Sundays with Gage – Kindergarten options

Have you been in a kindergarten class lately?  When Gage was first diagnosed as having mild/high-functioning autism all of my time and energy went into helping him beat the diagnosis and be able to go through school with his peers.  A few weeks ago I visited the school he would be attending and the classroom he would most likely be in and my view totally shifted.  I was appalled, quite frankly.  Twenty-seven students in a classroom where they are sitting in a circle listening to the one teacher or at the tables doing worksheets for five plus hours!  They had one hour a day for lunch and recess.  I walked out of the 2nd ranked school district in Ohio knowing that there was no way I wanted my 5-year old in that environment.

So, I made a list of the things I most wanted for Gage and went from there.  I wanted a small class size, ability to move,  play, and structure.  He’s a smart kid and I don’t worry too much about him in that department, even if some of the harder concepts will need to be taught one-on-one.  In Ohio, if you have a child on the spectrum and you pull him from the public schools you get $27,000 to use at other autism-friendly places.  The company where he gets his ABA and the place he gets his OT are both on the list so I did (and still do) consider homeschooling and using that money for those two places, where we easily pay them that already.

He got accepted to the first school we applied to, a school that accepts only kids who learn differently.  In all honesty, I don’t know exactly what that means, only that they all have at least average IQs and that they only have 10-15% of students on the spectrum.  Get this, they only accept 6 kids into their kindergarten class!  If a kid has to move he is not made to feel bad about it (important because Gage has a hard time sitting still for a long time, as do most 5-year-old boys)  and the class has the kids move every 15-20 minutes.  There are play areas all around the classroom and there is so much structure. They all have access to their own ipads in the classroom and computer, art and music once a week.  There are so many great things about this school…but there are no typical peers.  I’ve visited twice and the kids seemed great, well-behaved, like regular kids.

I’m still going to look around (my favorite place only has a wait list right now, but it is similar to the school he was accepted to) but feel good about the option we have. It’s not what I thought we were working toward, but when I visited a public kindergarten class, I knew I didn’t want that, for sure.  Speaking as a mom who has an education degree I am very disappointed in what we are doing to our kids at such a young age.  Even if Gage weren’t on the spectrum I would be looking at homeschooling or private schools and I always thought that was a terrible choice.

I was a public school girl all the way, even college.  What about you?  Any homeschooled or private school peeps out there?


27 thoughts on “Sundays with Gage – Kindergarten options

  1. truebookaddict says:

    I agree with you. I think Gabe would have done much better with a smaller class. It was in kindergarten that we found out he had ADHD and severe anxiety. His kindergarten teacher was actually really wonderful, but she was working within the limited resources, and class size, she was given.

    I attended public schools all the way through. I actually had a nightmarish kindergarten teacher and experience. She would paddle us, lock us in the closet as punishment, and one time she grabbed me by my ear. My ears were pierced so my earring partially ripped the hole and then fell out. My pierced ear was never the same. What I remember the most when I think of her is that she looked like my idea of a witch in my young mind. No lie. It’s amazing that I ended up loving school as much as I did, given that experience. I LOVED school. My mom used to have to make me stay home when I was sick, and she would threaten me, “If you miss the bus, I’m not taking you.” lol

    Whatever you decide, I hope you find the right fit for Gage. He certainly deserves it. 🙂

  2. Kay says:

    Stacy, I think you will find just the right place for Gage to attend. So much of schooling now seems to be geared toward the testing involved, at least here in Texas. Honestly, our daughter’s public kindergarten experience was great. The class size was over 20, but maybe 22 and that was capped by law. Her teacher was a cute young thing named Skye. (LOL) Anyway, they had lots of up and down time – lots of what they called ‘play stations’. They had computer class and recess and music and art and storytime on the floor on a big rug. I volunteered and so knew what went on. We did do homeschooling when our girl was in middle school and we lived in Oregon. It was hard work for me, but we managed. And she attended private school for the first two years of high school and then back to public school. All of this was from the late ’80’s through 2001. So, it’s been a while.

    Again, you’re the parent and you have to make the decisions. Good luck and I know you’ll find just the right situation for him. 27 kids is a lot of one teacher to handle. Wow.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I like hearing from you guys who have done it all 🙂 I am open for all of those things, just hope that I’ll choose the right one at the right time. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be for sure. Out school district is #2 in the state and that’s because there is a high priority on state testing. I just want my 5 year old to enjoy learning for a while longer!

  3. Mary says:

    My kids went to parochial school through 8th grade. Great education, no issues. That said, I feel it all relies on a good teacher. Have you looked into Montessori? I don’t know if that would be a good option but it seems like it could be. Good luck and remember, if your first choice doesn’t work out you can try something else, right?

    • stacybuckeye says:

      In general I really like the Montessori approach, but Gage does so much better with lot of structure to his day that I’m not sure it would be best for him. Never say never for the future though 🙂

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    Vance went to a private kindergarten in France. His class wasn’t small and the teacher had no help – she hand wrote notes home to each family because she didn’t even have access to a copy machine! It was the best I could find there, though – the public schools near us often had 60 kids in a class. There were a lot of protests about the public schools near us while we were there. When we moved back to the US, the public school district we moved to had small elementary school classes with an aid in every single classroom.

    I think every kid is different and you are so smart to look into options for Gage. I feel sure you’ll make the best decision for him.

  5. lakesidemusing says:

    My husband and I both went to public schools and expected the same for our kids. The reality was that each child was different and we had to evaluate each situation individually. Sometimes it meant public school and sometimes it didn’t. You are a good mom to check out all of the options.

