Monday, June 14, 2010

Graduation, Round One

Everyone, or more specifically, all the mommyblogs I read that chronicle school-age children, is posting about their child's school graduation, from preschool on up. They post first day/last day photos, cap-and-gown montages, lists of things their kids have learned in the past year.

It only just occurred to me, after reading yet another blog about preschool graduation, that I might be leaving my own family out a little on this theme. Like, when all of our kids sit down in their social media classes in the flying-car-future, and the teacher says, "OK, pull up the blog your mom wrote when you graduated from preschool," Berit will sink down in her chair and pretend to have laryngitis. Or carpal tunnel. Or whatever she needs to get out of communicating the way they will in the future.

Thing is, while she technically wore a cap and walked over a little bridge, Berit didn't graduate. She's been in preschool for two school years now, but because her birthday is in February she won't go to kindergarten. We simply put her in preschool the very second she was eligible, which was at age 3 years and one second. She always wanted to go to school. She was born for organized play, and she never, ever had a second thought about not going. She walked into the classroom on her first day, all of just barely 3, and didn't bother to check if her parents were staying or not.

Likewise, when it came time to leave this preschool for the last time -- because she's going to a new preschool this fall -- there was no hesitation. Just, Peace, I'm going to the place where there's a My Little Pony castle.

When she walked the bridge on graduation night, she was first. Very delicately she stepped to the top of the arc and waited, hat sitting neatly on her head, while her teacher told us that Berit's favorite part of preschool was dressing up and that she learned how to walk in a line. I think. It's hard to remember. Marta was screaming the whole time, trying to free herself from my grasp, because "IT'S MY TURN TO GO ON THE BRIDGE!" I'd post pictures but since we've moved in with the in-laws we have no clue where any connective cords are. So, someday. Probably.

Berit has changed in the past year. I'm sure a large percent is due to preschool, the social learning, the reading and projects and playtime. I know preschool is responsible for her learning to write her name, recognize most letters and numbers, and for helping her deal in her own way, in her own time, with the messes made by projects (and learn to accept them, and find fun in them). This last part is the most valuable to me, as I didn't know how I'd work with that a year ago.

She's made sincere friendships, gone on field trips that I'd never have considered, played in the dirt, rolled down hills and took 389 turns on the swings. At least.

Preschool made her brain ready for the day about one month ago, when she suddenly, in a single moment, understood the alphabet and its uses, and started reading. Not whole chapter books or anything, but she figured out how words work and how to sound them out. She's recognizing words at first sight now, and spelling things constantly, and everywhere we go she asks how to spell whatever we're doing, looking at, listening to.

A secondary benefit to this is that Marta is also fascinated by words now, and asks to spell everything and wants to learn to read.

And speaking of Marta, since starting preschool two years ago, Berit has recognized that she has a little sister and has fallen completely in love with Marta, taking care of her like Berit is 12 and Marta is a newborn. It's heartwrenching and lovely and sweet.

Berit's teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Beck, who I wish could be Berit's teacher every year from now on, has told me time and again that "Berit notices the beauty in things that no one else does." Since starting preschool, Berit has commented on the loveliness of words, phrases, leaves, shadows, configurations... It's her thing, I guess. It's something I never taught her. What a gift, to always see beauty.

Since starting preschool, Berit's developed more energy, more spunk, more giddiness. She's gotten super skinny, then pudgy again, then somewhere in the middle.

I think that, at the end of this next year of preschool, I'll be better at pinpointing exactly what she's learned at school alone. But the past two years have been plain old growth for Berit, and while she's not suddenly doing fractions, she is turning into a kindergartner, day by day. Without preschool, I don't think she'd be jumping this high, taking her calculated risks with dirt and energy, loving others so openly or enjoying learning opportunities so readily.

So this is the summer, I think, before things really change from "I have two little girls" to "I have two girls." Before Berit is in school, even if it is another year of preschool, for real and for the next two decades. Before she finds friends who will come to play by themselves and not with a parent, before she can sleep without bed rails, before she loses teeth.

I'm not sad about this, like so many of these blogs I've read. Maybe I'm missing that particular part of my heart or brain. With Berit, I'm always just pleased that she can do the next thing. I think it has something to do with her personality - I recently told a friend, who wished me a happy birthday and wondered if I hated going up another year, that I've always felt like I was in my thirties, even when I was a kid. I think Berit's the same way. Not that she doesn't enjoy kid things. But she's not sorry to leave them behind, because she's got work to do on this next challenge. She's got to take her time, study it, figure it out, test it slowly, do it well a time or two, then move on.

It's my own challenge, then, to remember to mark those milestones, and not get caught up in moving on as smoothly as she does. Before I know it, she's going to be in high school, wondering what the heck I was doing blogging about books and Marta's going on the potty, when she was searching for beauty and climbing obstacles, so silently and slowly as to barely make a ripple in the water.

1 comment:

Cortney Beck said...

What a lovely piece you have written. It perfectly describes what the PCN preschool experience is all about. Letting each child develop at their own pace in a safe, calm, nurturing, school environment while being exposed to early learning skills. WONDERFUL!

Mrs. Beck : )