Sunday, August 14, 2011

Preschool...decisions, decisions!

With a few friends with children nearing what is considered in the U.S. as 'preschool age', and as the time for preschool enrollment is here, I have been fielding questions about what children of this age "need to know" and also how to teach them at home.

Table-top soccer match with Dad

Some parents will choose to continue caring for their children at home instead of enrolling them in a preschool. They may sprinkle their days with fun interactive activities, even if it's just filling up the sink with soapy water and inviting their 3 year old child to "help do dishes" or turn on silly music and dance together.

To some people who are used to the notion that schools and so-called experts are the only ones capable of "educating" 3 and 4 year olds, this idea of a parent tackling the task themselves may seem crazy, maybe even irresponsible.

But, after doing this myself for a number of years with my own kiddos (and having had that kind of childhood myself thanks to my Mother who stayed home with me and my siblings), it feels completely natural and wonderful to enjoy my children's company and discover and explore right alongside them. We have formed at-home co-ops with other mothers (similar to the Joy School model) when our oldest was 3 and 4 and that was a great alternative to formal preschool.

Does this model of education for your 3 or 4 year old appeal to you, too?

For more ideas about they why's and what-do-you-do's of preschool-at-home, visit my page Instead of School, where there are a few links to websites with things we have done and like to do in the early years.

Further, three webpages that made a difference to me when my oldest was nearing the "preschool age" are:

A Homeschool Curriculum for Preschool and Kindergarten by Lillian Jones
Preschool Pressure or Preschool Peace by Barbara Frank @ Universal Preschool
Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Activities @

You can listen to a story on National Public Radio's Morning Edition about the importance of play for children HERE.

I remain grateful to those authors and mentoring parents who chose to share their wisdom won from their experience in their own families with me--it was such a help to me as I was thinking and reading and discerning what it was I could do to ensure that my children's needs were met as they grew. My hope is that something I share is encouraging to a parent considering this topic--"paying forward" the encouragement and strength I received from other parents.

My third child, a son, is 4 years old now and we are really enjoying our time together. I have no regrets about not sending him to preschool.

A fun -every-once-in-awhile painting moment.
The things I have liked best about doing preschool ourselves are:
  • My children were able to learn academics as they were ready, as opposed to being required to do things they were not developmentally ready for at that age
  • Less separation on a regular basis helped, which my children are not always keen on at that age and often created more problems that it was worth.
  • Potty learning happened with Mom and Dad and people we know personally.
  • Just enough time at playdates or with Daddy or Grandma so I could rest!
  • The kiddos were able to have more time to PLAY! I felt good to know my children have had a relaxed childhood, instead of a hurried, frenetic one.
  • They had more time to make friends on their own terms...really important for their growth and development!
  • It was so nice to have our time and schedule our own days instead of going out during baby's naptime to get to and from preschool. If we wanted to spend all day at the children's museum, we could. If we wanted to go to the library in the mornings before the cranky times set in, we could. If Daddy was home during the day, we ate lunch with him. So nice!
  • Most importantly, my children felt a mother's influence as the main one and I could have all the time I needed to show them the important things in life, in the way only a mother can, with encouragement and love. I wanted them to feel loved by me and know they were God's child and to instill in them positive character traits. Nurturing them this way without a "middle man" to dance around worked well for us.

And guess what? The kids are alright. :-) Our sons are bright, inquisitive, love to learn, and are just where they each need to be in their learning. Most importantly, even with some of the normal teasing behavior thrown in for good measure, they genuinely love and take care of each other and enjoy being with their siblings, which really is a wonderful effect of preschooling at home. The family relationships we have remain solid and connected. This brings to mind the saying..."Education is something we do with our children and not to them." My husband and I aim to be partners with our children, facilitating their learning and growth, while respecting their unique abilities and desires.

Many parents feel the pressure to prepare their children for school, even if their child is only 3 or 4. That seems to be one of the main reasons parents tell me they enroll their child in a preschool program.

Still feeling pressure to place your child in a preschool? Understand what the effects of preschool may be and rely on your own intuition about what you feel your child really needs.

"In addition to potential academic harm, a November, 2005 study by Stanford and the University of California found evidence that preschool interferes with social development and leads to negative social behavior like acting up, having trouble cooperating, aggression, and bullying." Why Professionals and Politicians are Wrong about Preschool

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

- Mother Teresa

Best wishes to you as you are making your own decisions! Your child is relying on you; you have all that you need to care for them in the ways you choose to, even if all that you have in the beginning is a strong desire and a willing heart to learn what you need to know to be the kind of parent your child needs you to be.

Relax a bit if you worry if you will mess up-- you will! We all have to begin where we are. Sometimes we don't get it all right the first time, but as we learn and grow and learn from our mistakes, too, as parents, we become better for our kids and are better able to create the kinds of experiences we want our children to have. We have to begin some time...why not now?

And you know what? Sometimes just creating the time for them to learn at their own pace allows them to experience what they need: self - regulation and knowing themselves and what they really want from an early age. Those are just some of the gifts we have the opportunity to give our children.

No matter where you choose as the place your child spends time doing his or her learning, remember: You are your child's first teacher and always will be the most important influence.

Curious about how a mother with many children approaches teaching her young children?
Visit Large Family Mothering HERE for another perspective.


  1. this was great! I never sent my dd to pre-school and she has not missed out on anything:) (she is 7 now) I used a book by Valerie Bendt called "making the most of the preschool years" for some ideas on what to do at home. Other than that it was just play, nature walks, playdates etc and she learned everything in her own time and in her own way just the same:) I wouldn't trade it for anything else:)

  2. Isn't it reassuring to know they really do learn all they need to without school? Thanks for sharing your experience and the book title. I'll have to check that out!

  3. Enjoy this time of unstructured learning. Thanks for sharing on the NOBH


Thanks for your comment today! I love reading your thoughts, too. :-)