  6. Diane says:

    Wow – That is way too many kids for a kindergarten class. Gage is so lucky to have parents who investigate possibilities. I went to public schools back in the day, but my kids went to parochial schools through 8th grade (y choice) and then public high school (their choice). I don’t regret the decisions.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      My first choice with the waiting list is a Catholic school that goes through 8th grade 🙂 Right now I’m trying to decide whether to get on the wait list or give the other school a try first.

  7. Rita @ View From My Home says:

    I put my two younger kids in the local Montessori school where they could touch things and move around, etc. It was really expensive but we had to do it for my son, and my younger daughter wanted to be with him. He stayed for grades K-2, then went to a public school with an IEP in place for awhile. I did homeschool him for about half of his educational career. For a few years we belonged to a county homeschool organization that had over 80 parents belonging, and about half of those got together on a regular basis to do field trips, clubs, lab, tutors, scouts, etc. They provided us with support and knowledge. So basically I did what seemed right at the time, using Montessori, public school, homeschooling with a homeschool group, and unschooling. All of these worked for us, he got his GED, went to community college, state university, and now law school. It took a lot of effort– blood, sweat and tears– for us to make it work but it did and I don’t regret it.

    If your school has that many kids in K grade, they should have a F/T teacher’s assistant in place. I worked in schools in a few states, and that is amount is not legal in some. Do your research and do what feels right for you and husband and Gage. You’ll have a gut feeling of what’s the right thing to do when you see it. Hope all of us helped you out, at least a bit. Congrats on being a great Mom 🙂

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Thanks, Rita! I’m prepared to do all of these things as needed and only have to look at the success that your son has had for encouragement! The class did have and aid, but the whole time I was there she was in a corner cutting papers?! So, she was there but not really helping with the kids.

  8. Literary Feline says:

    It is nice to know Gage has options. I was a public school kid all the way and come from a family of public school educators. There are times I think homeschooling would be the ideal option. My husband would make a great teacher–more so than I would.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      It took me a while to come around to taking him out of the public schools. I would homeschool him in a minute but almost everything he needs help with is social and he really needs to be around other kids. I’m hoping the small class size but it will really depend on the other 5 kids and what their needs are, I guess.

  9. Word Lily says:

    I was homeschooled through 8th grade and then went to a private high school and a private university. My husband went to public schools all the way, including university, excepting on year when he was homeschooled. I’ve homeschooled A so far, mostly informally (he’s 3!), with the thought that we’d probably homeschool, at least through elementary. My thoughts: I know he’d get a better education — tailored to his learning style(s), interests, without the busy work of taking attendance, and school work doesn’t take as many hours per day as public or even private school requires generally, so he’d have a lot more time to move, plus a lot more exposure to the arts and time for creativity. I really really want him to maintain his love of learning, and I’ve seen that lost all too often in a public school setting (with busy work, when boredom sets in …) In the last year, though, as my chronic pain issues worsened (and then finally found at least a tentative diagnosis and some relief, hooray!), I’ve mentally explored the question of what’s better for him: a saner Mom or a better education? And I don’t have a solid answer for that.

    I do think it’s important to remember that it’s not a one-and-done answer. You can change after a year, after a semester even. What’s right for one kid/family/year isn’t necessarily right for another.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Hannah, I didn’t realize you were dealing with health issues. That most definitely would make a difference when making education decisions. As I just mentioned to Wendy, I would totally homeschool him, but he needs to be with other kids. I wish I could find a good 1/2 day kindergarten and then I could homeschool the other half, but there aren’t any around here 😦 I’m glad to see that you’ve found some relief and to hear that your homeschooling was such a positive experience.

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    The school district would probably work with us but unless we pull him out completely we can’t get the $27,000 and I know we can use that more effectively than they can. I know there are a few active homeschool groups a little south of us so I’m sure I could find one, but Gage really does so much better with a structured day. This week is spring break and it’s been tough on him, having his routine messed up (me too!) Homeschooling is always an option, just not one that I’d choose first.

  11. Zhan says:

    Shocked. 24 kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class and 20 in my son’s. And there is always 1 regular aide, plus kids with IEP supported with extra aide(s). You know which particular school I am talking about.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      There was an aide, but she was in a corner cutting paper when I was there so she wasn’t helping with the kids. No additional aides at the time but I’m sure at different points in the day they may have been in and out. 20 kids would have been a better number 🙂 Most kids can handle it, I’m sure, but it just isn’t what I want for Gage at this point, you know? I’m hoping in a year or two he may be ready, but IMO, a 5 year old/kindergarten class needs to incorporate play and Beth told me it wasn’t part of the curriculum 😦
      Is C liking it?

      • Zhan says:

        Yes he likes school. The aides at his class are always with some students as I have observed, and the lead teacher always reacts super fast even before I realize what has happened (even at the parties while the kids rotate among different activities). They do have more math worksheets than as I remember 2 yrs ago. About 2-3 pages on most days plus one page homework, which involves a lot of coloring and drawing. They also draw and color a lot at writing. Don’t know anything about how they do reading. They have 1-hr different specials (music, art, gym and library) every weekday. He enjoys the recess with classmates and lunch time (sometimes as lunch buddy to some other special need classmate). A had the same kindergarten teacher and at that time always brought home the ‘good behavior’ card (likely because her ‘name dot’ was not displayed on the wall at all, lol). She gets support on each subject and has many sensory breaks every day. I really appreciate how the teachers and aides have been helping her, especially through their teamwork.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s