Pre-School Assessment

Before I even had V, LagosDad and I talked about which school we’d send our children to.  The choices aren’t vast, but there are certainly more than when we were growing up.

I went to the American International School (AIS) from kindergarten until I was 11.  At 11 I went to boarding school in the UK.

LagosDad went to the Indian Language School (ILS) until he was 13.  At 13 he went to boarding school in the UK also.

So, it makes sense that I wanted my children to go to the same school as me (not boarding).  And he wanted his children to go to the same school as him (including boarding).

Let me just say that one of the main reasons that we were sent to boarding schools is that there weren’t many (any?) high school options here at that time.

Anyway – so LagosDad was quite adamant that our children would need a solid foundation and that ILS was the place for them to be.  There was no way in hell I was allowing that.  I know about the Indian school system.  And while they do provide a good foundation, I think there are more important things that children should be learning at the age of three, rather than their times tables (I jest – I don’t know if they learn them at three!)  They are very strict and I don’t want my child(ren) rote learning.  Shouldn’t a three-year-old be learning how to share?  How to use scissors?  How to colour in the lines?

Anyway, after V actually arrived, I started thinking the British system might be better.  Not for any reason.  It was just a thought.

Of course there was lots of talk between all the mums.  The mums that already had their kids in school were like cheerleaders for the educational choices they’d made for their children.  And those that had babies (yes, this talk started from when our kids were about a year old) got more and more confused.

I ended up registering V at both schools – NOT ILS, but AIS and another British one.  LagosDad knew ILS wasn’t going to happen and (finally) accepted it!

I registered V at AIS when he was two and at the British one on the “first working Monday of September after the child turned two” (those are their rules).  He wouldn’t start at the British school until September 2015, but I thought I’d register him anyway because of waiting lists.

After the AIS registration, I received an email from the school saying I had to email them every 90 days to keep the application active.  So I did that – every 90 days without fail.

I started to understand (eventually) that it didn’t really matter what any of the others (mums) were doing with their children and where or when they were going to school.  What mattered was MY child and what suited him.

Yes, the British curriculum is more advanced than the American one.  But in the end, the children all learn the same things – it’s just a different process of getting there.

During this light bulb moment, I began to see (and so did LagosDad) that the American school environment is just what V needs.  He’s a smart kid – I know everyone says that about their children – but I really think he is!  He wouldn’t struggle in a British school.  But because he’s an introvert and a little shy and nervous in large groups of people, AIS is just what he needs.  They focus on the whole child.  They’ll help with his self confidence and maybe even bring him out of his shell a little.

So now we were decided – it was going to be AIS.

I’d heard stories from other mums about how difficult it was to get their kids in and how some kids were on the waiting list for a year and still hadn’t been offered a place.  Apparently, also, the later you apply, the harder it is to get in.

So you can imagine my joy when I received an email from them last month, inviting V to come in for his pre-school assessment.  I called them immediately and made an appointment for 12th May.  They gave me a time of 8.20am, which wasn’t ideal – but I wasn’t going to complain!

I do wonder why you need assessments for a three-year-old.  And I think it’s a little silly – but if that’s how they do things, then that’s how they do them!

So friends told me, ‘If you get the email, you’re basically in.’  And that the assessment is just ‘formality’.  And what they’re looking for is learning difficulties.  One friend told me they asked her son when his birthday was during his assessment.

So I knew, V would have to play with blocks or do a puzzle or something and that the teacher might ask him when his birthday is.  And I also knew that I’d have to wait in the office for him to come back.

I started getting anxious about him going with a stranger to another room.  Would he actually go?  Would he make a fuss?  Have a tantrum?  Then I started worrying that he wouldn’t speak to the teacher.  And if he did speak to her, would he give her the answers she wanted to hear?

I started ‘preparing’ him about two weeks ago.  I explained we were going to AIS and he was going to meet a teacher who would take him to play, etc. etc.  I told him almost every day.  He’s one of those that needs to know what’s coming!

I also asked him when his birthday was (just in case)…

Me: V, when’s your birthday?

