Friday, October 21, 2011

To Preschool Or Not To Preschool

In case you live in a cave, here's a little newsflash for you: preschool ain't what it used to be.
Between applications, waiting lists, and tuition fees, you'd think you were sending your child off to Harvard.  
Now, I'm not naive. I know I'm not the first person to express shock at the ludicrous nature of the preschool process these days. But it's important to me now because I'm dealing with it now. And the thing I find most shocking is how extremely opinionated people can be about when and where to send your kid to school. Did you hear that? They're opinionated about YOUR child's future. These are typically the same people who try to pressure you into finding out -- or not finding out -- the sex of your unborn baby. The same folks who think their position on nursing versus bottle-feeding is the right decision for YOUR family. Now, I have no qualms with these soothsayers, so long as their opinion doesn't conflict with my own.

OK - all kidding aside, I have to admit that I ask for advice. I seek the wisdom of those with older children. I value the shared experiences of other mothers. I WANT them to be honest and tell me what they think.
But it's nearly impossible not to feel some pressure when it comes to important decisions that affect your kids. And enrolling in preschool is one of those decisions.
And wouldn't you know there are plenty of people to tell you how to make this crucial decision. People who will scare you into thinking that if your son or daughter doesn't get into the right preschool they'll never get into college or find a job. That they'll end up falling behind in kindergarten, which -- according to the buzz at the playground -- has become extremely "academic". I'm not even sure what that means. But it sounds serious.
Personally I don't feel that Mackenzie will be ready to head off to school next year. Or perhaps I'm the one who won't be ready. Either way, my instinct tells me to keep her home another year, despite the fact that I could probably benefit from the break since I'll have Baby Number Two keeping me busy.
But as my own mother noted, Mackenzie will be in school for many years to come. Why rush things?
I've talked to other SAHMs who worked as teachers before becoming full-time mothers and many of them say the same thing: there isn't much that a 2-year-old learns in a classroom, better to wait until three, even four, depending on the child.
On the other hand I can understand how a young kid -- possibly even my own daughter -- could end up loving preschool at such an early age. The social interaction and organized activities are things I provide for her already, but maybe she'll need more than what I'm capable of giving her.
So I'm on the fence... with the fence leaning far, far away from preschool until Mackenzie turns three. I'm sure I'll regret it when I have two children -- 22 months apart -- causing me enough grief to beg Doug to hire a nanny so I can go back to work just so I can eat my lunch in peace.
But I think I'll regret things even more if I send Mackenzie off with her book bag and a painfully long hug next September.
What do YOU think? Please share your comments below. I promise I won't call you out in the next post!


  1. I was stopped in my neighborhood last spring by a mom asking, "So where are the boys going to school in the fall?" I hope she couldn't read my mind because even though I responded with a cheery smile and, "Oh we're not registered anywhere. We stay plenty busy and I enjoy the time," what I was really thinking was, "Huh?!?! Preschool? That's not even on my radar yet. I stay home with my kids so I don't have to pay for them to play elsewhere. To be honest, I can't yet afford double tuition. And selfishly enough I'm really not ready to let them go yet." And then it turns out that every SAHM on my block and the next sends their kids to preschool, some starting as early as 9 months. They've been on those waiting lists since they were pregnant. Did I miss a mommy-memo! Once I finally came to my senses and realized that I'm not harming my kids for life by not enrolling them in school at an early age I also remembered the importance of PLAY, structured and unstructured. And we do a lot of playing around here. I do indeed believe in moms needing a break and I get mine through morning workouts and the occasional sitter. And I also understand the importance of socialization, but I'm confident my kids are quite social enough at the play ground, library, museum, music class, and in our backyard with friends. I'm not knocking the notion of starting school early - you gotta do what works for you - but I also gave up stressing over not sending them to school just yet and probably won't do so until they're 3 1/2-4 years old. Kindergarten is indeed becoming more 'academic' as you mentioned, but sadly enough it's also becoming more and more developmentally inappropriate. No doubt McKenzie will be able to keep up with the best of them whether she's had 1 year of preschool or 3. And with such high costs should I expect arts and crafts projects made of 24 karat gold or something?!?! It all makes my head spin...and it's only the beginning.

  2. So funny your wrote this. As you "first batch" I like to call them, were all 18 months apart. Preschool was probably the #1 event that caused UNNECESSARY stress. Don't do it...not until 3 1/2 or 4. Totally not needed. Glorified, EXPENSIVE babysitting. You'll wind up with a car full of glitter and "projects" that have some unknown glue used on them that never dries. Then there are the contagious toddlers with strange diseases you would not even have heard about unless they were at "school.".. Followed by hours at the computer googling the signs and symptoms of these diseases. Don't forget the big bill to pay. Mackenzie will learn all she needs to know from YOU right now. Enjoy this time. Teach her numbers and letters, sing as you clean..we know you like to do I! Play music in the car. Have "snack time" and teach her how to put her toys away. THAT's IT. My little man is now 3..still keeping him with me for now. Plenty of time for routines, schedules, rushing around and glitter in your car! Your the best preschool teacher Mackenzie will ever have. Most of all, come April you will be SO HAPPY you do not HAVE to go anywhere!

  3. Amen, Krissy. And Renee, Thanks for the advice!