Tuesday, September 23, 2014

encore!

Let me just preface this whole post by saying how annoying I know it is when parents talk about their genius kids (with or without substantiation of geniusness).  It's only slightly more acceptable in grandparents, who for some reason are culturally permitted to think their grandkids are perfect.  So, throughout, when I talk about my smart daughter, please don't hate me.  Thank you.

Vicki Jo is now 3 and a half.  She is the most charming, needy, mercurial, slight, gorgeous, frustrating being I have ever known.  She is already a complicated person, and I'm sure that will only multiply in the years to come.

Is my metaphor too thick?
We have known Vicki Jo was bright for a long time.  She spoke early, clearly, persistently.  She reasons and jokes with me and follows the arc of a conversation.  She is beginning to read by taking books that she has memorized through repeated narration and using phonics to sound out the words she already knows.  She enjoys identifying letters in everyday situations, and has developed good letter-sound correspondence.  I have done nearly nothing to encourage this, aside from LOTS of reading together, and talking with her a lot.

We lucked out when Vicki was accepted at King's Daughters.  She has experienced a warm, rich, deep educational setting with teachers who are committed to early childhood education.  They periodically hold parent-teacher conferences, and my hunches were somewhat validated at our first one:

Them:  "Do you know how gifted your daughter is?  Do you think she will be well-served by the public school system?  What plans do you have for her enrichment and further education?"

Me:  "Uhhhh . . . "

I still feel really good about what's happening with her at King's Daughters, and I think that the value of stability in a small child's world cannot be overstated.  So, she continues there for now.  But we have been urged to consider early admission to Kindergarten.  This would mean she starts Kindergarten in Fall 2015.  

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS for short) is a monster of a system.  It's a county-wide, consolidated labyrinth of 155 schools.  There are magnets, zoned schools, special schools, pre-K sites, and more that I'm sure I don't even know about.  For someone like me, who wants to research things thoroughly, it's a years-long process of educating yourself about this school system.  And by that time, things have changed enough that you have to start over!

I wasn't sure if we wanted to follow through on early admission to Kindergarten for sure, but I wanted it to be an option.  And that meant testing.  Over the summer, we took Vicki Jo for a series of tests with a school psychologist.  I'm not sure exactly what was included in these tests, because I was not allowed to be present for them (I sat out in the hallway).  The psychologist reviewed the results, and then we were scheduled for a meeting with a panel of educators:  a zoned school teacher, an "Encore" teacher (this is what MNPS calls their gifted program), a school psychologist, a school administrator, and me as parent.  I also brought my friend Steph for good measure (she's a middle-school teacher for MNPS).  

What we heard at the meeting was basically that Vicki Jo is extremely gifted, scoring in the high 90s of percentiles in all categories.  She was not given an Individual Education Plan (IEP) yet, because a child must demonstrate that the current classroom setting is an impediment to their learning - and she doesn't have a classroom setting yet!  But she was approved for early admission to Kindergarten, and she was referred for Encore services.

For preschool children, all Encore classrooms are housed in an old school building called Robertson Academy.  If your child is tested and qualifies, you are offered one three-hour block of enrichment per week, free of charge.  We signed Vicki up for Wednesday mornings, and it's been awesome!  She looks forward to going, and I think it's fun for her to be in an environment with children who enjoy similar levels of challenge and critical thinking.

video


One hard spot has been the School Standard Attire (aka SSA aka uniform).  All MNPS students have to follow SSA to one degree or another, depending on the school.  My headstrong girl does not like being told what she can and can't wear.  She has been dressing herself for nearly a year.  These moments make me seriously dread the years to come . . . 

A favorite outfit I like to call the "full owl."
Her teacher, Mrs. Sturgeon, has been so helpful about communicating well with us beforehand, reaching out to each parent and informing them what the program would be like, and sending home detailed descriptions of each lesson.  We also have little bits of "homework" - essentially just discussions she wants us to have with our kids about the subject matter.  

My hope is that, after spending some time with Vicki Jo, Mrs. Sturgeon can offer me some better insight about whether early Kindergarten would really benefit her.  There would certainly be positives, but there may be more negatives.  Post forthcoming on the early Kindergarten decision!

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