Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kindergarten?

A couple of weeks ago I had a parent/teacher conference with Harlie's preschool teacher and hearing impaired teacher.  It went great.  We talked for two hours.  We were the last to leave the school - and never once did they make me feel like they wanted to leave.  I feel so lucky that Harlie has these teachers.  They really seem to care about her a lot.  And they go the extra mile for her, that's for sure! Thank you so much Mrs. KC and Mrs. CS!

Here's what we discussed:

Her stubbornness.  I asked them how she ranked in this department.  She seems extremely stubborn to me, but I only have three kids, so what do I know?  Before I could finish asking the question her HI teacher leaned forward and said, "A 10.  Definitely a 10."  Her HI teacher said that they (her and Harlie) "lock horns."  And she also said that she's never seen Harlie cry.  That's pretty crazy considering she's been one of her teachers since September.  Luckily, her teachers realize that this stubbornness of hers is such a good trait for her life.  They said they just have to be more stubborn than her.  Easier said than done.  I know.  I've tried.  That tiny little girl will beat you down to nothing if you let her.

Homeschooling.  They both felt that it is important for Harlie to receive homeschooling while in the body cast.  And that it should be done by them versus another teacher that Harlie doesn't know.  They both felt that it takes a while to earn her trust, so they don't want a new teacher coming in during a vulnerable time for her.  Her preschool teacher will come two mornings a week and her speech therapist (with the school) and her HI teacher will alternate weeks, coming once per week.  So, Harlie will receive at least three visitors a week.  I think her private speech therapist might be able to come once a week, too.   I think having them come to see her will greatly help her spirits.

They also said that they don't want to come until she is surely over pain.  They said that if they let her slide once (because they feel bad, so they don't make her do something) then they will be fighting that forever.  She's a tough cookie.  You can't let her get away with anything or it will come back and bite you.  If you give her an inch, she'll take a mile.

Kindergarten.  This is the biggie.  They said that she has all the skills necessary to start Kindergarten in the fall!!!  Can you believe it???  She knows her letters, shapes, numbers and colors, can write her name, can cut and some other stuff I don't remember.

I had just assumed this whole time that I would hold her back.  She will turn 5 on September 25th, which means she will surely be the youngest in class.  This trend of holding kids back when their birthdays are months before the cut off drives me crazy.  If everyone just followed the "rule" (unless there are special circumstances, of course) then it would be okay.  But so many parents are holding their kids back so they are bigger and better in sports or whatever.  Ridiculous.  Don't even get me started...

Anyway, the fact that they feel that she is "ready" for Kindergarten, considering all that she's been through, is just amazing to me.  She learned to sit up at one year.  She learned to walk independently at two years.  We didn't discover she was hearing impaired in her good ear until she was three years.  That alone could cause a huge delay in development.  And all in all she's spent a considerable portion of her life in a hospital.  And she's ready for Kindergarten???  Nuts.

They said that she would go into a regular class.  And while this absolutely terrifies me, they said that's where she belongs and she needs the peer modeling.  Being in a special education preschool does not allow her to see how she is "supposed" to act in a class.  Meaning that all the kids in her class refuse - refuse to participate, refuse to talk, refuse to answer questions, whatever.  So, she learns that is "acceptable" behavior (even though it really isn't, but it's a special education preschool class for the developmentally delayed).

Whereas in a regular class, all the kids are expected to stand in line, participate, follow instructions, etc.  All things she's capable of if it is expected out of her.

Unfortunately, she would start Kindergarten at her current school and not our school right down the street from us.  While I hate that she won't go to the same school as her brothers and we will miss out on walking to/from school together (something I LOVE), I know that is the best place for her.

Her current school is pretty interesting.  It has a very small zoning so that only one class per grade is actually zoned to go to that school.  The rest of the school is bused there for their Exceptional Education - they have the county's Talented and Gifted Program for elementary education and they have special education (hearing impaired is their thing).  So they have several interpreters on staff, they check to make sure that all hearing aids are working every day, there are students that sign there, and she is exposed to them.  I just can't put her in an environment where she is completely isolated from all that.  And she will still get some hearing impairment instruction (I'm assuming).

