Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blazing a Trail to Preschool

I began my search for a preschool without a road map or any clue of what direction to go.  I had so many questions and very few answers.  How old should my child be before I start looking?  What type of preschool would work for her?  Montessori or Waldorf?  Faith-based or not?  What about language immersion, or co-op?  What do these terms even mean?  And how much will it cost?  Is it even worth it for my child to go to preschool when she can learn the same things from me at home?  Or will she learn more things at preschool?  If I keep her home, will I be doing her a disservice?  Will she be ready for kindergarten?  And of course, I thought all of these things before she even blew out that first candle on her birthday cake.

It’s hard to live in the moment of parenthood and simply be and love your children where they are when you’re inundated with Facebook status messages about your friends’ children reciting their ABC’s (in French), spelling their names, or solving quadratic equations and you look over at your two year old, giggling with glee, diaper off and playing in his poop in the corner of the living room.  So then I become the “funny mom” who posts those off the wall status updates of “cute” and “silly” things my kids do because she skips 17 every time she counts, and he sings just the first two lines of “Twinkle Twinkle” over and over again.  I just have to keep up, right?  I need to start their education right now, right?

Well yes.  And no.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from my experience as a teacher, and my most recent experience as a mom, it’s that children are learning all the time.  Let me say that again: children are learning.  All. The. Time.  From the time they wake up in the morning, to the time they go to sleep at night, they are learning things.  They learn by doing, playing, exploring, experimenting, making mistakes, observing, talking, listening, running, jumping, painting, making messes, cleaning up, crying, laughing, hugging and kissing.  So you see, their education has already started, because their education goes hand in hand with their development.

There are four major areas (or domains) of child development: cognitive – how children think; physical – how children move; social – how children relate to others; and communication – how children…um…communicate.  The way children develop in these domains directly affects how and what they learn, and vice versa.  In addition, each area is dependent on the other for development.  So many childhood tasks require all four domains to complete.  Let’s look at potty training as an example (since this has created my most recent motherhood battle scars).
In order to be considered potty trained, a child needs to be able to do the following things in the four domains:

Know the sequence and routine of using the toilet (first pull down pants, then sit on toilet, etc.)

The ability to hold and release waste.

The understanding that others prefer not to play in your puddle of pee, or smell the poop smoldering in your underwear.

The ability to understand and answer the question “Do you need to use the bathroom?” as well as being able to state “I need to use the bathroom.”

Because of this, a child entering kindergarten needs a good, strong foundation of learning that encompasses all four domains of development.  An enriching environment where a child can explore, experiment, problem solve, make mistakes, get angry, laugh, cry, make connections, run, jump, and express themselves in any manner they please is essential to building that foundation.  That environment also needs to provide a safe, predictable structure to the day.  And where is the best place for a child to find this?  That’s right – preschool.

I know you try very hard to make sure everything in your child’s day is enriching.  I do the same for mine.  However, we have them 24-7.  There is a LOT of down-time in your day.  Think about how many times you lock yourself in the bathroom just to get a moment’s peace.  Preschool lasts about four hours, max.  It’s so much easier to create four hours of highly enriching structured activity that keeps children engaged, than to do it all day every day.  Also, it’s easier when they’re not your kids.  I know this from experience.  My daughter was a student in my class one year.  She lasted five months.  I lasted three.

Now that the why has been answered, I’m guessing you want to know the who, what, where, and when.  Remember that road map that I mentioned at the beginning?  I didn’t have one.  I blazed a path on my own, following recommendations of friends and random people on mommy boards online.  I visited a few, fell in love with some, never wanted to see others again.  In the end, we found a school that worked for my kids, for my family, and had the same philosophical ideals on early childhood foundations that I have.  I would love to give you a map of the trail I blazed.  However, it may not be the right fit for you.  What I can do is offer you a key – a map legend of sorts – to blazing your own trail to the right preschool for your children and family, and an opportunity that I did not have or even know about when I began my search.

This key is the Lake Oswego Mother’s Club Preschool Forum.  Every year in January, the LOMC invites preschools from around the area to gather together in one place, providing information on their programs to parents and families like you.  All you need to do is show up, walk in, ask questions and get answers.  There’s no cold calling here, just warm greetings and time for you, because there is childcare, too!  And the best part – it’s free!  Even if you’re pretty sure junior won’t be enrolling in the fall, it doesn’t hurt to start asking questions now.  You may learn something you didn’t know about a school or a teaching philosophy that could change your course.  If nothing else, it will make blazing your path for preschool education much easier than mine ever was.

1 comment:

  1. I headed over here after reading your Eleanor profile. Nice to meet you. :-)

    My daughter is now 13, but when she was young I relied heavily on a friend of mine whose specialty is educational and developmental psychology. Not only did she help me, but I learned so much from her and loved learning it. This kind of stuff always makes me wish I'd picked a different major!