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Araiya turns 5, so what about school?

Five years old. Can you believe it? Araiya has been counting down the day of her Birthday for the past 364 days. The day before her Birthday this year, she started informing me what we will be doing for her 6th Birthday. At one point, she wanted a 3-tiered cake decorated with a Tiara, Flowers, Butterflies, Jewels, Hearts, Sharks, Turtles, Princess AND Ballet Girls. Her ideas exceed her maturity level and reality. Currently she is obsessed with Ballet, as she is looking forward to taking a Ballet class in a few weeks. For her Birthday, we let her invite 5 friends to go out to lunch and get cupcakes. She chose to go to sushi, a decision which exposed every single girl she invited to a new food genre. Araiya pounded all the raw fish rolls; her friends were perfectly content with the sesame noodles. Actually, only one of the girls even tried a sushi roll. Araiya, however, was completely oblivious to their reservations about trying a foreign meal for the first time, they were quite unconvinced on the merits of eating fish eggs despite Araiya’s continued prompting. That sure made for a cheap Birthday lunch for 7 little girls ;-)

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She really is entering a completely new level. We are entering a completely new realm of parenting. In some regards it has indeed gotten a lot easier. We can reason with her, have a conversation with her, she is independent & capable. On the other hand, I foresee it getting a lot harder. More things to do, more places to be, her will butting ours even more than it already does, exerting her opinion and desires, needing more challenge and stimulus than her sisters can provide. I think things could get incredibly hectic. Our days of casually walking up to the park to play whenever we get up, breakfasted and ready to roll are likely coming to an end. With classes & activities our currently very flexible, open schedule becomes a lot more constrained. We have decided that we have no desire to overload ourselves and become slaves to scheduled activities. I refuse to become little more than a chaffer shuffling these girls around from one thing to the next. We have said we will do only one activity at a time. This Fall is it Ballet; this winter it will be Skiing.

A lot of people have been asking if she is going to be going to Kindergarten, which opens up a can of worms. Officially she will not. While academically she would be right on par, if not a bit ahead of peers entering school this Fall, I feel socially she is still lacking some maturity that simply comes with age and experience of being in a more structured classroom setting. She simply has had little opportunity to gain that beyond her Sisters, Playmates and Ski lessons. Often times, just given the demographic she is around, the kids we hang out with are younger than her. A lot of families send their kids to preschool at 4 and 5, making them unavailable during the AM daytime hours when we are more likely to be out and about. I have really struggled with whether or not it would be the wisest idea to expose Araiya to a preschool setting. I think it would be very beneficial and that has been one of the reasons I have thought that homeschool would leave her lacking in this regard. She does learn really well in a peer-based environment. However, in trying to actually find a preschool that would work for us, it seems without having to drive over a bridge and back multiple times a week, there is very little in our immediate area that is either not some wacky philosophy, a glorified daycare (one place had a ratio of 20:1 for 4 & 5 yr olds), or ridiculously expensive (like $800/mo for 3 days a week, that is more than my college tuition). It simply came down to the fact we couldn’t find a good fit that would work for our family. But I am convinced that she is ready and needing to be doing something structured and that exposes her to a classroom environment and that will challenge her. She wants to do school, she wants to have homework.

I am not pro-or anti Homeschooling/Public Schooling/Private Schooling. I believe education is per kid, per year, per circumstance. At this point, having watched the process of closing of several public schools in our area, redrawing the enrollment lines so we are now going to the worst school in our cluster, I cannot conceivably or responsibly send my children to a Seattle Public School at this point. Now, in the future, if and when we move, school will more heavily weigh into the housing decision (when we moved into this house, we were supposed to go to one of the better schools in our cluster, but they closed it). By not enrolling her now, if we do move and if we do choose public school later, we wisely will save our ability to enroll in a better school instead of being permanently stuck at the school we were originally enrolled it (you only get one chance at this), plus the state of Washington doesn’t really count K or 1st grade for much of anything. Additionally, our current top choice is a Classical Christian school some friends of ours are starting. Their launch date will be next Fall with a Primary Class (K, 1st & 2nd), which I feel will be a perfect fit for Araiya. Granted, it will be a brand new school and they have a lot to work out in a year. Sadly it will come down to mostly cost. If tuition is like buying a car each year, we will be out. From what we have heard, if they reach their sponsorship goals, it should be pretty affordable.

So for now, we feel it is wisest to refrain from enrolling anywhere, leaving only the option of if we do anything, it will be at home. I have purchased a few curriculum books and we have started having ‘School time’ in the afternoons a few days a week. Starting this week, I am upping it to every day except Fridays. Tallis has joined in our reading and writing curriculum, it is pretty awesome to see her absorbing so much, but moreso, amazing to see what she has already picked up. I have felt strongly she needs something away from me that introduces a classroom-like setting. Just in the past two weeks, an idea a few mom’s and myself have been throwing around for over a year is coming to fruition. One day a week we have found a gal who is willing to teach some supplemental learning to our kids who are doing some homeschool stuff already. Araiya will be one of the younger kids (this will be ages 5-8). While it will only be one day a week for the whole school year (plus a big break from Thanksgiving through February, perfect for skiing), I think it will be just what Araiya needs at this point in time in combination with what we are planning to do at home. Depending on budget, I may also hire another gal to do some tutoring for my older girls in some language immersion (Latin & Spanish) one day a week.

Today my goal is to reschedule our life. It has been easy to fall into patterns and flexibility we take for granted simply out of the natural patterns of naptimes, meals, etc. We need to be more purposeful with our time. We need to have stuff set, simply so we do them and get into a routine, yet be careful to maintain margins and flex time. Maybe that is why I feel we are entering such a new stage of life. I am both hesitant because it means we are leaving behind our very open and freeform days and I personally don’t to very well maintaining my own set schedule. But this really is the better option. I think anything else at this point would be more constrictive, even though I am cringing at having to do all this school curriculum and teaching myself. Now I have a very eager 5 year old who wants very badly to learn. No matter how you slice it, we are still responsible for raising her up and are more and more convinced no matter what you choose to do, education still must be strongly rooted in the home.

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