Monday, January 08, 2007

Preschool vs. Kindergarten

This topic has been weighing on my mind all week, and I think my son's fourth birthday sparked it all. Our boy is a "January baby". Because of the way the school system is structured in Calgary, we have a choice as to whether he starts kindergarten this fall (2007) or next (2008).

Originally, Ben and I had decided to send our son to kindergarten this year. We submitted an application to a local Christian private school (within walking distance of our house). The school has limited enrollment, and we've been patiently waiting to hear if our little guy has been accepted.

Over the past few weeks I started to doubt my son's readiness for kindergarten, though. He's a very bright boy and has a terrific vocabulary. He communicates clearly. He's great at building things, especially with Lego. Our son makes friends easily and plays well with other kids. However, I do not think he is emotionally mature enough for school. He still throws tantrums and occasionally has trouble following instructions. His drawing and writing skills are behind most four-year-olds. (His pictures are still basically scribbles). I suspect our son is an auditory learner, which might put him at a disadvantage in a traditional classroom.

Ben and I decided to look into alternatives to kindergarten for our little guy. I learned about a "junior kindergarten" program offered at a nearby preschool. (The school is only a few blocks away from our house.) The program runs five afternoons a week, and is geared towards four-year-olds. They work on skills like colouring, printing, learning letters and numbers, and listening to instructions. The classes are small (20 preschoolers to 2 teachers). I think our son could have lots of fun at this school!

I guess enrollment for the junior kindergarten program is quite competitive. The school director warned me that the class could be full before our scheduled registration date (January 22). If the class does fill up, we will try to enroll in the 3-afternoons-a-week program instead. Hopefully we will find a spot in one of the two classes.

I had a long talk with our son today, and he is quite excited about the prospect of attending preschool. He has several friends in preschool this year, and they often tell him how fun it is. He can't wait to go to a "big boy school". Our son seems quite content to delay his kindergarten education for another year. I am glad he is so agreeable to it all!

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