My son Elliott is sensitive and amazingly tender. He teaches me everyday how important it is to be true to yourself and authentic with others. He went through several iterations of daycare/preschool early on in life. It was always because I needed the time for grad school not because I thought it was good for him. I never saw anything the ‘schools’ that I thought I couldn’t do better at home.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that socialization is some great important thing kids need at 6 weeks of age. He is very well socialized in fact. He is exceedingly polite and mostly respectful. The areas where he struggles with socialization don’t concern me. For example, he likes to drop his pants and pee wherever he happens to be when the urge strikes. Yesterday we had just exited the grocery store and he dropped his pants – like before we even got to the crosswalk. You know – the front part of the grocery store – where the melons are in big bins! When he does this things I remind him that he needs to find an appropriate and private space to pee. I am not concerned that he will still be doing this when he is an adult. He will get it. Another example – he doesn’t have a good sense of personal space. He likes to touch people – usually in a very nice way. He will put his hands on someones face while talking to them. He likes to hug people, often aggressively. He comes by this honestly because he has spent the majority of his life being squeezed, held, kissed, picked up and loved by everyone around him. We haven’t typically asked him if we can touch him first. We just grab him for a hug. This is a tricky boundary for me because I want to teach him body safety and that he is in control of his body and he also needs to respect other peoples body, yet our family is very snuggly and we all are a bit in each others space most of the time. Anyhow, I digress, that is another post for another time. The point is, he will find the right balance of what is socially appropriate in terms of space. Sharing, pushing, playing rough – these are all things he is working on and they are all developmentally appropriate and I have serious doubts any of them would look wildly different if he was in preschool five days a week.
Back to the original topic – I also don’t believe that kids need to be preparing for school at this age. He is now four. He has been to three different preschool/daycare settings in his life. One for a month as a baby. One for a month when he was about 18 months and one for a month when he just turned three. Every single one of them had an academic component. Even where he was when he wasn’t yet one year old. It’s crazy. We spend our whole lives preparing for the next thing. Preparing for kindergarten. Preparing for high school. Preparing for college. Preparing for work. Preparing for retirement. I would rather spend time living just now. In this day. Especially with the little ones!! Holy moly – now is the time for play!! He hasn’t been stunted or influenced by the world. He still has an amazing imagination and his creativity if off the charts. Play. That’s what he should be doing. Playing.
His last preschool experience was really formative in our decision to homeschool. He didn’t want me to leave him there. At all. He cried and cried and the teachers told me I just needed to leave him – that he would adapt. He would have, I’m sure, If I had left him there for more than a couple weeks, but I couldn’t do it. He doesn’t like to be away from me. And after leaving him there crying for three weeks I finally decided to respect that. He needs me right now. He’s not ready to separate and that’s ok. That was last year and things have changed a lot since then. He is far more independent but he’s still a very attached and sweet little guy. He still likes to be at home and with me and his dad more than anything else and so that’ where he gets to be. There are many reasons we are going to be a school at home family and I hope to write a bit about all those reasons. This one is very dear to me. Having the children at home gives us the real opportunity to honor who they are. What their specific needs are. How they like to learn and play. I’m growing in my parenting and my personhood as we move through this journey and honoring who Elliott is has helped me to be more open to who others are as well. Every person is unique and if allowed/nurtured in their uniqueness can blossom. That sounds a bit flowery and silly but I think it’s true. Children don’t have to work to uncover their true selves. They just are. And then we add layer upon layer of crap – social norms, betrayals, misunderstandings etc. – that someday they will have to work to dig out of. I want to work hard to allow my kids to continue being their true and beautiful selves for as long as humanly possible.