Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preschool Decisions

I'm re-posting something I wrote about a year ago relating to that decision some parents wrestle with: about whether to send a child to preschool or to try preschool-at-home.

I meet so many parents who are at this stage with a child, some of whom have not thought seriously about teaching their child themselves. Preschool is a great place to start this process, especially if you are already considering homeschool later.

One important reason to give this a go is this: you get to practice learning-at-home methods and routines before it actually "counts", as far as state law goes. You have time to really explore with your child with less pressure on yourself to be the perfect "teacher" and you and your child have the space needed to establish your "learning together" relationship.

Consider this: you've cared for your child this far successfully, from pregnancy, to birth, babyhood and now: they are healthy inquisitive and happy, so you must be doing something right! Preschool can just be a continuation of that relationship, expanding in a new and fun direction. It can be your own unique milestone together, a new adventure beginning! Lead the way, allow them to lead a little, too, by following their own interests and exploring them together: remember, it's a fun partnership.

Best of all, preschool-at-home can be a lot of fun!

If it leads to further years of homeschool, great. If not, you can pat yourself on the back, knowing you've given your child great memories for them to move forward with into the rest of their education and a solid foundation of feeling loved and cared for by their Mom or Dad. Studies show that spending time at home learning age-appropriate material with family actually helps a child learn at school better later than if they attended a formal preschool.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with different forms of preschool, but so little is talked about preschool-at-home and it's benefits in the media and in our society at large, that the purpose of my posts are to shed a little light on that option.

If you, like many parents, are concerned with getting that much-needed break, consider a variety of other options, like trading playdates with another family so you can have a few hours to yourself or ask your spouse to give you a night off during the week so you can do a hobby or meet with a friend. Putting a child to bed an hour earlier so you can catch up on a project is always an option, too.

There are plenty of ways to practice healthy self-care and offer your child the kind of education and childhood you want for him or her! The secret is that it is possible to have both. If your heart desires it, you can create it. Creativity & flexibility lead to solutions in this area.

Making a childhood a meaningful, less-fast-paced experience is not that hard and is such a blessing for any child! If you have the means to do so, to spend that kind of time with your child or children, count yourself privileged and consider it as a blessing for both of you that you can choose it if you so desire.

Now, for the original post.....



Preschool: Decision, 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.

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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, Learning Resources, where there are a few links to websites and things we have done and like to do in the early years in our family.

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 @ BestHomeschooling.org

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.

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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.







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2 comments:

  1. During my era of raising children there was not a lot of homeschooling. I did try to teach my children during those pre-school years. I know that it did help them in starting school. I find that children of today are so bright and eager to learn so it is important to start to teach them earlier than ever before.
    This was a great post - Blessings!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing how you raised your kids. Moms make a difference, for sure! Have a great day!

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