To preschool or not to preschool
I decided to stay at home and be a mom to my daughter as soon as she lay peacefully on my breast after she was born. I was still in this dizzy happy momentum following a birthing of a child and as I gazed lovingly into her wide open eyes, I knew I wanted to give her the best I could.
This was a time of upheaval in our family, my husband had been without a job for over a year and my income was hardly enough to pay for groceries. We lived off savings. And yet, upon seeing my firstborn resting in my arms I felt a surge of love and my heart knew I wasn't going to go back to work and put her in a daycare. No matter how insane my decision seemed, I was determined to do as I wanted. Defying the common sense, I refused to go back to my peanuts-paying-job and assumed a role of a stay at home mom. This was a bliss for me and her. There is no question about that. We continued living like Scrooges and eventually my husband got a job.
During my years of mothering I came across many mothering styles and I always wanted to understand what was behind certain decisions parents had made. In my opinion, there are some choices we make as parents that are pretty self-explanatory and there is nothing left to be questioned. I absolutely understand the motives of a single mother who has to put her child in some sort of a daycare in order to be able to make ends meet. There are many parents who can't simply afford to live off one income only. There are professional women who are driven and want to continue to go back to their career as soon as their children are of certain age. And there are stay at home moms who live a comfortable life without financial worries and stress. And yet majority of them choose to put their children in a daycare or preschool.
Take heart and model behavior
I was always wondering about the reasons for doing so. In my opinion, the common misconception that kids need to socialize from an early age is leading parents to enroll their young children in an organized preschool. While I understand rationale of a working mother to do so, I don't quite understand reasons of a stay at home mom. Young children need most of all their parents. If you have ever observed their play, they tend to play next to each other and not with each other. Two year olds don't usually need anything more than to run errands with their mom, observe her in social situations and take clues from her about the proper conduct. The mom is the best person to model their behavior. Let's look at how they are corrected in a preschool model. If there is only one adult in charge of a group of two or three year olds, there is a chance she won't see all the details in each of the problem situations. There may be times she will discipline both children who caused a trouble, even though only one of them was really guilty. Preschool is not genuinely loving environment for a child to learn the essential life skills. It is hard for me to believe that most mothers consider themselves unable to provide enough stimulation for their own children and instead choose to entrust their little one in hands of professionals. Moms are by nature capable to take better care of their children than any other person.
This is what you should consider:
- a need for socialization doesn't really start until child is at least 3 years old. Majority of children can be socialized through playgroups, park dates and outings
- basics that are prerequisite for kindergarten are easy to teach at home, your child needs to know colors, letters and numbers from 1 to 10
- as I mentioned, forcing independence on children that are emotionally not ready to be independent doesn't produce good results
- moms are the best teachers, little children learn from everyday life, free play and time outside are the best for their age
Misconceptions about preschool
These are common and very heavily rooted in our society misconceptions about necessity of preschool in our society:
- a child must be socialized from an early age or she will never learn to be a productive and well behaved member of our society
- a child must be in a preschool because that's where he will get ready for kindergarten
- a child needs a preschool to learn how to be independent from family
- a mother won't be able to stimulate and accommodate child's growing need for learning, physical activity and friends
Too much rush for an independence in children
Nowadays, parents are in a great hurry to have their children grown up and independent. There is a strong societal pressure to have a baby sleep through the night at six weeks and play independently, sleep independently, eat independently as soon as possible. Historically speaking, mankind wouldn't survive if our ancestors expected their babies and kids to be independent as we do. Babies needed to sleep next to their mother to be safe from wild animals and warm at night. Toddlers and young children needed to stay close to their parents for their own sake. Today, with an advent of modern gadgets, parents are very concerned that their children are too attached and not independent enough. To teach them life and toughen them up we are sending our little ones to a preschool to provide them a safe, fun and learning environment. If you ever talk to any preschool teacher she will tell you how great is child's lament when he is left there for the first time. She will also tell you that relatively soon, perhaps after a few times a child will stop that nonsense and learn to enjoy this new place. Young children usually react very vehemently when they are left by their mother. Interestingly, some will cry for an extended period of time and won't be easily comforted, some will subdue earlier. Do you think they actually stop crying because they enjoy the preschool? No, they give up! They give up because they see no hope. They adapt to a new situation because there is no other way.
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Things to do with your young child:
These are simple ideas to keep your child stimulated:
- go to a nearby park to play, you may be able to make some friends there, too
- look for a playgroup in yahoo groups to find a good match for your parenting style or at meetup.com
- go to a local library for a story time and don't forget to check out books, too
- read to your child
- take your toddler with you grocery shopping and let him help
- start a co-op preschool
- go for a nature walk and show her birds, rocks and plants
- cook together, children love to participate in baking muffins, cookies and helping out in kitchen
Take charge of your children
Instead of delegating power to a stranger to be your child's first teacher try taking charge of your child's behavior, learning and manners. If you expect your children will have better manners because they are sent to a preschool, then maybe you should rethink it. How do you want a 3 year old to learn from a teacher if there is also a powerful example of other children in his group... Children learn by copying behavior and learn very fast that kicking, pushing hard to grab your toy is the way to go, they may repeat that action to achieve desired outcome. Parent is better equipped to do a job of a preschool teacher, as a parent doesn't have to watch a whole room full of toddlers and pay attention to all of them at once. You may choose your strategies wise and simply model. I never had to persuade my children to say thank you, please or sorry, they heard me using these polite phrases countless times and chose on their own accord to do so, early, at age of three. If you invest more time at an early age in your children's happiness, well being and attachment - there will be benefits. Good manners is just one of them. Respecting parents, as long as you give them your love and trust is another one. Surprisingly, my children who were allowed to be with me at all times, never have any trouble to seperate from me now when they are a little older. They happily participate in extracurricular classes and sports. I am able to leave them in a class and there is never any fussing, they don't cling to me. I have given them time to grow up and be emotionally ready to be independent. They are super confident and outspoken, brave and compassionate. They have friends and love spending time outdoors, learning and making art projects.
This are my own observations. I know this is a controversial subject and many will not appreciate my stance on it. Preschool is believed to be a perfect solution for parents and a child and it is hard to be heard when you go against the mainstream crowd. My thoughts are that in many poorer countries there is no room for such luxury as stay at home mom without a child at home. Women who sent their children to preschool are working moms. Moms who decide to stay with their children take full responsibility for them, there is no money to even flirt with a thought of doing so. My idea is to debate the long sanctioned need for sending toddlers to preschool because there is an alternative. Some parents sacrifice some other things in order to attain to society standards and send their beloved to a preschool. Some first time mothers ask whether they have to send their offspring to a preschool and the answer they usually get is that indeed they must. Keeping your child at home will save some of your money and will make you better connected and more in charge of your child's behavior.