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"?