Most days have a regular rhythm in my home. I wake up at 6 am to get a little alone time in to exercise, write, drink tea, or ideally all of the above. A child toddles out sleepily as I am in the midst of one of those things and we start warming up their day. Breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting on shoes and grabbing a backpack before walking to the bus stop. My daughter gives us a quick hug and waves to us out of the window. Sounds rather normal.
Then my son and I walk back home and do one of two things: we get ready for homeschool or we climb into bed and grab a book. At that point, I feel like our day gets a whole lot less traditional. My husband and I have made a conscious choice to keep our children out of the preschool system.
We’ve made this choice when advocacy groups are campaigning in our city and others to fund universal early childhood education for the American public. I understand the desire for this, but I don’t want it for my children. I have spent years now developing this bond of love, trust, and reliance and I personally feel that it’s just too early to send them off to someone else.
I will take my son to the grocery store and the checker will ask what preschool he goes to. I say he doesn’t, and now this stranger shoots me a funny look as if to say “Why wouldn’t you send your kid to preschool?” Studies show that early literacy education can benefit children in longterm educational gains. I know this all-too-well. I worked in the field of adult literacy for years and chose to leave my job so that I could apply the skills I learned in my own home.
I have had a golden opportunity to have time with my children to strengthen the family bonds. We’ve gone on expeditions and hikes, we’ve attended playtimes and storytimes, and we set up an abundance of playdates. That might sound selfish that I want to have these little sprouts at home with me, but doesn’t it make even a little sense to invest the time in experiencing the world together full-time while I am already out of the workforce? My times also had all that time with one another. Their relationship will likely be the longest running connection in both of their lives, and I wanted them to spend as much time as possible playing and learning together.
I’ve been able to regulate the amount of academic content my children are exposed to. I see the value in them recognizing the ABCs and 123s by time they go to Kindergarten, but I’m not stressed if they can’t recall everything. I remember accidentally stepping into a preschool at a community center and getting the sales pitch. The kids were working on basic literacy in a very methodical way and while everything seemed delightful and organized, something just rubbed me the wrong way. I see no advantage to our children knowing how to read at age 3 or 4. I do, however, see a great advantage in my young children being able to make a blanket fort on any day of the week. To go outside and stomp in the puddles. To work through those tough feelings with me, so we can learn together on how to solve the things that come up in the day.
One of the biggest reasons for preschooling at home was to honor my children’s unique personalities. My daughter needed the extra time to learn how to make transitions successfully. She lives in a community full of adults that she trusts, so when she started school she needed to develop relationships with each of the teachers in order to make smoother transitions between classes. The time together during the day allowed me to observe her interactions with adults and other children, and when she encountered difficulties at school I had the context to know why she might behave that way. My son is also learning ow to navigate transitions. I’ve found that his neighbor friends are extremely important to him, and the time he gets playing with the four to ten-year-olds is extremely valuable in his social development.
I fretted before my daughter started school. I thought she’d be an oddity, and to some degree she was. Most parents had sent their child to a preschool and had some connection to other parents and children in the school already. Their child knew more about the classroom structure. But that made no difference on whether their child actually adhered to the boundaries set by their new teacher. My daughter struggled just like the rest of them. For a number of reasons, we only sent her in for half-day Kindergarten for the first few months and she had time to adjust to the schedule. I saw no obvious signs that her lack of preschool experience had delayed her progress in Kindergarten. Now she’s in Grade One and is a fantastic reader and sweet part of a lovely class full of kids.
There are days I wish that I had been farming my kids out for several hours to someone else. Parenting is maddening at times, and it is nice to have a reprieve. I would love to have the best of other people’s educated knowledge in little people’s hearts and minds, but I also have a pretty good understanding of my children. This is the best teaching that I’ve ever had in life – committing to these little people and figuring out what works best for our family as well as learning how to work through the moments that stress me out the most about parenting.