My five-year-old just started preschool. Technically, he’s old enough for Kindergarten, but since he’s just turned five we wanted to wait another year. *
Up until quite recently we wanted our children to go to whatever school was closest and, assuming that most school programs are created equal, everything would be wonderful. I wanted to show our support for our local public school systems and public school teachers by proudly having our children attend. I assumed it would be easy. (I can hear you laughing already…) I didn’t realize that I might have to choose between supporting public schools and a challenging, inspiring education for my child.
In the spirit of solidarity, I submit these other idealistic assumptions about raising children:
- “When we have a baby, our schedule won’t change at all!”
- “We’ll take the baby everywhere; he’ll travel with us. Kids can sleep wherever they are!”
- “When I have kids, I won’t yell at them. I will only use positive reinforcement.”
- “I won’t feed my children processed food.”
- “I won’t let my kids rule my life.”
I’m laughing right now just thinking about how just adorable all our assumptions about parenting are.
In any case, all schools are not created equal. We initially enrolled Boy Q in a nearby state-run, public preschool. I imagined this would be a good way to get to know the school district, the teachers, and other parents. At the initial meeting with the teachers, the conversation went something like this:
“We’ll teach your son to write his name.”
“He can already write his name.”
“His whole first name?”
“Well, we’ll teach him to write his last name. He’ll learn in capital letters first and then we’ll teach him lower case.”
When I went to pick him up after his first day, the teachers were singing a goodbye song to each student that I used to sing after infant story time when I worked as a librarian. I couldn’t help but feel that I had put my school-age kid into a class for babies because of the memories this dredged up.
The final straw was when they handed out a flyer letting parents know what kids would be learning in the next few weeks:
Let me be clear, the teachers, director, and other parents at this preschool were wonderful and kind. However, if I’m paying for preschool (and we are), I want it to be challenging for my son. He’s no genius, but he does already know about the color red and circle shapes. My dilemma was between supporting our public education system (they do get funding per pupil) and supporting the individual needs of my child.
We switched him to a school that is a 15-minute drive away. At this preschool, my son’s age group is tentatively counting in French, learning about time, dates, and directions. The teachers cared enough to call in the middle of the day to say my son was doing “awesome” (granted, that was before he bit a kid…). Today after preschool, the teacher casually gave my son homework to practice writing his numbers because “at this stage, I expect him to know this.” (That seems harsh written out but she was nice about it.) I am thrilled that he has individual homework to improve on something specific.
Many friends and family have pointed out that there are a great many kids going to preschool that need to learn the basics. My friend put it something like this: “..they have to assume that everyone knows nothing.” Somehow I felt penalized for reading to my kid.
I get it–we want to try to get all the kids at the same educational level and ensure that kids who maybe don’t know the alphabet at the start of preschool know it by the end. I understand the intent, but I pose a question: Aren’t we, as a state, doing under-served, at-risk children a disservice by only asking them to learn about one color, for example, in the span of two weeks? Shouldn’t we be holding them to a higher standard?
*Homeschooling would be a viable option if my stubborn son could stomach following directions from me. I don’t know where he gets that from…*cough*.