Informational mail from Athena’s new school today; in it I learn that school starts on August 30th (I knew that) and ends on June 9th (I didn’t know that — that could put a crimp in our annual vacation plans). There’s also an open house on the 26th, so we can go in and meet the teachers and do all that stuff. I also learn that there is a dress code — no midriff baring shirts, no shorts after September or before May, and no clothes with gang, drug or potentially offensive markings or sayings; basically, the school doesn’t want the kids looking like thugs or ho’s. I can’t say I have a problem with this; I don’t want my kid to look like a thug or ho, either.
I also have a release sheet I have to sign agreeing to let my daughter on the Internet; the school uses filters but “determined users” might be able to get past them — i.e., anyone who know how to get into the preferences and turn off the filters. I realize I’m in an extreme minority here, but I have to say I’m pretty much totally unconcerned about Athena pulling up something objectionable on the Internet, and as for viewing something inappropriate, I think if she did her first reaction would simply to be to ask what it is that she’s viewing. Athena knows from us that there are some things that she as a kid isn’t supposed to be viewing — that there’s an adult world and a kid’s world, and when we tell her something is for adults, she usually gets it.
This isn’t the same as telling her she can’t see something, which I figure she’d eventually interpret as a challenge. It’s telling her it’s something she’s not likely to have an interest in at this point, which so far she has every appearance of understanding. In any event, Athena doesn’t have filters at home, nor do I expect she ever will. Somehow I don’t see her doing a lot of pr0n surfing, or hanging out on Nazi chat rooms, and long before she thinks about doing stuff like that, we’ll have a nice long chat with her about all the supercreeps who are out there. I believe in letting my daughter explore online, but on the other hand, I’m not stupid, either.
As it happens, this year is the first year Bradford had shifted to all-day kindergarten, meaning they stick around for the entire school day, and not the half day I did when I was a kid. The reason Bradford’s doing this is pretty simple: The school has comparatively poor test scores (an artifact of being a poor rural district with a small number of students, so that one dumb kid pulls down the entire curve). In 2002, it was in an “Academic Emergency,” which is defined as getting a pass on 7 or fewer of the 27 state academic assessment tests; last year it did rather better and was upgraded to “Continuous Improvement,” but of course there’s a ways to go, and one of the ways to work on it is to spend time with the kids as early as possible, getting them ready to learn. I’m pleased that the Bradford folks do seem committed to doing what it takes to get scores up; I hope that a side benefit of this is that kids actually learn to do something other than take state-mandated tests. There’s more to education than filling in the right bubble on a test.
Athena’s excited about school, which is what you hope for, and I think she’s very much looking forward to meeting some kids her age here in town; most of her friends are from other towns, thanks to her preschool, which pulls in kids from all over the local area. Academically, I don’t know what kindergarten is going to do for her, since their goals for the year are to get kids started on reading and numbers, and Athena already reads and can add and subtract. Our major goal for kindergarten, quite honestly, is to get her used to the structure of being in school; the idea that she needs be in her seat and doing certain things at certain times, and also interacting with her classmates. Neither Krissy and I want Athena to skip ahead academically; intellectually she’s probably ready for 1st grade but in terms of attention span, she’s very much a kindergartner. And of course why I would want to give myself one less year to save for college is completely beyond me.
Every once in a while I do that mental check, asking myself how I feel about my kid starting actual school; you know, it’s one of those big “passage of time” markers. Mostly I feel really good about it. She’s ready, you know — she’s been bored with preschool for the last couple of months because they’re beginning to repeat stuff she’s already done, and she’s at an age where she wants to spend more time with kids her own age. She’s as ready as she’ll ever be; I’m pretty much the same. Let kindergarten come.