Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed teacher, or an expert of child development, or otherwise an authority in the subject of what and when to teach our kids.
I am, however, a mom to my four darling children. For me, that is enough. Being a mom is powerful. I love them and have their best interests at heart and know what they need.
What I’m telling you is that, as a parent, YOU know what your kids need. I strongly believe that. Keep that in mind as you read my ramblings.
I want to start my post about preschool by talking about kindergarten. Because that makes total sense, right? 🙂
I grew up in a tiny town on a farm, with lots of other farm kids. When I was 5 years old back in the fall of 1984, my little country elementary school didn’t even have kindergarten yet, so I didn’t go to school that year. My introduction to school was the next year — in first grade.
(Truthfully? I was such a shy kid, even going to first grade was terrifying. But it was to the other kids, too, so thankfully I made some friends.)
And guess what? Even without kindergarten, I did just fine. I learned to read, I thrived all through school, I graduated high school, and I went to college. I am a successful adult. I didn’t necessarily “need” kindergarten to be a successful adult. And neither did a lot of children before me.
So imagine my hesitation when my oldest child turned 5 (he’s 11 now) and kindergarten was required where we lived. I started to question. Did he really need kindergarten? Was he ready to be away from his family and under the care of someone else all day? What would he be learning Was I ready for that? Could he do without it? What could he learn there that he couldn’t learn just being a kid playing at home?
The big thing to note here is that I was never against kindergarten. I just wasn’t for it, either.
I think like a lot of things in life, unless we experience it, we question the heck out of it. Like religion or politics or education or anything that can have a big impact on us.
Questioning is a GOOD thing. Questioning is the path to arrive at the best answer for you. You parents, it’s ok to question. Because it’s your kids we’re talking about.
You teachers and administrators, we love you. You do great at your jobs. You care and you love too, and we know that. Please bear with us parents as we think and feel our way through this. We are learning as we go. We aren’t against you when we question, we just want to understand. Because when we understand, we believe.
So back to my kindergarten quandary. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just knew what I knew, which was that I didn’t need kindergarten, so why did my son need it?
Come with me through my overly analytical thought process:
Obviously, I wanted to follow the law. So I needed to come to terms with the fact that my son SHOULD be in kindergarten, even if I didn’t understand or realize its importance.
So then my choices at the time were to keep my oldest home and homeschool him, or to send him to kindergarten at the public school, which happened to be within walking distance. I had the brain capacity to homeschool, just not the motivation or desire. So I was starting to consider kindergarten at the public school.
Also, my kids are very very very outgoing (they didn’t get this from me). They thrive with lots of people around them. They love situations where they can be in groups. Obviously, I could have lots of kids around him in other ways, but at school it would be easy. At this point of my questioning, I was definitely leaning toward sending my son to kindergarten.
Then came the real tipping point: I got to know my son’s kindergarten teacher. She was not just an amazing all-around person, but an amazing teacher! Specifically for the kindergarten age. She made them feel safe, and special, and in that environment they thrived and learned.
I was convinced. I liked the school, I liked the teacher, I liked the environment. My son would go to kindergarten. I was happy about that.
Do I think he would have learned to read and all those other great things even without going to kindergarten? Sure! Because I did.
I think kids are natural learners, with or without the structure of school. My oldest still asks me 10 billion questions all the time. We look up YouTube videos about how a dishwasher works, we go to the airshow and he checks out books about airplanes, and right this very second he’s figuring out how to fix the brakes on his bike. As a parent, I am invested in his brain and his success as an adult. I also enjoy learning along with him. I think that’s the key.
But despite me not totally believing kindergarten was necessary, I do believe it was still worth it. He made friends, he figured out how school works, I got some one-on-one time with my other son (daughters to be born later), etc.
Obviously the issue of schooling is not so easy for everyone. Some children don’t learn to read as easily, and they need early intervention. Kindergarten is a great place to assess that and get things going.
Then there are also family situation considerations, such as if both parents are working. If I had been working when my oldest was about to head off to kindergarten, it would have been a no-brainer. I wouldn’t have questioned so much, because I would have needed to realize that kindergarten was the place for him given our situation
What I’m saying is, just don’t do what everyone else is doing because everyone else is doing it, ok? Make sure you’re doing what’s right for YOU.
I think as parents, we tend to look around us to see what other parents are doing. That’s natural. We are just winging this parent thing, and we are looking for ideas. We also respect each other and think, I trust her judgment, and she’s got great kids, and she’s doing this, so maybe…..
Just be careful in comparing, because the reason I sent my son to kindergarten may be different than your reason. And that’s totally ok. Because this is about me parenting MY kid, and you parenting YOUR kid. Let’s not judge. Never. You are the parent and you know best for your kid.
Ok. Now to preschool.
A lot of parents in my neighborhood, and in many neighborhoods across America, send their young children to preschool. Which is totally fine. Of course, coming from my background of not even going to kindergarten let alone preschool, imagine my hesitation.
I asked myself: why?
I asked myself why it had become so normal, so natural. It feels like so many many people send their kids to preschool. Please note, I’m not against preschool. I just am not for it–for my kids. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just knew I never went, so why was it needed? I was questioning.
Here is my overly analytical thought process:
I like my kids to be home. I work from home, so that I can be here with them. I like free play. My kids are natural learners. My daughter taught herself the alphabet, without much help with me, and she didn’t go to preschool. So I don’t really believe in preschool–for my kids. I don’t think my kids need it. I like the idea of having my kids home as much as possible, at least while they’re young.
HOWEVER. Just because it doesn’t matter whether they do A, B,C, — like whether they go to preschool or kindergarten, or this school or that school — in order to be a successful adult, should we just not do it?
Does not necessary mean don’t do it? Absolutely not!
A new charter school started in my town last year, and I instantly knew my oldest needed to be there. He has ADHD and the model just fit better with his learning style. For convenience, we sent our other kids there too. And you know what? They love it and are thriving, and I feel totally at peace that they are all there. Could they do just fine at another school? YES but this is where we choose to have them.
And that’s ok. The point is, I’m questioning, I’m evaluating, I’m seeing results, I’m seeing how my kids are doing.
Even though I am choosing not to preschool my kids, YOU can totally do it. Maybe you have some different reasons or situations than me:
You work, and preschool is a good childcare option.
Your kids’ friends go, and so they can go socialize and play more together.
You want your kids to have some structure and activities.
You really like the teacher.
You have the extra money to spend.
You like the idea.
And probably most of all, WHY NOT? Preschool sounds FUN!
I sorta want to go to preschool now. I mean, craft projects? I still don’t believe it’s necessary, but I still think it’s just plain fun and if you want to do it, then go for it.
My youngest is 3, and while she could go to preschool possible this year and definitely next year, she’s a handful and would totally disrupt an entire classroom (she could possibly take over and cause a mutiny situation). That’s actually a huge reason why I don’t send her to preschool. Plus I am cheap, and well, I just like having her home.
We get to learn together, and I will only get that for a short time. So for now, I’m choosing to just let her run wild. Kindergarten can come another day.
Do you believe in preschool? Why or why not? No judgment, just discussion. 🙂