Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To preschool, or not to preschool?

A few have asked me to explain how we came to the decision about preschool for Katy next year, especially since I said that it was a tough one. I wasn't going to write about it, but now that we've made a decision, I think it would be good to get the thought process down.

It's so funny, the whole preschool discussion. Some people just assume that the moment your kid turns 3, of COURSE you will send them to preschool, as if that's when school starts, like kindergarten. In fact, in the MOMS Club where I belong, I'd say about half of the kids go to pre-preschool, which starts at 18months. And the families who do it absolutely love it. Other moms that I know are more like, "why would I pay to send my kid to learn shapes and colors when I am here at home and available to teach them?" which is also a good point. Then those of you working moms whose kids have been essentially going to full-time preschool since they were babies are probably thinking, "What is the big deal? It's 2 mornings a week?" So I've spent the last month trying to figure out where our family is on the continuum.

I have to admit: it feels like a big deal. I know it's only a few hours a week, but it just seems so HUGE. I think mostly because this signifies the start of it all. Every year from now until they're 18 (or 22?), we'll be in one way or another making a decision about where they will receive their education. Of course, I hope that we'll find our niche and won't be changing every year, but still. This marks the beginning of Education Decisions. Which rank right up there with Work/Stay-at-home Decisions.

I think I could best summarize this decision for our family in a list of pros and cons (hmmm...maybe we should've done this when we were actually deciding?):


*I know with certainty that Katy will LOVE it. She loves structured activity (begs me for it all day), loves other kids, and just thrives in that type of environment. She's actually already asking to go to school.

*I think it will be good for her development to do activities in a group setting, learn how to function as part of a group, and participate in lessons that are way over my creative threshold.

*I think we will both enjoy a couple of short breaks from one another each week. (So we can be happily reunited!)

*It will give me some time alone with David (both for the purpose of hanging out with him and for the purpose of running errands with just one kid).

*This is definitely a secondary benefit, but I hope that it will be a good way to get settled into a new community after moving. The preschool we decided on has an active parent association, and I am excited to get to know other parents in the new area of town.


*Cost. It's no drop in the bucket, and in this economy... (isn't that the tag line these days?)

*I have to let go a little bit. After being completely in our care for 3 years, I have to trust someone else (actually lots of "elses") to have so much influence on her. It's hard to imagine how there will be this part of her week that I won't know about. That she'll have experiences that I'm not there for. I know this has to happen eventually, but the big question is When? I think Kelsey summarized this back when her daughter started preschool.

*The schedule. Everyone I know who has kids in preschool seems to have a lot of trouble scheduling everything else. But on the other hand, the weeks might have a nice rhythm to them.

So after all of that, when we really considered all of these things, we decided that we want to send her. Now this did not even direct us to WHERE. That was another whole dicussion. (Structured or loose? Consecutive days or non? In a church or in a school? 2 days or 3?) But I toured a place where it just felt right, and we took the plunge. Of course, if it doesn't go well, we can always pull her out, but I don't see that happening. Good luck to several of you who I know are considering this same decision right now! We're all just trying to do what we think is the best for our families, right? What else can we do?


Allecia said...

Well put! If only we'd grant ourselves some grace and realize this decision is NOT the end of the world.

Erin said...

You put a lot of good thought into the decision and now you just have to TRUST YOURSELF. Which is hard, but at least you can always look back at this post?

I can't believe you're MOVING! How exciting! And scary! And EXCITING!

Pam said...

Ahhhhhh, just think - a couple of times a week you can go shopping with only ONE toddler refusing to sit in the cart, crying and running off every two minutes :-)

bluedaisy said...

I second the "trust yourself". It IS a milestone but you sound like you feel good about your choice. I think that any nervousness is only natural. Besides this being the beginning of formal education-type decisions, here is what I think is so strange about sending your children to school (or daycare): They develop this whole other part of their life that you aren't always a part of. Sometimes I can see my kids playing at daycare when they are unaware that I am watching- and I feel like a SPY! Because there they are, going about their day, and I am not part of it! It's hard on me but luckily they usually appear quite happy. Like you said, worst case scenario, you pull her out if it isn't working... but I think your instincts are correct and she will absolutely love it :)

Giselle said...

I remember this being such a HUGE decision with Andrew. He didn't make the cutoff for regular preschool, so I was committing to 3 years of preschool by entering him that fall that he turned 3. That seemed like A LOT. But then he just enjoyed it so so much. And he made little friends...which he enjoyed so so much. And it gave him something that was just HIS...where he wasn't a big brother...just himself.

And so when I signed up Lily for this fall, I had no second thoughts. She too will be in pre-school for 3 years (damn fall birthdays). But I think of it now as just a fun activity where they get to do all the crafty stuff I hate ;)

I hope that Katy enjoys it as much as Andrew has. And best wishes with the move!

Kelsey said...

It sounds like you put a lot of thought into this decision. We knew Harper needed to go to preschool as soon as possible, for so many reasons. I think Katy will love it and you'll love it too, even though it will be difficult at first.

We're in the same boat as Giselle, sort of, because Harper will have two and a half years of preschool. But I have never been sorry that we sent her.

Preschool is really, really good for kids, mostly in non-academic ways. But man, that little bit of letting go is so hard. I can't wait to read about your experience.

Mommy Daisy said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It looks like you definitely have made the right choice for your family. You've also given me some good things to think about. I need to blog about this soon.

Oma Froehle said...

Thoughts from the other end of the tunnel: As a mom of grown-ups now, I can look back and say that making each choice based on the child and what's best for them seemed to work out best. We made different choices for each kid based on personality and your particular strengths . . . what will give you the best chance to be positive and self-confident about learning. Don't be afraid to change things as Katy grows.

I'm sure she will love it, too. Just tell me they have music class . . . .

Charity said...