I Hate Kindergarten

So this is the beginning of Week 3 for us, and I'm really hating it so far. My frustration is two-fold:

1. Kindergarten (at least the public K we're at) is absolutely not set up for working parents. The drop-off time is decent, but then I'm supposed to sit in the classroom and read with him for 20 minutes before I leave. So I'm going to be late for work every freaking day of the school year, plus we now have a too-long goodbye ritual that is working him into a frenzy. And he won't even sit with me to read because he likes to read by himself, and we read so much at home all the time anyway.

Of course, it doesn't seem to be set up for the SAHMs either, judging by how stressed-out they all look, too.

And that list of school supplies? Not the list his teacher gave us. So we had to go out and buy $30 worth of stuff (not all available at the same store) that didn't all overlap with what we'd previously bought. Why we couldn't just all come in with $30 and have the teacher place one big order from Staples.com or OfficeDepot.com for the classroom is beyond me.

Grr. And that's not the actual bad part.

2. My older one was in preschool 3 half-days a week for the previous two years, so school is not a new experience for him. But this is just killing him. It's all about the ritual, with no substance so far that we can see. He's bored, and is starting to act out. He ended up with the bitchy, princessy K teacher, not one of the sweet exuberant teachers, and he's totally chafing under her scolding and mean rigidity. The teacher now thinks he's troublemaker (but by the 6th day pf school she hadn't figured out that he can read). And he's freaking out about school and cries and doesn't want to go. When I finally got to leave (damn that long drawn-out reading time crap) last Wednesday he broke down into sobs (and this is a kid who will not cry in public) and tried to run away out of the classroom.

Everyone keeps saying he needs to adjust to the routine. But what kind of routine turns a kid who was super-excited about school into a kid who says he wants to run away so he never has to go back? And I'm completely torn between trying to get him switched into one of the other sections with a kind and pleasant teacher, or keeping him in this class because there's another kid who's reading fluently so there's a tiny chance that the teacher might come up with something to keep them challenged.

My other plan is to try to make some playdates with the other kids in the class, so at least he can enjoy the other kids, even if the teacher is mean. So far it's been tough, though, since I'm working, and we had two days off for Rosh Hashanah last week (NYC public school holiday schedule).

I hate this. And I'm not alone. Kel and Dawn are feeling the pain, too. Kel writes:

"My 5 ¾-year-old started public kindergarten last week.  He has been in day care since he was 6 months old, then was transitioned into a very good, very expensive Montessori preschool until this year.  He's a bright kid and we have been warned about his becoming bored.  He seems to act out when bored.

I'm biased, but would say he is a good kid.  Polite.  A leader.  Very social.  We hear all time from other parents what a pleasure he is to have over or have as their child's friend because he's so good natured and polite.  We work on that, we praise and model those behaviors.

He had a twenty day break between the end of Montessori and the start of kindergarten.  He was home with his other mom (he has two) and his twin toddler sisters.  During this vacation his behavior seemed to deteriorate.  He stopped listening and worse, he became argumentative.  I've heard the phrase "But Mom..." more in the past month than I have in the past 5 years.  I wasn't home (she's the stay at home Mom for now) so as I only had to put up with it for four or five hours a day, I just chalked it up to being 5.  It was harder on my partner, of course, and we finally came to the conclusion (justification) that perhaps his behavior had to do with starting a completely unfamiliar situation and meeting brand new children for the first time since before he can remember.   He  has no control over what is happening, so he is trying to grab some control in the only ways he can.

Then school started.  Or rather the first two days after the holiday were actually the pre and post school program open house run by the YMCA for all those kids who will be in that program (my partner hopes to go back to work as soon as we get the girls settled in preschool).  Despite the orientation which highlighted the separate room for kindergartners, it has (so far) been a free-for-all with the 5 year olds running with the 8 and 9 year olds.  He was injured slightly the second day when he fell off the stairs to the classroom (a real accident from all accounts), but kid-on-kid violence seems to be ignored for the most part.  We have been assured the program will get much more structured as everyone gets homework assigned and routines are established.  Unfortunately this experience may have escalated our problems.

The actual kindergarten class seems fine.  There are 18 children in the class.  The teacher seems bright and focused.  He is far beyond the work they are doing, but we expected that and hope the teacher will create other assignments for him once it all gets going.  In the four days of actual school, he has been in trouble on two of those days. His teacher tentatively (diplomatically) told us this morning that he was having a very hard time listening. Then, today  he interrupted circle time and then continued to misbehave (making raspberry noises) after being set in a chair away from the other students.

Tonight he was wild with his sisters, far beyond the usual older brother rough housing and it took nearly 30 minutes to get him to explain to me what he did today in class.  He said he couldn't describe the noise he was making because it was an accident.   No TV and no dessert later, he promised to work harder at listening and being a good citizen.  He is supposed to start soccer this week, but we have now offered up losing that as the consequences of further misbehavior.

On the one hand, I feel the need to be very rigid in my response to what is happening.  I don't want him labeled as the wild child.  If he gets away with this, it will escalate.  On the other, I want to let him get settled and not pounce too hard.  I don't want him to dislike the whole school situation.  Other than letting the teacher know we are on her side and will be supportive of whatever actions she takes and will also provide additional reinforcement at home we don't know what to or how long to wait should his behavior get worse.

We are working on the Y program administrators and will pull him out of that program should it not improve, once we find a nanny who can pick him up at 1:30.

Any help you or your posse want to suggest will be gratefully accepted."

To me, it sounds like your guy is missing the structure he had at the Montessori preK. The free-for-all is probably wigging him out and may even be scaring him, so he's reacting really poorly.

I'd like to invite you to switch your son in for mine at school, because my son's teacher is extremely rules and structure-oriented, to the point of being nasty. Barring that, I'd see if you could figure out how to add more structure until the school shapes up. It sounds like soccer will be excellent for him (combo of structure and physical exertion) and maybe you guys could do some kind of greater structure in the evenings (more dinner-related chores or prep for school from him, for example).

Dawn's problems are slightly different, but still follow the I Hate Kindergarten theme:

"My six year old daughter is a very shy girl until you get to know her, and she has gone back to school after the summer holidays tho she is getting upset about this. She cries just as the school door opens, not before and not at home . I really don't think she is getting bullied or anything like that, but i know if no one has asked her to play she thinks no one wants to play with her. How can i help? It is getting me so upset and at the same time angry."

Poor thing. It sounds like making some playdates with the other kids in her class is exactly what will fix this problem. If she has some time to play with another kid one-on-one after school, that kid will probably be more friendly to her during school. I'd try to figure out if there are any one or two of the kids she talks about in a positive way, and try to get them together after school or on the weekends.

Does anyone have suggestions, comments, sympathy, or commiseration for any of us? Anyone else hating Kindergarten? Anyone have an opinion on whether I should stick with the crappy teacher so my son can be with the other kid who's reading at his same level, or try to get him switched into another class (which I may not even be able to do)?