
Me: (surprised because he was so excited to go) Why?
Evan: I don’t like the gingerbread man story. It’s scary. No school for me.