A bit of back-story; my son has the unfortunate circumstance of having “the late birthday”… meaning he was born less than a week after the August 30th deadline to start Kindergarten at the age of 5 here in North Carolina. On top of that, he’s undersized, even for his current age; if I recall correctly from his last doctor’s appointment, he’s trending at about the 14th percentile in height. Now, I was a short, slim kid myself, so that doesn’t particularly bother me. I started my freshman year of high school at a paltry 5’2″ tall, and finished high school at my final height of 5’11”, so perhaps Young Shame will simply be a late bloomer like his father. Nonetheless, I was faced with a tough decision.
Because he didn’t turn 5 before August 30th of 2017, my son wasn’t able to start kindergarten in public school; PRIVATE schools, however, tended to allow children to start as long as they were 5 years old by October 16th. This luxury comes at a premium of course: Tuition at the private school I chose was upwards of $7000/year, not including registration fees, uniforms and after-school care. All things included, I was looking at a total expense of around $875 per month: that’s a car payment on a luxury coupe plus full coverage insurance (and I DO fancy a luxury coupe, I must say). However, when you consider the fact that him not being in school meant he’d have to continue in daycare, which was about the same monthly expense, it was an easy decision to go ahead and send him to kindergarten.
Fast forward to June of 2018; Young Shame’s final report card and end-of-grade test scores arrived (I don’t recall taking EOG testing at the end of kindergarten, but the 80’s was a different era). While the conduct grade had been up and down throughout the school year, his ACADEMIC grades were fantastic, to the tune of A Honor-Roll for the full year. In addition, his EOG test scores via the IOWA test put him in the 98th percentile nationwide for Language Arts, and the 93rd percentile for Mathematics. He had just finished kindergarten and was at a 2nd grade reading level.
This is the part where I literally beam with pride and hit my dougie.
Fast-forward again… the 2018-19 school year was about to start, and Young Shame was now old enough to start in the public school system; for the sake of convenience, I enrolled him at a charter school right next to my office. His mother and I had toured the school with the principal, and after some discussion I was confident that their curriculum was advanced enough that my son wouldn’t feel like a step was missed. I bought the uniforms, the school supplies and new school shoes, and dropped him off on his first day in August.
He didn’t last through the first quarter.
I started to suspect something was wrong when Young Shame came home after a full week of school with no homework; during his kindergarten year in private school, he had homework at least three nights a week, within the first week of school. My second red flag was that, when he started to actually bring home homework, it was limited to cutting sight-words out of a sheet of paper and placing them in a plastic baggie for practice at school the next day. My reaction was: “………………..what? You’ve been reading BOOKS for almost a year now. You don’t have any spelling words to write out, no math homework? No READING ASSIGNMENTS???” I expressed my concerns to the principal when I passed her as I was picking him up one afternoon; she stated that there was placement testing coming in the next week or so, and that if my son scored high enough he may be moved to SECOND grade. As stated earlier, my son was already one year behind his entire class in age (and still undersized), so the idea of him being in a class with students two years older than him concerned me somewhat, but I decided to wait until the test scores came back at least.
My son’s birthday was the first week of September; I brought cupcakes and ice cream to his class, coincidentally the week of the placement testing. His normal teacher had a death in the family, so I spoke with a substitute teacher while I was there on my lunch break. She raved about how smart he was and how far ahead of the rest of the class he was in reading and math; it seemed to me that once the testing was complete, my son would likely be moved up. When we received the test scores back a week later, my son had NOT scored high enough on their scale to be considered for grade advancement. I was disappointed, but not quite ready to jump ship yet.
Progress reports came home a couple of weeks later; I was horrified to see my son had received a D on an assignment having to do with “folktales and folklore”; you may notice that this is the first time I’ve MENTIONED folktales and folklore. That’s because he had been in school for almost two months, and hadn’t brought home any homework having to do with “folktales and folklore”, not even once. My child had gone from a straight-A student to nearly failing assignments, and I had had little to no communication with his teacher about it. This was the last straw.
In October of 2018, I re-enrolled him at the private school; not only did I have a great relationship with his
teacher and administration staff, but the class sizes were smaller (there were nine students in his 1st grade class, including him) and communication lines were ALWAYS open in both directions. Young Shame brought home his second quarter report card and was back to straight A’s. He still struggled with conduct a bit, because he’s a bit of a talker, but he LOVES his school, loved his class and seemed genuinely happy to be there.
As a product of the public school system myself, I’ll admit I was initially averse to the idea of paying to send him to a private school; aside from the additional expense, I felt like the education I received was more than sufficient, and regardless of how much I spend on sending him to private school, I’m still paying for the public school system in my taxes as well. Unfortunately, the public school system nowadays just isn’t what it was in the 80’s, and I owe it to my child and future children to make sure I provide the best education possible, even if it means I can’t afford that BMW M850i I’ve been fantasizing about… at least, not at the moment.