I decided not to send my child to preschool. This is an unusual choice among the moms I’ve met. I always thought that when Rocky turned 4, it would be the right time to put him in school. I changed my mind.
It started with the fact that Rocky was not fully potty-trained by his fourth birthday. I tried everything in the book to motivate him but he just wasn’t ready. I dreaded sending him to the preschool I had chosen and having him get kicked out for having too many accidents. It’s in the contract that this behavior really would result in expulsion. Some parents assured me that if I called his bluff, he’d likely get it together and go along with the peer pressure. But the more I thought about it, the less convinced I was that he even needed to be in school yet. He is going to spend the next 13 years and beyond in a classroom, why rush him now?
There are many reasons for putting a child in preschool. Maybe both parents must work. Maybe there are other babies in the house who need the one on one time with mom. Some moms really do need the break. Some kids really want to go. I talked to other moms and one of the biggest rationalizations for it was “kids need the socialization”. Well, okay, but need I pay for it? My circumstances are such that I am home for him anyway, preschool doesn’t change that. With my husband’s encouragement, I decided to seek out opportunities for him to mix with other kids sans school.
First, I joined a mom’s group. It is true that Rocky tends to be one of the oldest kids in the group but he doesn’t seem to have any big issues as far as getting along with others. Second, I found some great classes at the YMCA that take place just after preschool hours. This gives him a chance to mingle with kids his own age and introduces having to follow the directions of an instructor and team work. He has also made some wonderful friends through his frequent visits to the gym’s kid zone and we plan play dates with them.
What about the academics? I teach him things, informally, as we play and it works. He is eager to learn and can read, write and do basic math. We spend a lot of time discussing what things are called and how things work. He and his dad share a passion for maps (Rocky knows all the states) and love watching science shows and doing little science projects together. He also has an interest in musical instruments so I signed him up for piano lessons. I really didn’t know what to expect putting one so young in a piano class. Surprisingly, he has stuck with it. After nine months of lessons he sight reads some of the music, he practices on his own (admittedly sometimes in exchange for computer time but it counts!) and he was very excited to perform in his first piano recital recently. Cross stage fright off the list, I think the applause was his favorite part! I always told him if he starts with piano, he can play any instrument he wants. He tells me he wants to be “the best piano player in the world”. Not long ago he said he wanted to be the floor sweeper at KFC so we’ll see!
How do I not get bored being with a kid all the time? It was a bit challenging when he stopped taking naps regularly. It is still trying when I want time on the computer and there he is pressing the keys. But mostly my secret (other than I waited a long time for this kid and I want to enjoy every minute with him while he’s still young enough to need me) is in the planning. We go to parks and museums and the beach. We do activities with my moms group where I can talk to other adults and he can hook up with other kids. I look for special story times at the local library and even found a few free programs at other cool venues like the arboretum. We paint and do crafts. We planted a garden. I take him to shows and out to lunch (with money I saved from not sending him to preschool!) and we hang out at the mall. We talk about what all the signs mean and, of course, the importance of emergency exits.
Rocky is now potty-trained and looking forward to starting kindergarten in the fall. I went into a bit of a panic when I read that California will likely be moving the cut-off date for kindergarteners up by three months (from Dec to September) in order to save a few bucks. He would fall into the category of being slightly too young to start this fall if that happened. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found this wouldn’t be implemented for a couple of years yet. Whew. I believe he is ready and hasn’t suffered a bit by staying home this year. Homeschooling my toddler was the right path for us. Stick with us, dear readers, and I’ll let you know how it goes when Rocky enters the classroom later this year.
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