Fresh off graduation last Friday, today Jacob took his first official steps toward Kindergarten. This morning was orientation.
For a while we were considering sending Jacob to the nearby Christian school. I have friends from college who send their kids there (and the husband teaches there), and everything I've seen them post about the school looked great. Tuition was reasonable, though when I did the math to figure out how much we'd be spending for school and afterschool care (along with summer care), I was shocked to realize that we'd hardly be saving any money compared to what we're spending on his daycare now. That was a little surprising and a tough pill to swallow. Still, we were strongly considering it because we've both had experiences in public and private schools, and there is definitely a difference.
Unfortunately, the timing of getting Jacob registered for school sort of fell in the middle of the worst part of my pregnancy, so I wasn't quite as proactive about everything as I probably should have been. Our district stinks, apparently, because they don't do an audit of students to know where potential kindergarten students might reside, so we hadn't even gotten a registration packet by the time they were doing advance registration. As I said, I was in the middle of pregnancy and I was honestly sort of waiting around for some direction--advice from daycare, something in the mail, or a notice in the local paper of an open house at the Christian school, which happened around March last year. None of that happened, and suddenly I was like, "Crap, did I miss something?" I called the Christian school, only to find out that Kindergarten was totally booked for next year. Yay for the Christians, but geez...I never expected that. So, I took that as my sign that public school was the way to go.
I called the district to ask about the missing paperwork, and was basically told that they simply hope people see things in the paper or hear via word-of-mouth that they should be getting in touch with the district. Carter, by the way, is covered now, because Jacob's paperwork included a spot for siblings and they will use that to find him when the time comes. But still...ugh. Anyway, I got him registered a few weeks later, and we got a call last week that orientation was today. Lovely.
I was hopeful we'd see the one little girl who we knew would be going to that school, Jacob's old friend Angelica from our old daycare. Sure enough, they were right in the first row when we got there. Nice to see a familiar face, at least. The principal and assistant principal spoke, and the three teachers all shared some nuggets of information, as well. We went over some of the basics--the timing of the school day, how drop-off should go, a preview of school supplies, a schedule of the school day, how lunches work, etc. At one point the kids were herded off in color-coded groups to do some activities and take a ride on a school bus, and the parents sat through more information about transportation, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and a series of items from the school nurse.
I don't think any of the information was particularly crazy or earth-shattering, but it was a lot to take in and it's still hard to fathom how mature my baby is going to become in the next year. Heck, they even tell you to drop off your kid in the foyer (even during the first few days) and they'll learn to get to their classroom on their own. Doing that minimizes the number of adults wandering around the school and also starts the independence process sooner. We still have some decisions to make, such as when we're going to utilize the bus and where Jacob is going to go after school. There's an afterschool program in the building, or he could bus down the street to daycare. The downside of daycare is that it's more expensive, but he's obviously used to it there and it's only one place to go to pick up both kids. I don't know how I feel about the bus in general, though I know I'm not particularly eager to stand at a bus stop in the rain or the middle of winter. Most likely we'll be able to swing drop-off, but the option is still there if we need it, because the woman who spoke today said not to cancel service, even if you're not going to use it often.
We didn't get our supply list yet, but I know that's going to be a lengthy, expensive prospect. We won't find out his teacher until August. There will be a day in September to go meet the teacher and check out his classroom, which is when this is all going to feel extra real. Before then we have some skills to work on to make sure he's ready to take care of himself.
I'm not sure how he's going to do with Kindergarten. Listening is definitely a concern. I know he's smart enough, but I question whether or not he'll rebel against authority or lose interest in the midst of a long day of learning. His Kindergarten experience will be a far cry from mine. Mine was a half day, lots of playing, and a short rest period. On the schedule we saw today, there was no rest period, and subject after subject. I'm sure it will be fine, but it will be a switch. I can't help but wonder how he'll do with that much sustained learning, and how he'll be feeling by the time he makes it to whatever afterschool program we settle on. I worry about his responsibility with homework, packing his backpack, and managing his lunch.
I won't lie, as I was sitting there listening, I looked around at the other parents and wondered if I really want my kid to be friends with their kid. There weren't a lot of people that looked like us--meaning, about our age, decently dressed, no extreme looks--so it's hard to say what the odds are that some great friendship will spawn from this. I couldn't help but wonder how I'd feel about the Christian school. Would I be more comfortable with everything? Would it be a warmer feel? Would I trust the parents more because they took that extra step to send their child somewhere special? Would I feel better about the school because I knew one of the teachers? It's hard to say, but I just have to trust that this is the right thing. I have to pray that Jacob steers clear of the problem kids and manages to be a good learner in that environment. And, if all else fails, perhaps we could move him to the other school for first grade. God forbid things ever get that bad, though.
Anyway, I couldn't really get much out of Jacob about his time without me, but he did do some coloring, supposedly cut out a fish, and took a bus ride. He seemed to like it and thought everything seemed pretty cool, so that's promising. However, once we got to daycare, the assistant directory remarked that he looked a little tired, and she was right--he did. I ended up a little tired myself, so perhaps we were both just a little overwhelmed by everything. Not that it was bad, but it's just a lot to process because it's going to be a major life change. We've got a few months to settle into this, though, so I'm sure that we'll be fine. Just don't mind me if I take a few deep breaths in the meantime...