This has become “The Crazy Shit Parents Do” week on the blog, so I should probably chime in on the when-to-start-kindergarten issue, speaking as someone who could not have done it more devastatingly wrong. I was one of those über-zorks who actually skipped kindergarten – and having a late spring birthday, that meant being ushered into 1st grade having barely turned five.
I’m easy to spot – they didn’t even bother aiming the camera down to my height (click for bigger)
Notice, also, the woeful spelling above: the 15th President of the United States is spelled “Buchanan”, but that’s the sort of thing you’d get your ass kicked for saying. It’d be easy to blame my mom and dad for putting me on the fast track to shitsville, but you have to look at it like leeches, bloodletting, thalidomide and the Whig Party: it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Apparently I was already reading my own books at three, so the educational professionals of the day concluded I’d be “bored”. I actually remember going to kindergarten for about a week – I found naptime on the cold floor to be completely insane, but the toys were top-notch. I also remember my first day in 1st grade a few days later; we were all given a quiz where we had to color in the sails on some ships according to a formula. When they graded them, I’d gotten every one wrong, and my school experience went from there.
I cannot begin to tell you how bad skipping kindergarten was for me, mostly because I’ve spent seven years here (as of last week, hurray blogiversary!) doing just that. It certainly didn’t help that I had two social settings: painful shyness and unfettered rage. I had no idea how to interact with human beings my age, and thus wound up being bludgeoned by them, until finally, FINALLY I went to a private school that had no tolerance for that shit. I actually repeated ninth grade at Norfolk Academy, although it didn’t matter, since my “first” ninth grade had been a thousand miles away.
Even though I was able to make many like-minded, intellectual friends, I was still a twit, and continued to be a twit clear into Carolina, not kissing a girl until my freshman year at Hinton James, and not losing my virginity until my senior year at the Lodge. After that, I became a full-blown cad determined to make up for years missed, and once I settled down years later, had a nervous breakdown. I now take Celexa for the depression that started when I was five, and Dexedrine for the ADD that made my education scattered, smothered and covered.
Do I blame skipping kindergarten for all of this? No, only about 87% of it. But if there’s a lesson here, I’d say this: the only thing you really learn from school is how to function with your peer group. Vocab, cursive, long division, sure, sure, but that’s just a distraction from your real education. I’d make sure your child studies Other People long and hard, because they’re everywhere, and they don’t grade on a curve.