When Trout was getting ready to enter elementary school, we had to make the decision about when to start kindergarten. When I was in school you had to turn five by December 31 of the year to start, so when school started in September there were kids who'd been five for the better part of a year, there were kids who were four and wouldn't turn five for several more months, and then the rest in the middle. A few years before Trout started kindergarten, the school system decided to change the date for enrollment in kindergarten to September 1 instead of December 31. Instead of changing it all at once, though, they instituted a graduated scale where each year they backed up the date 30 days until September 1 was hit. Trout's fifth birthday would happen only three days before the cutoff of October 31 for her year.
Around the same time they decided to switch from half-day kindergarten to full-day sessions, again instituting a graduated scale of going full-day in those schools with the most need, as defined by the population of the school receiving free or reduced lunches due to low income. Trout's school was one of the first to switch. So for her, that meant that if she started kindergarten the year she was first eligible, she would have been one of the youngest kids, and she would have had to make the transition from going to preschool for 2.5 hours a day, three days a week, to going six hours a day, every day. She's not good with transitions and I didn't think she was ready for that.
Academically, I wasn't concerned about the work. Trout's always been bright and I was sure she could handle it. But socially, she's always been a little...quirky. She doesn't read social cues very well, she doesn't seem to understand nuances of interaction that most people seem to intuit naturally, like personal space and volume (i.e., I've had to teach her about respecting people's personal space and keeping the volume down, whereas I haven't had to even point it out to the other kids). I was concerned with putting her into a position where she couldn't hack it and setting her up for failure, when if we simply waited and let her mature it wouldn't be an issue.
People around me were incredulous that I wasn't all "Get this kid in school all day so I can have a break!" and things like that, but I really felt that I wouldn't be doing myself any favors to push her into a situation she wasn't ready for, not to mention being more concerned for her needs than my own convenience. I didn't want to set her up for failure, but I also didn't want her to get bored with the work she was doing and become a behavior problem.
I agonized over this for a long time. When I was in fourth grade, the school system wanted me to skip a grade, because I was gifted academically and the work would have been more appropriate for me. But my mother said no, and wouldn't let them make the switch because of social issues. I was always small for my age, and my mother was concerned that I would be picked on because of it, and would have trouble fitting in. The thing is, from the time I was old enough to know what happened, I resented the hell out of my mother for doing it. I didn't fit in with kids my own age. I didn't fit in with the older kids, really, either, but at least I could have a conversation with them without having to explain what half the words I was using meant. I was picked on, anyway, it wouldn't have mattered if I'd skipped a grade. And I became a discipline problem because I was bored to tears with the blasted worksheet-factory instruction, talking too much and causing other mostly minor but annoying problems in class. It wasn't until junior high when I found band geeks that I started to fit in somewhere, and then again in high school when I found honors and AP classes and a very astute teacher who forced me into them.
So we didn't know what to do with Trout. In the end, we came up with a solution we thought worked well: we sent her to private school for half-day kindergarten, and then transitioned her to full-day kindergarten in the public school the following year. We were certainly in good company, as at least 1/4 of Trout's kindergarten class had done the same thing. Trout thrived and we were all kinds of pleased with ourselves that we'd made the right decision.
Until this year. Trout's always been an advanced student, and last year she was put into a class that did third grade math (she's in third grade this year). The school system tests all second graders to identify "highly gifted" students, and Trout tested as meeting the criteria. Our school system has centers for the highly gifted (their words, not mine) for fourth and fifth grades. So Trout is eligible to attend the local center for her last two years of elementary school. Which is good and bad. It's an exciting program that would offer a lot of room for Trout to express her creativity and be herself. I have a friend whose son attended it, and the kids wrote, produced, and performed their own opera, each child playing a part that catered to his/her strengths, whether it was set design and construction, writing, or dramatic flair. It is demanding; he had about 2.5 - 3 hours of homework a night (!). There are other drawbacks. The center is held in a rough, rough school. Crime rates in that neighborhood are sky high, there are several housing projects near there with the associated problems, and the school itself would be a low-performing school if the center weren't housed there. Is it a good tradeoff to be in a demanding program that she'd enjoy if her personal safety is in question?
She's also started having trouble in school. She has trouble focusing sometimes, and she is getting a low grade in reading because of issues with getting distracted and not completing her work. She tests way above grade level, but her grade doesn't reflect that. She's also becoming a discipline problem. Last week her reading teacher called because she had taken a first aid kit out of another girl's desk, taken out all the bandaids, and made some sort of art installation with them. Not a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but sure annoying as hell, and of course the girl who owned the first aid kit was rightfully upset. This week I got an email from her homeroom/math teacher that she's been writing on her desk, and was spoken to about it and kept in from recess to clean the desks, yet she continues to do it, and they're going to have to refer her to the office. Issues with the discipline philosophy aside, the first thing most people say when I tell them this is "She's bored."
So now I'm in my mother's shoes. Unlike my mother, though, we've brought Trout into the process. We've talked to her about the opportunity, about what sorts of things to expect from the program. We're going to have her talk directly to my friend's son, who is in HS now, about what he remembers and his opinion on how it affected his MS career. We told her she needs to consider the appeal of interesting, challenging work with the demanding workload and the fact that she'd need to cut down on her extracurriculars, if not eliminate them entirely. We also need to consider that she'd be moving away from the few friends she does have - the opportunity to make new ones who are quirky like her, vs. leaving those that love her already anyway. Privately my husband and I are discussing the school itself, her academic needs, and her social needs.
We also have identified a need for further testing. I've suspected Trout has ADD and/or some sort of sensory integration issue since she was about four. Now that Little Man is older Trout's differences are so much more pronounced. If we tell both of them to go upstairs, turn off the lights in their rooms, get a pair of socks and come down and put their shoes on, Little Man will do it and remember to shut the babygate each time he goes through it without a problem, but Trout might, maybe, if she's having a good day, get the light turned off. She gets distracted by a speck of dust or a toy or a thought, and she's gone. This is just one minor example but it's unbelievably frustrating. She's an incredibly picky eater, she's nuts about how her clothes have to be (she won't wear jeans because "they hurt my knees"), her bed has to be just so before she can lay down and go to sleep. She's unbelievably creative in the games she plays and the messes she makes. She's a daredevil with poor impulse control, much to her own detriment sometimes.
So we also need to weigh all of this with the potential need for services (though in the research I've begun into gifted kids, apparently these are not uncommon issues and I imagine the center will be able to meet them). We just want to do what's best for Trout, and it was so much easier to figure out what that meant when all she needed was my arms, my breast, and an occasional nap.