Delayed Reaction

I never thought I’d be that parent – the one stressing out over kindergarden applications (for Illyria). It seems so high-stakes here, just now – in this city, all the middle class parents put their kids in private schools; we chose to apply to the highest quality school that’s a reasonable commuting distance from where we live – 30 minutes at most, through city traffic – as opposed to something further afield (all the posh schools are in the posh Northern neighborhoods). There are a lot of things we like about the school, including the fact that our boss’s son goes there and we highly respect her endorsement.

I’ve realized a number of things through this process… one is how stressful these applications are. An insane amount of paperwork, a 4-hour observation of all children applying (in small groups, at the school), a parent interview, letters of recommendation… I thought the parent interview went well (Gimli said to me afterwards, “so all your questions for them kind of came down to ‘are y’all elitist?'” Fair enough) but I had no idea how the observation went.  We were called in for a follow-up meeting though, and I realized at that point that my biggest anxiety about Illyria’s “quirkiness” is that people will reject her for it.

To cut to the chase, we still don’t know if she’ll get in. They want to do another observation with a bilingual teacher in order to get a more accurate sense of what she can and can’t do cognitively; they felt that because her Spanish is still limited, they couldn’t really tell.

What we couldn’t really tell was whether they’re playing CYA, trying to let us down gently, or truly trying to get a sense of where she is developmentally at this point.

I didn’t feel stressed about any of this until the school called to schedule this second observation. At first they had proposed a date in March, which worried us because if she’s rejected then that’s precious little time to apply to a second choice school (many private schools here are on what’s called “Calendar B”, where the school year starts in August. Public schools and some private schools, like the preschool where both kids are now, are all on Calendar A, starting in February). We asked for a January observation and they made it happen.

But I can already feel a certain bitterness whenever I run across some of the “swag” we got on the Open House day when we visited a few months ago. Pencils and bags with the school mascot. Wristbands and paper buses. I already feel like Illyria’s been rejected, devalued. It’s a horrible feeling. Even if she is accepted, I wonder how this feeling will color our experience at the school?

Then again, maybe it really isn’t the right place for her, and maybe this is a sign. Maybe they really are elitist. Gimli says that what he wants most for her from school is a multicultural perspective. I just want her to like school, like I always did. I want her to be understood and valued for who she is, wherever she ends up. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?


2 Responses to “Delayed Reaction”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I can imagine it is quite stressful. I hope that wherever she does go to school, that she has wonderful teachers that help her learn and support you in parenting her.

    It’s so hard to believe she’s going to be in kindergarten. Is it kindergarten like in the US or is it more like 1st grade? I know all countries are a little different.

    • Elizabeth Says:

      In Colombia they call it “Transición,” or Transition. Right now my kids are both in a preschool that emphasizes the arts and ecology over formal learning (they only casually teach the alphabet, and that’s about it) – lots of singing, painting, dance, field trips. At the open house at the school we’re applying to, I saw a bulletin board of work done by kids in Transición that had short written sentences, so it seems they do work on reading and writing. They also had a large room with a kitchen in it for working with food preparation (when we visited, they had the kids frost and decorate muffins that they were allowed to eat), and another big room that was a play store, stocked with tons of play food (including lots of packaged items), grocery carts, play money, cash registers, etc. The playground was enormous. They also did an activity with the kids where they walked barefoot on textured stepping stones (everything from shag carpet to sandpaper). Overall, I’ve found that schooling in Latin America is more structured towards group activities and less towards “child-led” or independent play/learning, but it seems like the private schools in Bogotá at least do a lot of different kinds of learning activities and not just desk work.

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