Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

My Sweet Pea turned four years old this week. Unbelievable!

This year, I quit my job to spend more time at home with my kids. Or, more precisely, I took a leave of absence from my part-time teaching job that I actually worked at nearly full-time because my part-time teaching wages didn't cover full-time daycare for two children and working full-time was stressful for me and my family, even though I loved my job. (Precision is wordy.) I was hoping that I could net more income overall by subbing a few days a week, and I am so far! Last spring, even after I knew I wouldn't be working every day, I was researching preschools for Stella because age three is the year when children generally start preschool. I found some really great-looking schools and situations, but it seemed the more I liked the school, the more it cost (my preference was for Montessori or bilingual, of course). Since I was planning to be home most days, the more I thought about it, the less sense it made to me to pay hundreds of dollars a month to send my daughter somewhere else, since the main reasons I was staying home were to save money (yes - save money by not working: seems crazy doesn't it!), and spend time with my children. Preschool costs money and would mean more time apart... but I wanted to save money and spend time together. I wanted preschool, I thought, or did I?

What I finally decided, along with my husband, was that for this year at least, we did not need preschool. We are providing a positive, social, enriched, loving environment for our kids. Stella already had most of the skills (at a basic level at least) that I thought kids were supposed to learn at preschool, and we really couldn't afford it anyway. After two years going to daycare three or four days a week, she had strong social skills, a sense of independence, could count in English and Spanish, and could recognize letters. We have a group of friends with similar aged children that we play with at least once a week, and we go to library story times, on walks and hikes, to the park, and on lots of errands. So, the value of preschool seemed to diminish when I thought of all of the ways we were already meeting most of the goals of preschool. In addition, on days that I work as a substitute teacher or scoring essays, my kids are cared for by our neighbor who is a former preschool teacher, or by a friend or family member, most of whom also have young children. This Slate article, subtitled "If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn't need preschool," affirmed my confidence in this choice. It points out research that shows that the more disadvantaged a child is, the more difference preschool can make in their lives, while the more education and resources a family has, the less important preschool becomes.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I started thinking again about preschool. Next year is a new year, and kindergarten comes the year after. Perhaps she would benefit from structured time with other kids, and to having a more routinized week, less dependent on my random days of subbing. Maybe Henry would benefit from some time with just me. Maybe I would benefit from a bit of a break from parenting all day. I sat at the computer and researched days and times, locations and fees for local preschools for a good hour or more. I made a new list. Maybe next year?

What's your opinion? How do you choose whether or not to preschool, and which one?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not Another Day Stuck at Home!

I was in a terrible mood yesterday morning. Our back fence in being replaced (the neighbor hired a company), so Glen can't go outside to potty or play without us taking him on the leash. Henry has been sick, really sick, for the past six days, and we are just starting to see real improvement, so I am exhausted. Stella has a cough too so I can't really send her to a friend's house to play, but she is not sick enough that she is happy to be just hanging out at home watching movies and playing with toys, so she is asking for a lot of attention, and begging for a friend to play with. My subbing paycheck for the month was tiny, so we are on a very tight budget. All of those things came together and made me a very grouchy mama. I ignored my kids for a few minutes, locked myself in the bathroom, and talked on the phone with my friend. When I came out, I was determined to change my attitude. I would make the best of all this forced togetherness, with no pressure to get anything in particular accomplished today. I would ignore most of the chores, and just enjoy my kids. Stella and I ate Jell-o, we painted our nails, I carried Henry a lot, and read a few stories. Henry is just starting to turn the pages and pay attention. We enjoyed watching the fence go up through our back window, and Stella called out a "Hello" and an "I'm excited for the new fence you're building!!!" to the workers, which made them smile. Me, too. I ignored the kids for a little while more while I took a shower and dried my hair and felt very much more awake. We ate a light lunch, and I got Henry to sleep in the ERGO and gave him his breathing treatment. I got to read some blogs and catch up on my email while Stella watched a show. The little guy woke back up after a nice long nap and we got to take our walk in the sunshine, although it was still quite cold and Henry refused to wear a hat. He rode in the stroller under a blanket and with a scarf of mine trying to keep his ears warm. Stella took her run bike and got some exercise, as did Glen on the leash. We found litter and picked it up, and Stella was proud to help. Joe got home from work late and I had Henry bathed and asleep before he arrived, and Stella pj'ed and toothbrushed. We made it through another day home-bound, and even had fun. And since Henry was no longer so miserable with his cough, we were able to have a nice balance of rest and activity. Sometimes I get so focused on the idea of getting out to do fun and enriching activities, to play with other kids and get adult company for myself, that I forget the pleasures of a simple day at home.

P.S. Henry slept until after midnight and that was his only waking last night. After nearly a week of being up with him crying and coughing 4-8 times per night, it felt pretty amazing. I am a happier mama today