Perspectives in Parenting :: Delaying Preschool

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“Wait, am I crazy?”

“Is she right?”

“Does she know something that I don’t?”

These thoughts have somehow been sneaking into my mind and then tugging at my heart after a conversation with another mom a few weeks ago.  I knew I wanted to explore them further, but I was also confident in my decision that I wanted to delay preschool until my boys were three.  A choice that seems rare among people I meet.

In that conversation, this mom and I were discussing school options for our little ones next year. She’s got twins currently in preschool with my oldest and a little one a few months older than my youngest. After talking about our older kids being in elementary school next year, she inquired whether both of my younger ones would be enrolling in the program.

My response {while gearing up my defense}, “Actually, we are keeping them both at home another year because…”

“Because you’re crazy!” she jokingly interrupted.  I laughed it off and nodded in agreement.

Fast forward to a conversation with my oldest child’s current teacher in which she asked if my middle one would be attending next year. When I responded that he would be staying home another year, she quickly informed me just how important “socialization” is for my two-year-old and his need for being in social settings without his parents.

And as these two separate conversations collided, my mind screamed, “What?!” And my heart broke a bit for living in a world whereas being a stay at home mom by choice, it’s somehow not enough to raise our boys without “socializing” them before they can even use a toilet.  We will never get these younger years back. I have been gifted with the opportunity to stay at home with them, and I don’t want to regret not soaking up every minute of them before they face thirteen years of education outside our home.  As we prepared to build our family, we decided that we want to be the ones to teach our children early fundamental skills, and as a stay-at-home-mom that’s my role.  Keeping our boys at home until they are at least three years old works for us, but if that’s not what you choose – then that’s okay too.

So now Jessica and I are sharing our very different perspectives in this parenting choice, and I’m excited to hear from some of you and your choices too.

{Read Jessica’s take on the subject too — Perspective in Parenting :: Choosing Preschool.}

Building Family

The past three years have been a whirlwind, but as a first-time mom, it wasn’t always so. After struggling with infertility, we were blessed with our first child about five years ago.  From the start he was my buddy, the little guy I spent my days with. I found myself doing my best to be intentional in our time together, especially after 18 months-ish, with play dates and learning in play activities, fun times at the park, and outside chalk and bubbles sessions. We joined The Little Gym and met some of our best friends.  It never crossed my mind that we needed to outsource learning or socializing, or even that I somehow needed a “break.” I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. I make that decision without intentions to ask for a day off from my kiddo.

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When ready to add another sweet soul to our family, we struggled again but then found ourselves very quickly a family of five after having our second and third children 15 months apart.  Our oldest is now in preschool but does not attend five days a week. I don’t plan on enlisting our middle child in order to have one-on-one time with the youngest or to give him something special. There’s something to be said about learning to live with each other.  Beyond social skills of patience and sharing and empathy, these are the days for growing together. No way am I ready to send anyone away to first gain those life experiences elsewhere.

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“Academics”

We all know the well-check quizzes :: Can Tommy stack 4 blocks? Does he know his colors? Can he say 20 words? And you aren’t sure if he’s supposed to be doing those or maybe those are the next six-month’s milestones. Perhaps you’ve glanced at the Pinterest lists telling us what every kindergartener should know. It’s no question that kids {and parents} are faced with different challenges than our own parents in this regard, and social media makes it all too easy to get lost in comparison. It’s a battle with which I certainly struggle.

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What’s important to me is that I can teach them these fundamental skills. I can do it over breakfast or count raisins at snack time. We can sort cars and airplanes by color and work on puzzles at a pace and on a schedule that works for each child. I’ve sung a song {or several} on walks to feed the turtles, and admittedly, our middle child knows his shapes from watching “Bob the Train” while I nursed his newborn brother.

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Beyond learning while playing and living, there are so many activities at our fingertips. One search through Pinterest, and I can set up a learning activity that can be as simple or as complicated as I want it to be. I just believe there’s such magic for both child and parent in discovering the world together. And to be the ones to nurture their developing passions at this age, for us this means aviation … I’m not sure I want to miss that. I wasn’t blessed with these three souls to miss that.

Schedules

How very precious are mornings! Between sleepy grins and sippy cups of milk, there’s so very much of these little people to soak up.

I’m not opposed to preschool. We currently have a very successful preschooler. With his weekly schedule comes changes to the daily dynamic. It helps to prepare the night before and wake up early to get myself dressed, but our house can still become pretty chaotic in getting out of the door on “school” days.  I wasn’t ready to rush that with our first, and I’m already looking forward to the unhurried mornings with our youngest after the big {and early!} kindergarten drop-off next year.

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These days I currently find myself debating whether or not to schedule fun activities on our days off from school or instead have stay in jammies and play at home days. My oldest is a homebody; some might argue it’s because he wasn’t in school until three. I argue it’s his personality. I appreciate that we had time together to live as scheduled or unscheduled as we wanted until school began. I value the time with the younger two in order to do just that. We are free to be busy. We are free to be lazy.

Practical

Let’s face it. There are just some straightfoward, less touchy-feely reasons behind delaying preschool. For one, less sickies. Their little immune systems have time to build. We are still sending them before kindergarten, so they will be exposed before missing “real” school.

We also don’t have the stress about getting in. We signed them up early. On a waiting list they sit. And we wait stress-free because my sanity does not depend on a “break” two days a week.

And finally, from 5 until 18, kids “do” school. And then?  Kids do more school or start working. I’m going to give them all the home I can.

Values

I’m not arrogant enough to think our parenting values are the quintessential ways to raise children, and I’m not naive enough to believe we won’t face challenges throughout their entire lives as outside beliefs collide with family beliefs.  For a few early years though, we can shape their lives. Our message is the one going into their hearts. We aren’t “hunkering down” inside a bunker at home here, Friends. We get out — all the time. And with people! I’d go nuts otherwise. We are just there to be social with our children.

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And don’t get me wrong. A morning with only my youngest child sounds fantastic, and there are moments when I certainly wish our four-year-old was in a five day program. These are days of personal growth, and I am grateful for lessons in patience, lessons in love, and lessons in becoming the best version of myself. The best version for them, yes, but also for me. I’m certain these days are preparing me for later days in parenting.

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The gist of it is that I value preschool, and there may be weeks where I wonder daily why all three children aren’t in some sort of mother’s day out program. But when it boils down to the five years I get with each of our children before daily schooling, I believe that, yes, kids need to learn the social ropes before kindergarten, but for us, two years prior to starting that long life stretch consumed by hours at school, homework each night, and spelling tests on Fridays, is plenty!

3 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate your thoughts on this! My child turned three and a lot of people (mostly family, ironically enough) always ask if I’m going to put her in preschool this fall. We don’t even do Mom’s day out and I do try to “socialize” her as much as I can……. we just moved here and I’ve found a playgroup and signed her up for swimming and we’re still exploring the city……. I don’t want to let her go simply because I know that once she’s in school, I’m not the focus of her life. I want her to continue to learn from me and my husband. I want her to learn her dual culture (Filipino/Mexican). I certainly want to continue to build up her self confidence and letting her learn her surroundings her way, at her pace…. until a school forces their curriculum and their tests on her for the next 12 years. She was born premature at 31 weeks and stayed in the NICU for 43 days, so it could still be this lingering guilt that I need to stay with her………… but then I look at my child, as I’m sure you look at your little ones, and think, ‘Gosh, they are the smartest, wittiest, funniest and most random little people I have ever met, why would I want to be somewhere else?’

  2. Great writing Jenn… I love to hear your perspective on this. I think you are doing a fantastic job and I look up to you in very many ways. You were made to be a boy mom!

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