Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Kindergarten Screening Adventure!

   Today was a big day for us here at the Dickinson House. The girls had Kindergarten Testing. For many kiddos, this may be old hat, but for my non-pre-school-attending children, this was a "New Thing". And as with any "New Thing" that we do here, there is a learning curve. I did what I could to reasonably prepare the girls for this adventure. I told them they'd be going a someone they didn't know...(Turn Off Stranger Danger Mode)...and having to answer some questions so that the person could see how incredibly smart and wonderful they are...(Turn On Charm). "Don't worry that Mommy won't be with you, girls", I added with authority, "Just answer whatever they ask you and you'll do just fine." After a great deal of introspection and cross-examination of the events that followed, here's why my plan failed. I forgot to remember that my children are, in fact, MY children, and as such can not be held to some of the normal rules and expectations in these sorts of situations.

   They went off with the testing volunteer while I went to fill out the normal paperwork that accompanies such ceremonious events as "Starting School". While there, their future principal asked if they'd gone to preschool. (Although "asked" isn't quite the right word for it because it came out as more of a statement like, "You've sent them to preschool." A fact.) When I said that we hadn't sent them, the look she gave me was one of astonished surprise and disapproval. (Yes, disapproval.) You'd have thought I just said that our kids are on a Pop-Tart only diet and have been for 4 years, or something equally bizarre. I explained that, sadly, the funds had not been there for us to send them to a preschool but that since I am a teacher (she looked at me with some surprise here), I've been working with them using Montessori and traditional approaches. She asked if they could read. Do a lot of 5 year olds read, I wonder now? I mean, I'm sure some of them do....maybe more now than used to be since so many kids are going to pre-school. But are enough of them reading to make that a statement at a Kindergarten Screening? Really? When I taught Kindergarten, it was to TEACH them to read. (I'm just sayin'.) I told her that they were pretty proficient with basic sight words & had a good grasp on word families, and we're working on transferring that to printed words in books. They're doing really well. She seemed content with that until my children walked in.

They came in with the  "volunteers" who'd done the testing. I was informed that neither knew their ABCs or how to spell their name. Nor could they count. Or write their name. Or draw. Wow, I thought. What can they do? Anything? Anything at all? She handed me a sheet with a whole bunch of check marks on the "Area of Concern" column. Hmmmmm, thought I. The writing thing, I get. They've never been prone to coloring or drawing at all. I have to force them to color by incorporating "Color Time" into our days, rotating it with "Writing Time" to keep things sassy. Honestly, I don't know which they hate more, but I keep at it with them. But I don't push them. I don't hound and fight with them or they'll only learn to despise doing it. So we work on it occasionally and I feel good that they're at least practicing. So no, they can't write their name, but get them around other kids who are, and they will. I informed the volunteers that we've been honing our fine motor skills by using tweezers to sort things, and making perforations with tacks, and using scissors.  So they're not totally inept there.
For the drawing bit, they were asked to draw a person. They both drew a mouse. They were asked to stop drawing a mouse and to draw a person. They drew another mouse. When asked why they drew mice, both girls said that they were mice and then squeaked. I now had to explain to them how the girls are rather intense about their interests and when the decide they like something (i.e mice) they immerse themselves into it. They become mice. We've been cats, pigs, and Pingu, among others. This was not received well, I fear. (Principal wore a frown). I shrugged. They're FIVE.
The ABC part bothered me though. And counting. They KNOW these things. We practice count to 10, 15, or 20 every day as part of our morning routine. And the alphabet? Got that too. So I turned to Caedance and asked her if she knew her ABCs. "Yes", she said. "Well then please tell us," I implored. Her mouth clamped down. Hard. "Caedance. Please tell us". A small smirk passed her lips just before she said, "PQARZTSVWCDB" Brilliant.(More frowns from the principal who I could just see was mentally checking me off as one of THOSE parents. The ones who just know their darling is a genius when in truth, they are dumber than a rock, God bless them). "Oh, Caedance," I moaned, then turning to the volunteers I said, "They know it, they really do. Honest." Uh-huh, sure they do. Right. (More frowns from Mrs. P over there). To cap off the poetic beauty of this moment, they both began to squeak while looking at the principal. I wanted to die right there. Everyone was staring at me. (What? Haven't you ever heard two kids squeaking at one of these screenings?) So I said, "Well then. I'll just see you in the fall, I guess." I then attempted to remove ourselves from the room with as much dignity as one can muster with two children who were alternating between squeaking and calling out their "new" alphabet. I hurried us to the car, got in as quickly as I could and shut the doors. I sat behind the wheel and sobbed. And sobbed. I hadn't had huge expectations of this "New Thing", but I had some hope that it would go in a slightly different direction than it had.
So there it was then. Either I was a great big liar. Or my children just played me for a fool. It was the later, I'm afraid. The moment I put the van in drive and headed off with the school (and my nightmare) receding into the rearview mirror, both girls decided strike up a rousing edition of the REAL ABC song. Then they counted to 15. And spelled the word 'mice'.


  1. Oh friend. They just didn't wanna do it. Doesn't mean that you have failed them in any way. You are a rockin' awesome person and mom! And they are wonderful, fun, smart, quirky kids. And, by the way, I was working with kindergarten age kids on Monday in a music classroom and....serious kid craziness. And you know what? Nothin' wrong with that!

  2. I am so sorry the school made you feel like this. I am sure your girls are very smart and can totally blow them out of the water! We all have days that you don't feel like "performing" that was just there day:) Keep your chin up! Can't wait to talk this week!