Friday, August 20, 2010

My Expectations of Kindergarten

When filling out Andrew’s back to school paperwork, I came across a question that stopped me in my tracks.  “What are your expectations or concerns about kindergarten?”  Under it was enough space for one complete sentence.  Just one. It was tucked away between questions about my sons’ allergies, transportation arrangements, and siblings.  I stared at the survey sheet.  What one sentence could sum up all of my desires, concerns, or expectations about sending my oldest to kindergarten? “ I could write a book about the journey that brought me here, my fears, my desires for my son."   But instead of a book, I decided instead to write a letter. I am not sure I will actually send it to her however.

Dear Teacher,
I am sending you one of my greatest treasures, my eldest son.  He is a child that was much wanted. His father and I prayed and fasted for many long years that he would join our family.   We held each other and cried many nights, longing for his arrival in our home.  He is our miracle.  We are grateful for every moment with Andrew, and try to never forget how fortunate we are that he is ours.

I have had the blessing  to be able to stay home with him, and have spent every day of the last 5 years  as his teacher.  I have tried to teach him to count, to read, to love nature, to use his manners, to  play fairly, to be a good friend, to serve his community, to pray, to love God, and to love his family.  I have taken him to church, play dates, swim lessons, gymnastics, soccer, SciCamp, and theater classes, so that school would not be his first experience in the community.  I have tried to shelter him from negative influences,  to teach him to discern right from wrong, to be respectful.

Andrew has brought much laughter into our home and hearts.  He loves to make others laugh, to entertain.   He is a bright little boy.  He can read and comprehend on a beginning second grade level.  He can memorize long passages and perform them.  He has an extensive vocabulary.  He is learning to sound out words and loves to write long lists and letters.  He loves to count, and is an “expert” on outer space, dinosaurs, and trains.    Being the oldest at home, he likes to be in charge, and is learning daily that he is not.

Andrew is also very sensitive.  We have a peaceful home, (most of the time) and he is not used to yelling or harshness.  When he experiences it other places, he breaks down.   Although he has several play dates a week,  he still doesn’t quite grasp the difference between play and reality or always pick up on social cues.  Sometimes a child will be unkind to Andrew, but he is oblivious, thinking it is part of the game they are playing, and other times he will think someone is teasing him, who is actually just playing.   Andrew is not very aggressive and doesn’t really “get it” when other children play that way.  He will think one of them is really getting hurt and will try to step in to help his friend, usually by verbally explaining to them that they need to stop.

Until very recently, I had planned on homeschooling Andrew and his siblings.  I have a teaching degree, I love being at home with my children, and I was very excited about the prospect.  But God has led us down a different path.  I am excited about ABES and I am excited that you are his schoolteacher.  However, I still  believe that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children.

So what do I want from kindergarten.  I want what every other mom and dad want.  I want my son to be treated each day like the miracle he is.  I want him to laugh.  I want him to know the joy of having a best friend, but I don’t want him to exclude others.  I want him to be encouraged to try new things, and to move out of his comfort zone.  I want him to be treated fairly and kindly when he makes mistakes, and praised when he makes good choices.   I want him to learn that he isn’t the center of the universe, to practice sharing, taking turns, sacrificing for others.  I want him to learn to appreciate the talents of others, and not be embarrassed by his own talents.  I want him to learn how to learn from other adults.  I want him to learn academically and be challenged at his level, not ignored because he can already meet most of the curriculum objectives of kindergarten.   I want him to learn that it is okay to not join the crowd.   I want him to learn to laugh at himself.   I want him to continue to love learning as much as he loves it now.  I don’t want anything to squelch his enthusiasm about school and reading and learning.   I want him to learn to respect other’s beliefs, but to still have faith in his own.  I want him to be hugged at school every day.  6 and ½ hours is a long time to go without being hugged.  I want him to look at your face and know that you care about him.  That he is important to you.  I want you to tell me the strengths you see in him, for you to love and appreciate my child, to validate my decision to send him to you each day.  Because this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I am so sorry to ask so much from you.  I know that none of this is in your job description.  I know that my expectations are unrealistic and completely unfair.  But you asked what I wanted and expected from kindergarten.   I hold out hope as I hand over my son to you, that you will love him.  That you will nurture all that is good in him, and help weed out all that is not. That you will respect him.  That you will teach him.  You are in my prayers as you endeavor to meet this great challenge.  I know that 17 miracles have been placed  in your capable hands, and their parents all want the same thing.  I will pray for you each day.  I am not relinquishing my responsibility to teach my son.  I know that I am primarily responsible for all that he learns as he lives in our home, but I welcome you as a partner.  I am grateful that you have chosen to dedicate your life as an educator of young children. I look forward to a beautiful kindergarten year.

With gratitude,
Andrew’s Mommy


Gina said...

I'm a bit behind in reading blogs and I just read this one. As school starts tomorrow for Kylie, the tears have been flowing all evening since she fell asleep. So, as I read this letter, it hit the nail on the head as to what I feel inside. This IS the hardest thing I've done. Sending her away/letting her go is so sad for me. But your list of aspirations for the school year are my sentiments exactly.

Hindmarsh Family said...

PLEASE!! send this to his teacher! If I were his teacher, I would love it! I remember those years of prayer for this baby boy.... even though you have a great school and teacher, sometimes people need to be reminded about miracles (that we call our children). You are an amazing mommy... thanks for sharing your letter!

Melissa Taylor said...

Wow, this is beautiful. You are such an amazing writer and mom. Hugs,