V: I’m going to have a Batman party and everyone has to wear black.

Me: Ok, that’s fine.  But when is your birthday?

V: July.

Me: Mmmmm… No it’s not.  It’s in September.

V: No mama.  It’s in July.

Me: No Vins, it’s in September!

V: IT’S IN JULY.  I SAID IT IS IN JULY!

I dropped it for a few days!

Each time I (very randomly) asked him about his birthday he always had the same answer.  I didn’t even know he KNEW the month July!

Last week we had a breakthrough.  I told him I knew his birthday was in September because he shares his birthday month with Rolo (the dog).  After that he was very happy to say his birthday was in September *face palm*

Anyway, so the morning of the assessment dawned and off we went to AIS.  We had to wait in the office for a bit as we were slightly early.  But this was good, because he saw the teacher come in and he saw two other little boys go with her.

Then it was his turn.  She came in and asked for him by name.  I said, ‘Here he is.’  She approached him and said, ‘Hi V!’

And what did V do?

He growled at her.

Yes.  He GROWLED.

I apologised and told her he was being a cheetah that morning.  She tried again, ‘Oh!  Are you a cheetah?’

He growled.  AGAIN!

Luckily she got distracted with the secretary for a moment and I was able to tell him to ‘stop that nonsense’!

I’m actually relieved he didn’t hide behind my legs!

He was reluctant to go with her, but he went.  And he wouldn’t hold her hand, but that’s ok.  She was a stranger, after all!

I waited for him – laughing in my head about him growling, but hoping she wouldn’t think he was nuts and that it wouldn’t affect his chances of getting in!

Finally he was back!  She said he was very quiet and only spoke with a lot of prompting.  Hmmm…  I guess that’s to be expected?

She gave me a list of ‘skills’ that he needs to be able to perform by August and I had to sign the paper and return it when he started.  They were things like being able to go to the bathroom by himself, asking for water or to go to the bathroom, etc. Being able to sit still/concentrate for short periods of time, being able to share toys, eat by himself, etc. etc.

He is quite proficient in most of them, so I’m not worried.  Plus he won’t start in August as we won’t be here, he’ll start in October.  So we have more time to work on things!

What I’m wondering is, does this mean we’re in?  Why would she give me a paper to sign and tell me to bring it back if he wasn’t in?

(Once we left, he told me he did a puzzle in the classroom, but he wouldn’t tell me anything else.  He won’t tell me what the teacher asked him or anything and it’s driving me crazy!)

Anyway, this is one more thing to cross off my list of things to do/worry about!

*Just for your information – I’ve had many people ask me why I don’t want to put V in the school where I taught for six years.  I left four years ago and I don’t know what it’s like there any more.  But you know when you know the inner-workings of a place?  And what the management, etc is like?  Well…  That.  It put me off.

 

What Should A Four-Year-Old Know?

I was at a lunch last week.  There were about ten or twelve of us.  Most of the talk centred around our children (as usual), schools and school admissions.

Since V was about a year old (maybe even before), there was talk between the mums as to where we would send our children to school.  Which nursery?  Where after?  British?  American?  Which area?  Who else was sending their children to that school?  Or this school?  But why?  Which is better in the long run?  Children at X school are not as well behaved as those in Y school.  And on and on and on and on.

And of course, now that all the children are closer to school age (or in some cases, already in school) the talk has just increased.

I’ve often questioned whether we are making the right educational decisions for V – but in the end I have to remind myself that I know my child and I know what’s best for him – regardless of what other people may think.

Some of the aforementioned talk has been about the British standard of teaching being higher than that of the American.  And how the children at the American school don’t learn to read until they’re five.

There are only so many times I can tell people that it doesn’t really matter – the children all learn the same thing in the end and that the schools just have different teaching methods.

A couple of days after that, I saw something on Facebook which I shared.  I know V is only (just) three, but I think this applies to all children and parents!

It’s kind of long, but definitely worth a read.


What Should A Four-Year-Old Know?
I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.
But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.