an “Open School”

On Tuesday, after moving heaven and earth to get a babysitter, my husband and I went to an orientation program for the A.P.P.L.E. program. The 1960’s style anagram stands for “Alternate Parent Participation Learning Experience,” and it is a special program in the Spokane Public Schools. (If we get in, and if we become a part of this program, there will be many references to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Just so you know.)

I am interested in the program because it is a special program and I have a special kid. I am also interested in my son having a good experience in the schools.

The orientation we attended was lovely – we met parents in the program and the teachers of the program. The teachers, except for Kindergarten, “loop” with the students, which means that the children have the same teacher and group of students for grades 1 & 2, then a different teacher and group of students for grades 3 & 4, and the same for grades 5 & 6. They don’t teach the same curriculum every year, but they might get a greater depth of subject matter when they are in the “older” year.

The teachers were great, and the parents were great, and they answered questions with real alacrity and humanity. The word that they kept using over and over was, “community.” Community – that the parents get to know their children, as well as other children in their child’s grade; that the children have a “reading buddy” from an older grade, and there is a lot of interaction between grades; that the parents get to know other parents in the program; that the children make lifelong friendships in the program.

It was as though they were speaking to my deepest dreams for my son: that my son could find himself within a group of people who genuinely cared about him, and if he needed to talk to an adult and couldn’t talk to one of his parents, that there would be someone for him that he could talk to. That there would be a soft landing for him the schools, that maybe it wouldn’t be so awful for him (like it was for me).

Today, I packed up my son and daughter and went to the Open House for the APPLE program, which was at the school. LG didn’t understand the concept of an “open house” for a school. He kept saying “When are we going to the house?” and I tried to explain the concept of an open house with little success. So today he started calling it “an Open School” instead.

The volunteers there gave us a tour, and we walked all over the school, and saw the classrooms where Kindergarten would be. LG seemed really interested, up to a point. He enjoyed the xylophones in the music room quite a bit! My daughter toddled around when I let her down, and she was very interested in running around!

I know I’m not shipping my son off to the Army, but it still feels like a big step. I started him in daycare when he was about one and a half years old – that didn’t feel as hard as this is.

I’ve been thinking about it and journaling about it quite a bit in the past few days, and I think the reasons why I’m so agitated about my son attending kindergarten next year are:

  • I want him to be a lifelong learner
  • I want him to enjoy school
  • I want him to have the best education possible
  • I want to volunteer in his school experience (this is a surprise!)
  • He has so much energy, and I don’t want that to earn him a “ADHD / trouble” kind of label – the kind of label that will stay with him from year to year
  • He doesn’t handle transitions well… not that anybody does.

I spoke to a friend-parent whose son is a year older than mine, and she agreed that it was a big deal. 🙂 Yay! Validated!

Any thoughts out there, blogosphere? What was your experience of registering your kid for kindergarten?