First Days of (pre)School

September 12, 2012 · 8 comments

Our kids both started preschool this week. This is uncharted territory for our family in so many ways. First time we’ve been put on a Monday-Friday schedule. (Levi goes MWF, and Charlotte goes T,TH.) First time we’ve left our kids for an extended period in the care of non-family members. First time our kids are making friends with kids whose parents we’ve never met. First time we’ve enforced a strict bedtime and needed to wake kids up at a certain time in the morning. First time I won’t be able to get an exact play by play of what my kids do in the course of a morning.

Parenting is a long journey of letting go of control, first the little stuff and eventually the big stuff. I’ve caught glimpses of this process in the past, but this school thing is a big leap. Levi and Charlotte really like to be around children in their peer group, and I know we could have and probably should have provided more opportunities for them to interact with other kids in the last few years. Preschool will give them ample time to make connections and learn to navigate the social structure of childhood. On the other hand, I can’t help but worry that my spider-loving tomboy will face inevitable princess-ification, and my ever-gentle, Lego-Friends-loving boy will start to hit back. (Up to this point, he’s reacted to violence by his peers with laughter or words like “stop” and “no”.)

I am very aware that I can’t keep my kids under my roof forever. Sooner or later, they need to make it out into the world. But when I think about how appalled I am sometimes when I learn things about what “average Americans” are doing, eating, and saying, I just want to hug my kids tighter and keep them away from everything mean and sad and overly commercialized and hydrogenated. That’s not really how life and parenting works, however, and sheltering my kids won’t allow them to grow into whole human beings.

Levi and Charlotte are going about life unscathed by my (and to a lesser degree Henry’s) parenting dilemas. They’re pretty happy doing whatever. Theoretically, Levi will start kindergarten a year from now, and Charlotte will follow just one year later. We’ve got a lot to think about and decide, and for the first time in a while, homeschooling seems to be back as an option on the table. We’ll see…

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane September 12, 2012 at 11:33 am

Glad to hear homeschooling is back on your table as an option. My 2 older started public school but then after a few years we started homeschooling, my 2 younger kids have always been homeschooled. It is truly one of the scarier times as a parent deciding which will work best for your kids, and your family, as far as schooling goes!

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Lisa September 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Oh, gosh, Camille, I don’t know what it is about this day but I’ve been just this side of tears all day long with everything I read, with every thought on parenting and independence and education. I really, really appreciate your thoughts here, as I live through some very similar dilemmas, just a year or so behind you.

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Lynn September 13, 2012 at 4:50 am

Hearing you talk about letting go made me think you should homeschool, even before I got to that part of the post. I homeschooled my youngest since birth, my middle three for 5-8 years and my oldest not at all. Originally went along with the rest of the cattle and started the oldest in school. When things were going badly for one of my children, and the school could only offer promises I knew they couldn’t keep, I pulled 3 of them out. It was the best decision ever. My biggest regret is that I ever sent them at all. That being said my 2 oldest are in college, and my 14 yr old twins are now in High school. The plan for my youngest is that she will try highschool if she wants to when she is old enough. But when they are young they will learn so many positive things from being with you and in your family rhythm, and in school what they learn is not family oriented and most of it not positive. Just believe in yourself as a parent and know that no school can offer the love security and attention that you can at home.
good luck
Lynn

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Becky September 13, 2012 at 6:30 am

I have to say that you and Henry make pretty darn good teachers. Your kids seem to have more knowledge and skills than the kids I’ve met in traditional schools. You just can’t beat the real life experiences that you guys give your kids by allowing them to participate in the things that you do everyday.

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abby September 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Oh wow, big stuff here! Even without children of my own, I can really relate to how this would be – at least as much as one who isn’t experiencing it first hand could. When I think about the possibility of us having kids someday, these are the things I think about… mostly the big bad weird (okay yes, it is also really beautiful) world we live in. You have provided them with a strong and stable foundation though, and I think that counts for a lot – maybe everything. PS I think you would be an AMAZING homeschooler.

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Chris September 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Hi Camille,
We have 2 children the same age as yours. Claire will start kindergarden next year and Madeline will start the year after that. We have always been working parents and therefore our kids have grown up in a very social environment. As with most things, there are pros and cons. Our girls are above their peers in speech as well as counting, letters, etc. I am sure your children have valuable skills too (maybe even the same ones, taught by you). They have also “picked up” things they wouldn’t have seen at home. We do our best to “raise them right” and spend time teaching our values. I think there can be a happy (if inevitable) balance.

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Melinda September 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

I’m a firm homeschooling believer, although, I wasn’t always that way! Out of my 5 siblings, I was the only one who wasn’t homeschooled. I didn’t want my children to grow up “weird”, so my husband and I decided homeschooling was NEVER going to be an option for us. Then we sent our oldest girl to kindergarten…. we are strong Christians and the things she was picking up, hearing and seeing in kindergarten was appalling!! So, we pulled her out and never looked back. Our kids are very smart, way ahead of the curve, self-sufficient and mature. They get some socializing here and there with our church and homeschool group, so we’re not worried about them socially. Plus, my kids are the best of friends, which is so neat to see. I would definitely put homeschooling back on the table, if I was you ;-)

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Erika October 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion:
I think that you should follow your instincts here. On the one hand, you want your kids to socialize, and on the other, you don’t want the inevitable onslaught of mainstream culture to condition the independent spirits of YOUR children. I think, particularly in Oregon, there are so many homeschool groups for kids to socialize in. I would be surprised if there weren’t some around you. Or you could do some type of cooperative child care with people in your community who seem to be on your same page with parenting and values. So there are options for having your kids interact with other kids in a way that doesn’t feel so much like throwing them into preschool and hoping for the best. You just might have to do a bit of work to make it happen. But, on the second point, modern schooling is pretty universal in delivering a mainstream, consumer driven, authoritarian, do what I tell you to do and don’t ask any questions “education” that crushes the independence and curiosity of young minds. People will always try and give you examples of good schools here and there, but do you still have to raise your hand before you speak? Do you still have to ask someone else if you can go to the bathroom? Yep. Are those conditioned responses really what you want for your children? Nope. How much of what you were taught in those 12 years really helped you become a good person or grounded you in a sense of who you are in the world? How much do you even remember? If you and Henry are thinking about putting homeschooling back on the table, I highly recommend the work of John Taylor Gatto who has written several books about the true nature of modern schooling. He was NY state’s teacher of the year and quit on the op-Ed page of the Wallstreet Journal claiming he didn’t want to continue hurting children. After reading his work, I cannot in good conscience put my children in public school. I don’t know how in the world I’m going to homeschool-but I know I have to. That being said, it’s just my opinion, and I know that you and Henry will do what is best for your family. And my Fingers are crossed too that Charlotte doesn’t go Barbie princess on you!

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