Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Son Won't Be Going to Preschool

My 1st classroom was in small town Sparta, MO, not far from where I live today. At my arrival, it held an enormous wooden teacher desk, student desks, textbooks stacked on the heating unit, and not a single bookcase (until I later begged, borrowed, or stole from elsewhere in the building). The room was large and the south wall was comprised of tall windows offering a view of Bradford pear trees. The space was a blank slate, especially if I ignored the clumps and clumps of chewing tobacco which had been spat on the windows from the outside for what I imagined a declaration of summer's commencement or some measure of the success which had preceded me.

I was 22 and poor. I eventually pieced together resources to house in room 34, but it was slow going.  One of the first things I did that summer was cut out a blown up quote to glue onto bright paper and hang above my white board.  It took up space & allowed a few students to think twice in a moment (or hour) of boredom.

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." 
~Mark Twain

It's a seven year leap from that 1st classroom to today, and now I've found myself in the home piecing together my own child's education, his schooling, and the blank slate filling in with color.  Paul and I have been bouncing ideas, concerns, and questions about homeschooling. My friend, Elaine, also has a 4 year old boy and so we've been feasting on homeschooling ideas and concerns together, unpacking our honest feelings for discussion. And as always, I'm reading lots about how kids learn. And all of this is important in taking our next steps as a family in the direction that is right for us and for Thomas, but it's not as notable as the magic in front of me each day.  

Thomas is constantly learning throughout the day at home. Usually, it is on his own time and turf. Making his own connect-the-dot pictures or mazes, cutting out stars for pretend boomerangs, painting, studying something and figuring out how it works (and sometimes driving up by blood pressure as a by-product). We devote a good chunk of time to reading before his nap and spend other times throughout the day spontaneously listening to and looking at words. He picks up information throughout the day in the formal sense (how many legs a spider has) but also in the informal as well ("no, a mommy usually just nurses her own babies, so Aunt Andrea won't be nursing your brothers").  And I definitely don't limit our understanding of education to amassing information or bolstering intelligence. I do what I can to give him life skills, teach him his manners & morals, foster virtues, and ignite his passions.  When those things stick, I feel it's a miracle, but it definitely is not random. 

The longer I'm at home, the more I see preschool for what it is--an excellent experience for children in an outside-the-home child care environment. It gives women who juggle full time jobs or other pressing priorities along with being a mom the gift of knowing their child isn't missing out on exploratory activities and learning experiences.  This is all fine and good until the mother at home internalizes her working friend's kid's attendance at preschool as a reflection of something she must make happen as well. A mom who listens and cares for her kids will intuitively arrange activities or encourage learning or teach skills with hardly a second thought. The pressure to invite formality, I feel, is an unnecessary one. 

I've made a conscious choice to not put Thomas in preschool at home or anywhere else.  I'm not purchasing curriculum or planning activities or pushing us through a series of hoops.  I'll share in another post what I will be doing this upcoming year with him but for now I'll sum it up as this: I will do enough to prepare him with the necessities should he land himself a seat in a formal classroom, but primarily I will be focusing on those things I'm already doing: giving him space & tools to explore, learn, read, and grow. It's pretty simple. 

A gun will shoot this fall at the race to start the school season. My stomach will lurch just as it did last year when my Facebook feed was filled with [am I seeing this right?] photo after photo after photo of "1st day of preschool" sign-holding cuties.  Somehow, in the 25 years since I went to half-day kindergarten, we've grown to assume preschool the norm and often regardless of the economic or working situation of parents sending those kids.  You're sending him in the fall, right?

I don't see anything wrong with parents sending kids to preschool. I just don't feel we (and that's we as in the Anderson family) need to, and I've also felt for a while now that, in answering untold women in public asking me if he will be going this fall or confirming that he's already there (even after we've discussed I stay at home), it's a lot just to say "no, he's just staying home with me."  So I thought I would share that with you just in case you felt or feel it too. 

