Monday, August 08, 2005

Kinder Karma

I must have done a good deed somewhere along the line...or maybe it was Robin.

We got back home on Tuesday afternoon, had a couple of drinks with Jose & Yolanda, and went to bed way, way early. I did, however, take ten minutes to fill the treat bags with dollar-store stuff we'd brought for the kids in Robin's class.

When I picked her up after school on Wednesday, there was a sign saying that there would be no classes Thursday or Friday (this is about as much notice as we usually get...clearly not a lot of working moms in this neighborhood.) But before I get too self-congratulatory about not letting Robin beg off school that day, I read the rest of the sign: classes are out for two days because it's time to pre-register for next year.

Now, in the U.S. "next year" would be just a month off, so pre-registration makes sense. But here, the second semester just started a couple of weeks ago and "next year" is six full months away.

I had already decided that Robin would need a new school for next year. I've complained before about the public school not providing her with the opportunity to learn, and of course learning, per se, was not the main issue back when we put her in the pre-K program. We wanted her to be around other kids, and to speak Spanish, and she did, and all was well.

But the academic content has become an issue, and now they want a commitment (or at least a general indication) about next February. I had had my eye on a small private school in San Rafael that Dad discovered one day when he was here last year. I had already stopped in to ask for the name & number to contact for an appointment to learn more about the program, but I had never followed through...what with everything being (I thought) six months or more off. I was quite sure I didn't want to sign Robin up for first grade where she is now, but figured that the registration deadlines are probably the same for public & private alike.

So Wednesday I stopped by to ask if I could meet with someone and fortunately the principal was able to see me the next day.

Let me tell you, if I could have designed a school for Robin, about the only thing I would have added was maybe having it be right here on my street. They follow the Montessori method for the pre-K and kindergarten levels, and what she described as a "hybrid method" for first grade and up (they offer up through sixth). I suspect that this approach is necessary (or at any rate helpful) in terms of complying with the requirements of the Ministry of Education while retaining some of the advantages of the Montessori method.

They have children of different ages together: ages 3 through 6 in the pre-K/kindergarten section, then a separate classroom area for grades 1 through 3, and a third area for grades 4 through 6. Each child has access to all the materials in his/her particular area, and the children work at their own pace. Older children are encouraged to help younger ones.

The place is neither large nor fancy, but it is clean, open and friendly, and just filled with materials on low shelves around every available wall space. Most of these "materials" (in the kindergarten space at least), were well-used but sturdy wooden toys for things like shape sorting, patterns, counting, etc. The desks and chairs are arranged in small groups in the middle of the room.

I explained our situation to the principal, including the fact that there's a chance we'll be moving to the U.S. before February anyway. (Hi, people who haven't been in touch with us since the didn't really think the stability would last, did you??)She suggested that it might be a good idea to bring Robin in right now - they're only about three weeks into their second semester, and that way she could get up to speed and not be behind this school's average first grade level: the students are generally reading by the end of kindergarten, and are familiar with the numbers through 9000.

Are you sensing that I was not hard to convince? I spoke with Alex that night, and Robin the next day. The conversation with Alex included some detail. The one with Robin went like this:

- You know where I went yesterday?
- Where?
- I went to visit a school where the kindergarteners can learn to read.
- (jumping up and down) I want to go! I want to go!

So she's going. In fact, she's there now. I wrote a letter of explanation and took it to the old school this morning. They were disappointed to see her go, but couldn't really argue that it was the right thing to do.

It's $100/month, by the way, and the kindergarten is from 8:00-12:00 Mon-Thu and till 11:30 on Fridays. (Did everybody catch that? Eight o'clock in the morning. Not seven. Eight. How very civilized. I'm going to stop giving Julia afternoon naps and I'll still get to put them to bed at 7:00 or 7:30, but she won't get me up at 5:30 a.m. anymore!!) For first grade and up, the schedule is 8:00 to 3:00, and for $10 extra per month, the younger kids can stay till 3:00 also (as a daycare, without the actual instruction.) We're not going to do that, at least not right at first, but if she ends up wanting to...well who am I to stand in the way of three extra hours of socializing in a healthy environment?

Don't know if you caught it up there, but they do take kids beginning at age three. At the moment Julia is still anti-school because of that one day she was over tired or in an off mood and didn't like Sunday School when my parents took her. But normally she says she wants to go to Robin's school, so it probably won't be long before she's asking to. We'll see how Robin likes it for a couple of weeks, and then if Julia wants to go we may try that as well.

So this place is three miles (8 minutes) away, and is within walking distance of Yolanda's house, so she can pick Robin up sometimes if I've got a translation to work on. It's actually quite a steep walk, but only for Yolanda: on the way back to her house, it's all downhill.

So--if it isn't all used up on us--I am now sending good school vibes to Anita so that, preferably within the week, they will find a place that's as well-suited to Conor as this one is to Robin.

(Oh, and they offer music modules where the kids can get an introduction to flute, guitar, percussion and, umm, something else I think. And (for an additional fee) there's swimming on Tuesdays. What did I do to deserve this???)


Dot August 09, 2005 7:59 AM  

Jen, I just got your blog address from Lisa (I lost the other when changing ISPs) and I think it is totaly awesome about Robin and the new school. I so certain that she will excell and have a wonderful time learning. She is sooo smart and needs challenge. Dot

Anonymous August 09, 2005 11:05 AM  

How utterly wonderful! Including the part about swimming, since Robin is so excited about learning to swim.

She's so bright that she'll thrive in this setting.

(Do I get a finder's fee?) :)



Jennifer August 09, 2005 5:40 PM  

Sure. You get international public acknowledgement of your pivotal role in the process, and the undying admiration of my (no doubt legion) blog readers, who thank you for providing the grist for yet another post-full of keen insight and rapier wit.

Dad August 10, 2005 6:14 AM  


I mean, I never had that before!


Anita August 12, 2005 1:00 PM  

What good karma indeed! Thank you!

Even more, earlier this week, I read about robin being excited about learning to read in K, and I was a wee bit sad for us. So thank goodness your karma over-rode ours!!!


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