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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bye-bye Kindergarten

When I was growing up, "Graduation" was a term reserved for when one first earned one's college degree. There was usually some sort of convocation ceremony to recognize the achievement, and justified pomp and splendor around the awarding of the degree certificate. I got all of my four degree certificates by mail, being chronically shy to don the traditional vestments and walk up in front of strangers when my name was called.

I got to thinking about these as Ana geared up for her mini rite-of-passage-of-sorts getting out of the comfortable shelter of her Montessori pre-school at her recent kindergarten graduation. I like that while it is a solemn ceremony, very affirmative and inspiring, it also serves to reiterate the fact the learning is ongoing; and as they transition to different environments, setting goals and working to achieve them, whatever they may be, the children can look back on all that they have achieved so far, without even knowing they did, absorbing and developing their innate abilities in a rich and conducive atmosphere.

Update: had to add this here for my reference - a direct quote from utbtkids who usually manages to say things that are bouncing around as disjointed thoughts in my head:
"Getting to say proper goodbye, however painful it is, is an absolute necessity, especially for children. They learn that their old friends did not just vanish, but are still there and it gives them the confidence to make new friends in the new environment."
That was what the KG graduation was about, for me and for Ana, and for the handful of kids who are moving on.

To acknowledge and validate their feelings - after spending 3+ years with the same teacher, friends, environment, and then to suddenly feel booted out into a new one - can be tough, at least for some kids, as was evident in the strange behaviors noted during the last few weeks of school. While there was an ongoing addressing of it in classroom, the ceremony gave a sort of closure.

Each child is different... I have a feeling Oggie will handle it differently from Ana, being an extrovert of sorts from what I've observed so far. Ana, on the other hand, being shy and withdrawn, doesn't embrace change as easily. Added to it is the fact that, thanks to my non-social nature, all she has known is school and home as safe havens, nothing much else...

The graduating kindergartners write a book about themselves. I was quite surprised to see that among the other things she had written about herself, Ana had the only thing she didn't like: "I don't like getting hurt." That's it. The only thing she doesn't like is getting hurt. That spoke to me on many levels - her shyness, which much like mine, seems more about getting the feelings hurt than actually being scared of the people. Of course, she probably only meant physical hurt, but, having heard her state clearly, "that hurt my feelings" appropriately, I believe she knows what she is talking about...

The teacher then says a few words briefly and directly to each child as they come up after their Bubble Walk, sharing the moments they want to highlight in the child's life at school. It is a sweet ceremony, ending with a tear-jerker of a song.

One of the traditions of graduating kindergartners is the Self-Portrait. It is a guided process, but entirely done by kids.

They look in the mirror, study themselves, sketch, erase, sketch, edit, sketch on black paper till they are satisfied.

Then they use glue for the outline much like the Glue and Chalk Pastel art project we've shared here before. The results are stunning. And, it always amazes me to see how the children see themselves, the details they notice in themselves.

A fascinating "experiment" as Oregon's Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen referred to it in an NPR interview, is the system of public education. Used to be that only the privileged few could get an education as it was expensive and beyond easy reach. But, the fact that education is open and available for all who wish to avail of the opportunity was the biggest thing that impressed me when I heard about it as a fresh graduate doing internship teaching High School Physics in India to kids who were not much younger than me.

Today, it pains me to see many kids dropping out of school, the funding for public school system in jeopardy, the spiraling issues as a result... And, now that Ana is out of a non-profit private pre-school, gearing up for stepping into the public school system, I feel the gap, I feel the inadequacy, I feel the need to provide her with an environment that lets her learn at her own pace, getting a joyful education fit for future leaders of our world. I am digressing...

In the larger scheme of things, KG is KG - I remember LKG and UKG (Lower/Upper KG) when I was little, and by 1st standard kids were taught cursive writing, but not much reading... so, I am grateful that Ana is coming out of KG a confident reader favoring chapter books even if her penmanship is not anywhere near perfect...

When Ana gets her first college degree, I guess I'll truly feel comfortable saying "Ana graduated!", but for now, it is Bye-bye KG, Hello First Grade!

Happy Summer!

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At 9:46 PM, Anonymous utbtkids said...

Congratulations to the graduate.

Beautiful portrait. Loved it so much. Gonna share it with the kids after they come back from school.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

utbtkids:: Thanks! I keep going back to listen to M and C's crystal clear rendition of my favorite songs at their graduation :)

Oh and, quoted you in my post's update - left you a note.

At 3:09 AM, Blogger Vibha said...

Congratulations to Ana and to all of you. A big milestone. Best wishes for many more to come.

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Vibha:: Thanks! Transitions are hard - more for me I guess - as kids are resilient anyway... thankfully.

What I liked most about her 3 years in Harmony Montessori so far is the exposure to Grace & Courtesy (in all interactions), Practical Life Skills (cleaning, serving, food preparation), Arts, Music, Crafts (the beaded purses and other sewing projects, weaving and such really blew me away) - not just the academics, which was great as always...

As she grows older, certain things get pushed behind with the emphasis on academic progress getting greater... that is the way of life, I guess...

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Vibha said...

I can understand Sheela and can completely relate to the feelings you have. Now that Raghav is in 4th, the emphasis on academics takes away all the time and we are always running to catch up with things, even the time when we used to read and discuss gets lost on some days. I feel sad for that but then this is also equally important and there are just these many hours in a day.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Choxbox said...

Congrats Sheels :)

Can so relate to this - we also just graduated after 3 years in a Montessori and are headed to Grade 1 in big school. I am glad as well that she has come out loving to read and well (this being India I suppose) she has been taught beautiful cursive writing as well (though I give full credit to the folks at her school for making it totally effortless and painless for her).

But know what - I know that with a parent like you, Ana will always love learning no matter what school she goes (or does not go) to. You show them joy in little things, and soon it becomes part of their nature and all builds up into learning. It is an amazing thing to watch. (Apologies if I am rambling!)

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Vibha:: I hear you... and thanks to ST, I now have all of you "senior" moms to take notes from and know that I am not alone...

Choxie:: such sweet words, and from the Choxepedia herself! Thank you, ma'am!

I was belaboring the cursive writing bit here when D opened my eyes to the fact that today's children really need typing skills more than beautiful penmanship.

I'll gladly remain old-fashioned :)

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Choxbox said...


A friend also says they need typing-fast-on-the-calculator skills rather than adding-in-the-head type of skills. Me I’m still old-fashioned like you and insist on the in-the-head skills!


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