I always loved that Mark Twain quote hanging bright in my classroom because it applies to all of us. Public schooled. Private schooled. Schooled by your momma. Or, if you're my husband-- a taste tester of many forms of schools & in different places. We all have the capacity to refocus and remember to be lifelong learners and break the confines of the classroom or our degree. However, the easiest way at the age of 4 for my son (and in our situation mind you) to not have his schooling interfere with his education is to not have schooling at all.  

And now your thoughts: What has been your experience with giving your kid/s the preschool experience, in or out of the house? Do you homeschool your kids? If so, when did you "start"? 


  1. This is a struggle for us as well. AJ goes to "Preschool" 3 days a week and Gigi 2 days. Partly because Albert and I keep the kids with us all the time and our jobs make it difficult to keep 3 (soon 4) kids and get enough sleep for working nights or get enough business done to keep his business open. But, we have looked intently at the Kindergarten scene for fall of 2015 and (much to my self-surprise) are considering homeschooling. It's nothing I had ever thought myself capable of and it would take a lot of planning, but the thought of sending our kids somewhere else 5 days a week seems heartbreaking. I know we went to conventional schooling our whole lives and it was the norm, but our children do not live in the "5-day-a-week" work schedule. The preschool director made a comment at the spring concert about how they spend more waking hours with the children than their parents do (a tacky comment, I know). This really made me think about how much time I would be away from my children if we go that route. For now, I am in charge of reading and writing, and Albert takes over math and money. We are not 100% sure on homeschooling yet, but it is a much larger possibility than it ever has been before. I support each parent's decision to do what works best in their lives and family households. We have a unique situation that gives us other options to explore. Not sure what they will be, but I will be interested in reading your posts about the education of your family for feedback and guidance. God bless!

    1. It's so wonderful to hear from you, Jen, especially about this subject! I've always read about homeschooling out of intrigue, not really thinking it could ever be an option. I'm surprised as well that now that the time has come to decide, it really is a valid option on the table. I have so many things that I'll be writing about education this year. I hope that, regardless of what you decide to do, I can offer some encouragement. I think we are all so fortunate to have so much choice and freedom!

  2. I agree with you here. I feel the exact same way about preschool, and I feel that for the at-home mom it's really only an option if you need a little babysitting/break. I don't think there is a need for formal education at all at this age, and I find the socialization argument fairly weak as well. But I'm a fairly dedicated homeschooler. I know it doesn't work for everyone but I think it provides a lot of positives that don't exist very often in a traditional school setting. I also just get deeply saddened for our collective push to propel our very young children into a classroom setting for much of their time. I feel so cheerful writing this comment... yikes!

    1. Hi, Christy! I just took a quick peek at your blog & added you to my bloglovin feed, so I can have another encouraging momma to read. That push for children to get in the classroom and grow up--it makes me sad too, and here's why. There will be a time when my boys will get serious about their learning and serious about their independence and it will come so quickly. I want to really live according to their needs right now which, for my 4 yo, is both learning all kind of fun facts, how to do things just the right way, and the like but also snuggles with me and making silly sounds at the top of his lungs and running around half-naked in the backyard like a hooligan. :)

  3. It depresses me that there are a lot of preschools out there that are entirely for "kindergarten readiness" - I think there are a lot of amazing coop programs, montessori preschools, etc. that are amazing experiences for the kids. But when it comes to time and money, there's no way we can make something like that work. And honestly, my older kids already know everything they would be learning in preschool! I'm really looking forward to just *being* with them now that I'm at home, and I can't imagine how sad I would be to be sending John Paul off to kindergarten in the fall!

  4. I'm so happy to hear that you've made a decision that feels right for your family, and it's obvious that Thomas is going to have a great experience "just staying home" (why, oh, why do we have to qualify that with the word "just"? I know I always do it...and really, "just" staying home is so much more than that!). I think we former teachers have it the hardest, because we knew we were doing the best we could for the kids in our we have to convince ourselves that this is the best choice for our own kids, even though it goes against lots of things we thought we knew before.

    Anyway. I'm happy for you. I'll look forward to seeing what else develops and reading your thoughts...and (side note)- great decision adding Christy to your feed reader. :-) She rocks.