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To School or Not to School

Every day I think about, read about, or visit a preschool. My child is almost 4 and I just can’t seem to decide what will be the best schooling option for him. I really like the Reggio Emilia approach to preschool education and the playgroup we attend once a week uses this approach. However, there seems to be very few preschools out there who practice this method and even fewer near us. I like the idea of preschool because I think the thing PJ needs to learn most are social skills, and since we do not live in a ‘tribe’ as humans are most naturally bent to do, I cannot provide an opportunity to learn social skills in a home environment.

But there are so many things I hate about the whole idea of school in general. I could go off on them, but many of my pet peeves don’t really apply to the preschool level. Actually, preschool might be the best school opportunity he will ever have, so why pass it up?

But I’m very concerned about the type of preschool he would attend. I’m very conscious about his type of personality not being one that fits in with the traditional model very well and I really don’t want him to be… squashed. For lack of a better word. He’s the type of kid that old-skool type people would just love to beat into submission (figuratively speaking). He’s really really active, super-smart, a free-thinker and very independent.  He won’t just do what you say because “you said so.”  He’s like his dad in that it must make sense to him before he does anything.  (I always tease Andy that he seems to think rules are for dummies).

But I don’t want him to conform. He is going to be a great leader some day. I want him to keep his individuality and his free spirit and his free-thinking. But I do want him to learn non-violent conflict resolution, and to trust those in authority, and how to sit still for five minutes would be nice too. All the academic stuff I think he will pick up on in his own time. He’s super-smart. He pretty much figured out on his own how to write his name (and other letters/words), his numbers & letters, some simple math, etc etc. He’s even drawing the cutest pictures for us. He’s taking piano lessons and his teacher says he seems to be really talented, more so than many kids his age.  (it’s the concentration he has trouble with) Anyway, I have absolutely no worries about his academic progression.

So here’s what I’m looking for in a preschool:

  • two days a week, half-day
  • healthy, organic snacks (goldfish and saltine crackers are not included in this!)
  • no punative discipline (i.e. no ‘time outs’ etc).  I want him to learn how to talk about his problems and emotions and work things out with the other children.  And other children should learn how to talk things out with a kid like PJ, not just tattle on him to get him in trouble.
  • play-based, child-led curriculum.  PJ is the type of kid who thrives when he can create his own learning environment.  And believe me, he is crazy about learning.  That kid is so unbelievably curious.
  • parent participation at least part of the time
  • multi-age program
  • access to nature
  • in a city that neighbors our own!  Driving half an hour is actually too much.  Because in southern CA, half an hour no traffic can easily become an hour if the gods frown on you that day.

This is all turning out to be too much to ask.  Especially the last one.  I was always interested in homeschooling, but lately I’ve become unsure.  Now it looks like that might be my only option.  I’ve also really liked the idea of unschooling, but don’t really know how to do it.  I just can’t send my child to a school that I’m not excited about, that’s just the traditional model of conformity.  I just can’t do it.  I can’t let them have my child.  I won’t surrender him to the Machine.  I just. Can’t. Do it.

Here’s my problem, though.  I spent about the first 1-2 years of my child’s life wondering when I was going to get my life back.  I did not realize when I became a mother that I would be giving up my career.  (stupid, I know, but it’s true)  I think I’ve finally come to the realization that this is my life now, but… when do I get my life back?  If I homeschool, there’s just no chance.  I also have been working on a degree that I also didn’t realize would take me this long.  When do I get to use that degree?  Will I even ever finish it?

Maybe that’s why unschooling appeals to me.  If I can ever fit some actual theatre into my/our daily life, I’d love to bring my kids.  I love the idea of bringing my kids to an audition so they really know theatre in this town.  How cool would my kids be sitting around at an EPA doing whatever kind of homework unschooling kids do while actors around them are warming up and rehearsing their Shakespearean monologues?  Or attending rehearsals.  Or having time during the day to do all of this for themselves?

Anyway, all that’s lightyears in the future and for now I’m just stuck with this preschool connumdrum.  I’m back leaning toward homeschooling.  I just need to figure out how it’s done.  And if I burn out, then I will be done.  And I’ll find a school.  Probably more likely is that we will run out of money and I will have to find a job.  I hope the state is doing better by then and I can teach college.  I also want to fill our days with play groups and lessons of all sorts, so he can learn social skills and other skills he wouldn’t get in preschool (i.e., music, sports, arts, etc.).  (just kidding not sports!)

What are your plans for schooling your children?  Do you think if you start down one course then you are obligated to follow through?  Can a child start out homeschooled and switch?  Or vice versa?  Is anyone else as paranoid about the whole conformity thing as I am???


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4 Comments to “To School or Not to School”

  1. We’re homeschooling our kids and we really love it! We are like you in that we don’t want to turn our kids over to “the system.” We have found so many wonderful things about hsing. It certainly isn’t the easiest way, and like you said, it does take over your life. But we like how our kids live life along side us. They are learning real-life skills along with academics. They’re seeing how a household is run, and learning how they can be a part of the work. It’s a really joyful thing to be working together as a family.

    I like how my kids learn how to be social with a wide variety of people/ages just by going about the day. They aren’t stuck in a classroom all day with kids the same age, doing busy work, when they could be playing or exploring something they are truly interested in. My husband thinks boys shouldn’t have to sit in a classroom until they are 8 years old anyway! He said he wasn’t ready for sitting at a desk when he was 4 or 5. Boys should be playing and exploring their world, he says! 🙂

    The socialization our kids get at their daily karate lessons and at church and small group gatherings seem PLENTY to us.

    There are so many other reasons why we love hsing, but I’ll just mention one more. I love that we can choose which curricula to use. We can tailor things for each child and go at his/her pace. We like having options and not having to settle for whichever books the state picks out for our kids. There are so many excellent choices out there, and kids can really thrive in a homeschool setting with the individualized attention they receive (rather than being in an over-crowded classroom).

  2. Thank you for sharing, Kelly. I really love hearing from homeschooling families. I totally agree with you guys about boys and not sitting in desks. Maybe some girls are like that too, I dunno. But my little boy is incredibly active and learns a lot by DOING. Which I think is wonderful. Don’t all of us adults think desk jobs are just the worst? Yet we expect our kids to do it and be happy about it. Crazy!

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