Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kindergarten Screening


I received a call from the school department a few months back informing me that I needed to register Child B and Child C with the local district because they will be starting school in the fall.
As a homeschooling parent I was unnerved, to say the least.
I like my independence and I don't like being told what to do by an authority figure that hasn't proved to be trustworthy (yet). I also know these kids better than a random school district and I'm struggling with the fact that they are soooo young, their birthdays falling so close to the cut off. If I had the choice, they would not attend school in the fall. I think parents commonly wait another year for fall babies, and I think this is wise. But I don't get to act on that opinion, and that's that.
The caller insisted that the children be registered immediately as the children needed to participate in an upcoming kindergarten screening and they wouldn't have the opportunity later if they missed this one.

So I dutifully went to register them asap (this was an overwhelming venture as I was unsure what was involved and needed to bring gobs of paperwork and then fill out MORE paperwork). When I handed in the reams of paper, explained that I signed forms but wasn't sure if I "counted" as the "parent", and handed over my license for a copy we were good to go. I asked when the screening would take place and how to get Child C and Child B in for that screening. After making a phone call the kind and helpful person said that there wouldn't be another screening - the screenings happened a month before and we'd missed them.

I'm just guessing that the screenings make a difference. Presumably they inform teachers and others in the school of any red flag they may need attention once the school year starts.
Also, I was being told that children that had JUST arrived to the district MISSED the screening because they weren't here in January? What if they'd arrived in August?!!?

Frustrated, I returned home, vented, and that was that.

A month later we had an iep meeting for these children. At this time we established what summer services the children would receive as well as what services will be in place for them during the next school year.
After this meeting I had two primary concerns I wanted to discuss with the school: 1)After doing a little research I had determined that ideally the kids would be in the same class. I'd also learned that this might be something the school would resist. 2)I wanted to give the school counseling dept a heads up about these two, just so the powers-that-be were making extra sure that the needs of these children would be met immediately, with no surprises.

About two weeks ago I received a call informing me that there would be a kindergarten screening on June 10th and Child B and Child C needed to attend. I was also to receive a packet of paperwork to fill out (more?!!?).

The screening day arrived, much to the excitement of Child C and Child B to see their new school! We went to the library and Child C and Child B reluctantly let go of my hands to follow different grownups. With some encouragement they were off to hop on one foot, cut out a shape, write their name, etc. I was told the nurse would speak with me. While I waited I realized I recognized the school employee organizing the day and the other parent waiting for her child to complete their screening.

"Do you have the farm up on the hill?" asked the school employee.
"Yes," I replied. "I know you from somewhere" turning to the other woman I said "and you,".
I've been to your farm a few times to buy things," explained the school employee. My heart may have melted a little. There might be like-minded families (or at least employees of the school) in the school community!
"We're doing our own meet chickens this year," she went on. Big grin from me!
"That's so cool," I replied, "do you have a plucker?"
After some back and forth on the chicken process I turned to the other woman.
"Do I know you?"
She shrugged.
"From the library? The Y (where Del was at preschool)? The farmer's market?"
She shook her head for all of the options.
"We don't go to the farmer's market," she offered by way of explanation.
"Well, why not?!" I asked in mock horror.
We laughed at that and the nurse was ready to see me.

The nurse explained that the absentee policy (very hard for a homeschooling parent to hear - what do you mean I need a note from the doctor to validate if my kid is sick?! I can't tell if my own kid is sick? And what if I want them to stay home so we can go to a museum together?) and I freaked her out a bit about vaccines.

The children were done with their screening and the speech therapist sought me out to tell me they would need services in the fall and stated more than asked that the children had had no previous services. I informed her that I knew they would need services in the fall, they are currently on an iep, and told her exactly what services they will be receiving. She was thrilled that we're on the same page and that everything is already set up. I mentioned that I wanted to talk to someone about having the children in the same class. She told me that I would go over the results with the psychologist and that would be the person to talk to. She pointed to the school-employee-who-is-raising-her-own-meat-chickens-this-year, and told me that she was the psychologist. Yay. Throughout this conversation Child C had gone from holding my hand, to being held, to climbing on to my shoulders - excitedly and loudly pointing out every shiny thing that caught his eye.

I asked the school psychologist if I might come back after dropping the kids off as they were a little DONE with still and quiet.

As I walked out of the school library the other mom stopped me.
"You might recognize me because I'm also a foster parent."
So that was it! I was excited to meet another mom who could relate to all of our ups and downs over the last 3 months. After a brief introduction and explanation of our current family makeup - and hers - we were on our way.

When I returned to the school the psychologist reviewed the children's results. They did as I expected - and better. I was surprised to learn they have mastery of some skills that I thought they were lacking. Are the kindergarten-ready? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is what it is. I asked about having them in the same class. The psychologist said they asked parents for their requests and then did their best to honor those requests. Yay. I told her I wanted her to be aware of these two and their needs. They are likely to do really well in school, the structure is awesome for them. But they might not. She told me that she goes into the K class once a week to do general social skills stuff as well as obviously meeting with kids who need it. Yay. I explained that I was concerned because they are so young - never mind their other deficits due to their previous living situation. She explained that there is a pre-1st option for kids not quite ready for 1st. It's not being held back, it's a different program. Pure, relief. So if they DO need that extra year, it's there.

Whew. So when it's all said in done, I'm feeling more confident about their future academic prospects. I'm relieved that Del will not be part of the K experience (that's right, three Kindergartners) because I was told the K teachers are very very structured. Awesome for Child C and Child B and probably also Del, but not what I want for her next year. It IS however what I want for Child B and Child C as they need it more, and it's just not something I can do for them. As with any school decision, we'll take one year at a time and if/when we have a choice about school options for Child B and Child C, we'll consider ALL the options. Given the lack of options right now, I'm pleased with what the next year is looking like for them both.

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