Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mothering in Holy Land Central

My 5-year-old son goes to a Tel Aviv kindergarten with 32 other kids. He has been in the Israeli school system a year and a half - since we moved here from San Francisco. Prior to our move he went to The Haight Ashbury Co-Op.

His first year in Holy Land Central (HLC) he struggled with culture and language gaps, geographical differences and a general longing for the familiar. Amidst adjustments, his father and I separated.

This year he feels more grounded and is excelling socially. But his kindergarten teacher recommends he stay back a year. Because she says he is somewhat immature emotionally and she also feels that his language skills won't suffice through an entire day of 1st grade challenges (in Hebrew).

Coming from the American culture of "push push push, go go go!", I at first rebelled internally against the teacher's recommendation. But then I began consulting with other mothers, former and current teachers and my resolve softened.

I kept hearing from other mothers: "Keep him back! Let him play for one more year. Don't push him." What is this? I wondered. Laziness? Why don't they favor pushing forward?

And then one mother voiced what I suspected might be behind the seeming slacker mentality.

Are you in a hurry for him to go to the army? Let him stay back a year!

And there it was. Something we all think about. It may be 13 years off in the horizon but it's there in our collective thoughts.

Because just maybe, as is the popular suggestion handed down from parents to children for decades, there will be peace in my child's lifetime and he won't have to go into the army. So why not give the opportunity for peace an extra year?

2 comments:

mother in israel said...

Stephanie! I just figured out that I went to Yavneh Day School with you. I seem to have aged more than you though LOL.

Yaeli said...

Steph --in the States now, holding your kid back a year is all the rage among the wealthier and socially-mobile group. There was an interesting article about it in the NYtimes a couple of months ago and about the problems it is causing in Manhattan schools because of it with enrolement issues for getting bona-fide first-year kindergarteners into kindergarten with so many places being taken up by the "held backs"(and also about the financial racket that is developing in the top private schools where they charge exhorbitant fees to allow your child to benefit from being assured that they will not be the smallest in their classes as they go through elementary school --and thus possibly be bullied -- and to perform better cognitively by having greater maturity than the other first-graders who are younger and thus will get into the best universities down the road...).