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The upgrade downgrade

My son is starting a new school and new program for preschool this year. Tonight is the parent meeting and we have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. But those of you who have been readers long enough to remember last year will note that we were pretty unsure last fall about how it would go. It ended up, however, that his teachers were amazing and the year was a huge success.

Last school year, in fact, was such a success that he no longer qualifies for Special Education in our district. So he loses his teachers, his friends, and bus. His new program is a cooperative class where the funding comes from the State of IL, but it's held at a local elementary school. It has eligibility criteria mostly for at-risk kids and it's meant to help ease them into kindergarten.

So a lot less formal and individualized than last year. It's a bigger class with fewer teachers. There will be less formal instruction (it's more child-directed is my understanding) and less access to specialists. We're worried he will make less academic progress, but happy he will be socializing with his peers. If nothing else, the 2 hours everyday that he spends playing with new friends will be valuable.

On the other hand, it's not like he has to be there. Would his time be better spent at playgroups and outside activities where we go to playdates as a family? Including some educational places we'll miss out on now that he's in school. It's a mixed bag but we're giving this program a chance even if we're skeptical. Next year it will be all-day kindergarten so either way it's back to a more formal classroom environment. I'm hoping there is a little more order and teaching than I'm expecting. Not that play isn't important for kids.

I don't want him going from one math and science project to the next. But last year struck a nice balance of learning and playing and I hope it continues even if this program sounds a it's not such a tight ship. We'll see.

I hope in a few weeks that I'm back here reporting what a wonderful time he's having and all our concerns have faded. At least we're less concerned about his speech progress or behavior than we were this time last year. That's a victory to simply have the starting point be "we're good." He'll have at least one little friend from last year who has moved along with him.

The most important thing in all this is that he goes to school excited like he did last year. In the end, that's really all I care about.