Wednesday, February 27, 2013

School stress...already?!

I can't believe we are already thinking about kindergarten choices for Ella. She is still more than a year (at least) from kindergarten, but we have to decide soon where and when she will go to school. This was all spurred by a phone call earlier this week from my school district asking if we would be registering Ella for pre-k in the fall. I hate to admit, but it was almost like the woman was speaking to me in a foreign language. I should know better than to answer a phone call when I am in the middle of a court arraignment (covering a news story, of course). I was distracted to start. I also wasn't expecting to have this decision, NOW. I assumed Ella would continue at Unity (with all the services she is getting) for another year and then transition to pre-k. I also anticipated holding her out of kindergarten an extra year. I think she would be more successful starting school as a six year old. That extra year would give her more time to catch up and develop.

Cue the crazy thoughts and anxiety! I don't know if Ella will be allowed to start school late. Sure, it is my decision. However, this could mean that she would also miss a year of services. I fear this could create a major set back. The district may suggest enrolling her when she is eligible to start and then possibly repeat kindergarten. I am strongly opposed to this option. The last thing I want is for Ella to spend an entire school year feeling like she is struggling. It all comes down to money and with school budgets very tight these days unfortunately special Ed programs (as well as many other important school programs) can and do suffer. I don't want to send Ella to school if she is not ready. I am in no way doubting her and her amazing acoomplishment. She may be ready. She is making huge strides every single day. Two months ago, Ella's language was limited to a few mumbled words. Today, she is putting short sentences together and so much more aware of her ability to vocalize. I can just imagine where her progress will be in  June or even September. So what do I do? Hold her out a year and perhaps have less/no services....or send her to school as a 5 year old?

These decisions are never easy. This decision is complicated.  I feel like kindergarten sets the stage for Ella's school experience. I LOVED school. I was a good student and by all accounts a teachers pet. I was always reading books and I was excited for weekends to be over to get back to the classroom. I am proud to admit I was a nerd :-). I don't expect or need my children to be exactly this way, but I do not want school to be a place where they feel like they struggle. Right now, Ella enjoys going to school. She runs into the classroom and I usually have to drag her out by the end of the day. I don't want her to lose that enthusiasm. There will be challenges ahead. We all run into these challenges, it is part of life. Ella's challenges may be greater. I am not sure what level of support she will need. I do know that she will remain in an integrated classroom. Our goal is to have little support as necessary. One thing that is certain is we will give her all the tools she needs to be successful.

I am very lucky to have a lot of people in our corner. People who love, encourage and support Ella. Not only is my sister a school principal, her background is in special Ed and she spent years as a kindergarten teacher. She is my sounding board. Ella's current teachers are also a great resource. I have already voiced my rambling concerns about the future and she had great advice (and hopefully doesn't think I am nuts, haha). Jason and I are going to check out the pre-k program in a few weeks as well. I am hopeful we can have some of our questions answered regarding eligibility, etc. In the meantime, I am hoping to curb the freak outs to a minimum. If kindergarten is stressing me out, I can on,y imagine what happens when college rolls around!  I feel our decisions with Ella have been good up to this point and we will make the right choice this time around as well.

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