I am sure you are wondering how I could be happy about losing money for college. Especially with the increasing costs of obtaining a college education. Sounds unreal, right? Well, it’s true. And here’s my story.
As a parent I have always been very careful to meet my children’s needs individually. The all have different strengths and intelligences. My oldest is aloof and intrapersonal, so we give him the space he needs to process. Our middle child is sensitive, tactile and a spatial thinker, so we allow her time to picture her thoughts while she’s tucked up under my arms. But this is about my youngest daughter; she is logical, calculating and physically active.
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She has always been an active learner. By two years old she had developed a love for books and was capable of assembling puzzles unassisted. We knew that she would be gifted and committed to give her every opportunity for unfettered growth and development. But as she grew closer to school age, we realized we were facing a dilemma.
She was born in October. Just twelve days after the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment. Harold and I reluctantly came to accept that she would not begin kindergarten the year she turned five. With birthdays in July, we weren’t subject to the school age concerns. And we were determined not to allow our daughter’s age hold her back academically.
We invested in the best pre-schools available. We bought all the educational tools and toys money could buy. We visited public, private and charter schools. We researched school policies, state laws, and mandates. We were determined to find a way. What we found, our good intentions notwithstanding, is that our efforts were fruitless. She would have to wait to officially start school no matter where we enrolled her. Bummer.
Still determined to best meet her needs academically, we felt that the Montessori Method would be the best fit. We enrolled her in the pre-primary program at a public Montessori Elementary School. In keeping with the Montessori multi-aged classroom theory, the pre-schoolers were intermingled with the kindergarten students. She had already mastered many of the academic goals expected of a student her age before we enrolled her.
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She excelled in the Montessori environment, demonstrating capabilities far beyond the expectation at her age. We also faced the challenge of her kinesthetic behavior – she has a bad case of the “can’t sit stills.” The freedom of the non-restrictive Montessori classroom proved to be an excellent learning environment for her. She spent the allotted two years in the pre-school program learning the Montessori Method, the principles of freedom of choice within limits, group social skills and the formal school protocol for learning.
She performed so well that her teacher recommended that she be officially progressed to a first grader. We skipped kindergarten! Thus, we lost a year of college savings, and I couldn’t be happier.
As a parent, you are your child’s strongest advocate. Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo and push for the academic environemtn that is most suitable for your child. Here are a few tips on how to determine your child’s academic needs and best advocate for his/her success.
1. Know your child’s learning style. Do not assume that your child learns like you do. Not all people learn in the same way. Some people are visual learners, some are tactile and even still some are aural learners. Observe your child’s behavior and habits when at play – does he zone out in front of the TV, does she love to dance, is he content to play alone, does she require your undivided attention – to give clues to his/her learning style. If you’re truly motivated, take your child to a psychologist or therapist for more insight. Formal theories of study, like Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence can also help to determine your child’s learning style.
2. Educate yourself on your options. Do you know your public school system’s assignment process? Is Catholic School good for non-Catholic students? Is there financial assistance available for superior students in private institutions? What’s the difference between Charter and Public Schools? What are the Home School Laws for your state? These questions, among many more, are a good starting point to determine your options and choices in your child’s educational path. And don’t come to the table with your mind already made up about the best option based upon your own past experience. I was educated in public school and my husband was educated in private school. We both had our pre-conceived notion of how our children would be educated and then we met our son. LOL Know your options so that if you get hit with a whammy you’ve got a course to follow on the rebound.
3. Prepare yourself to fund your child’s elementary, high school and college education. Have you ever wondered how your neighbor with the work-at-home wife and four kids affords private school for their family? They prepared and planned! A deeper understanding of your current financial situation can shine a light on possibilities once thought unreachable. It seems the cost of education is continually on the rise and as parents we are always looking for ways to get ahead in the game. There are many financial tools available to cover educational expenses – 529, UGTM, Coverdell accounts, just to name a few. We personally have a 529 Account and will now be making a few more contributions than we had originally planned. With kindergarten conquered, the next goal is saving for Harvard. And now we have one less year to do it.
How are you preparing for your child’s education future and success?