The Responsible Parent’s To Do List:
- Shop for Life Insurance
- Learn Infant CPR
- Choose a Preschool and get on that waiting list NOW!
New or expecting parent’s may identify with this list… Yep! Before my firstborn was even 6 months old, I’d started feeling the pressure to think about preschool. After all, the “best” schools had waiting lists a mile long. I’ve been told that in bustling urban areas, it’s often necessary to register a child at one year old, in hopes of joining the program at 3 years! Talk about pressure.
But, wait a minute, slow down… are you sure preschool is a good idea at all? The cultural assumption in the United States that a 3 or 4 year old “should” be in a school environment is not shared by many countries that lead the US in academics, nor is it shared by childhood development experts, in general. For scientific evidence, check out any of the books listed in my post Better Late than Early, or see Why Rush our Babies for a summary of some concerns.
But, even if you’ve heard all this, you may still leaning towards preschool. For some parents, it’s just necessary since no one is able to be home with the young child. For others that do stay at home, you honestly can’t wait for a few child-free hours a week. And, then, there’s the parents who are simply questioning this whole “Better Late than Early” concept. Afterall, EVERYONE sends their children to preschool. And, since your 2-year-old can already recite the alphabet and count to 20, you just know he’s going to be ready for more than staying home next year. This reaction is probably a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement because you love what you see developing in the child and will be thrilled when he or she learns to add, subtract, read and write. Fear because you don’t want to withhold any resource or opportunity that may enhance the child’s learning. This matters. You want to do your best to nourish the child.
But, interest does not equal appropriateness. Being able does not equal being best served. Here’s a quote from the Enki Homeschool Teaching Guide “Early Childhood Education” that brings a helpful perspective:
In all areas of learning the child needs what John Holt calls, “a period of messing about.” We need to allow this period in the world of academics, just as we naturally do in other areas of life. When the child plays in the mud, we do not rush her off to pottery class or to learn to be a brick layer; when the child first bangs on pots and pans we don’t turn on the stove and start her cooking – we don’t even start drumming lessons; when the child plays “Mommy and Daddy,” we don’t begin sex education! This child’s interest in the academics is like Braxton-Hicks contractions during gestation – practice for what lies ahead; jumping the gun would be equally destructive in this case!” (pg 16)
Over and over again child experts agree that young children are best served by staying at home with a loving caregiver. The child learns so much in the natural flow of the day, being involved as desired in cooking, cleaning, eating, rest and play. We work to make our homes safe, beautiful and nourishing, with a rhythm that supports the needs of the caregiver and the children.
But what if home is not possible? What if you feel you just MUST have a break! Within your confines of distance and cost, you’ll need to evaluate your options. And, that’s when the choices begin to overwhelm. If you are able to put the child in another home (a healthy, life-giving home), that’s usually going to be healthier and more developmentally appropriate than any fancy program. But, there are a LOT of fancy programs… and they are alluring. More on weeding through options next!