We don't have to make a decision now.  We will have another IEP meeting around May to discuss the plan for the next year for her.  We'll have the whole team, so everyone can have some input and give me their ideas, suggestions and opinions.  And we'll go over what other options there are for her (other than Kindergarten).  But, unless something major comes up, I'm thinking we're probably going to send her to Kindergarten in the fall.

Here's what I'm thinking:

We can always change our mind.  So, if we don't feel like it's the best place for her, we can pull her out and put her back in preschool.  Or we could see how she does, and if she needs to repeat it, then let her repeat it.  So, it's not like it's a permanent decision.

I am so anxious to see what Harlie can do when the bar is raised.  I know she is so capable and it is exciting to think about what could change/improve about her as a whole when she learns more about how to behave in school.  Imagine what this could do for her communication!!!!  Right now most of her classmates are non-verbal.  She'll be surrounded by verbal kids and she will get so much in language development - even if she isn't speaking.  Just hearing it all the time will make a big difference.

If she has to miss school for surgeries and ends up missing too much (I don't know anything about this, and I suppose they could homeschool - but if that weren't possible) and she had to repeat a grade, she would still be the same age as her classmates.  Whereas if we held her back and had her start Kindergarten when she was just weeks from turning 6, and then she had to repeat a grade, she would be so much older than everyone else.  I feel like starting her now would give us some wiggle room.

I am lucky in that I have professionals in the education field - and hearing impaired field - to give me an opinion on what Harlie is "ready" for.  One thing I learned early on in parenting is that we, as parents, underestimate our children.  It's just the way it is.  So many things parents say their kids aren't ready for, but it's really the parents that aren't ready for that phase, change, adjustment, whatever.  And I don't want to do that with Harlie.  I need to teach her/show her that I have confidence in her and that I know she is completely capable of learning and handling whatever comes her way.

So that's the big news around here.  I've been mulling it over in mind every day since our conference.  It is so hard to believe that this little girl

Two days old.

This was right after her first heart surgery - 4 days old.

could start KINDERGARTEN in the fall!!!  Where has the time gone?  Sadly, most of the time it feels like her birth was ages ago.  In the time she has aged four years,  I've aged ten.  But, in my mind, she's still a baby.  So confusing.

I am so darn proud of her.  There are just no words.  To think of all she's been through and she's "ready" for Kindergarten!!!

Thanks,
Christy

9 comments:

Heather said...

wow! just more proof that she is amazing and you are doing all the right things. simply amazing Christy. I am proud of BOTH of you!!

Lindsay said...

As I was reading this, the gears were turning in my head that she and O could be in the same class at RE. Sounds, though, like K at her current school is such a smarter move considering all the benefits there. It's so fantastic that you have this decision to make and so reflective of Harlie's sensibility and your all's care. So exciting. Would love to talk more as we're having similar but different readiness conversations in our house too.

And, PS, I'm totally left hanging from the "provide lots of awkwardness and tons of humor" post below. Do tell... :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I didn't cry until I saw the pictures of her at the end. WHEW!! Kindergarten!!! So exciting!! I love posts like this. Harlie is lucky to have parents like you that push her and do everything you need to, to make her have the best life possible. On the flip of that, we are all lucky to have Harlie in our lives. She is a constant reminder that Miracles really happen. Love you Holtons! :)

~Liz

Tanya said...

Congratulations to Harlie and kudos to you for helping her get to this point!

Donna said...

Congratulations to YOU and HARLIE! That is SO awesome Christy!!!!!!!

Ann said...

It doesn't surprise me one bit that Miss Harlie-in-Charge is ready for Kindergarten. It's good to hear that her teachers appreciate the positives of her stubborness. I'm so proud of Harlie, but I'm more proud of her mom and dad because without you guys (and all Harlie's wonderful doctors and nurses) she wouldn't be here to show the world her stuff. I love that kid!!

Ann

Kristen said...

Amazing! Harlie is a very smart and inspiring little girl! And Christy, you have to give yourself some credit here! She wouldn't be where she is without you! You have supported her, encouraged her, and been her greatest fan throughout her 4 years....so, YAY for both of you!

Christy said...

Thanks everyone!!!

CS said...

I think it's awesome Miss Harlie is ready for Kindergarten! As everyone else has said, it's as much a reflection on her parents as it is on her. Kudos to all of you. -Caty