Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back...

But in a good way.

Husband & I have decided to cut back on the preschool next year. The year before Ethan heads to kindergarten. And some people are confused.

See, Ethan started preschool a few months before his 3rd birthday; it was a 2x/week "transition" class, in which he played with his friends and his amazingly patient teacher while the other mothers & I had our little coffee klatsch in the next building over. The class was only 2 hours long & the moms weren't allowed to leave the campus in case one of the wee preschool novices were to dissolve into a hyperventilating panic and require mama's arms. It was lovely. Ethan, though he did stamp his feet and shed a few tears for my benefit as I dropped him off each Tuesday and Thursday morning, did great. The teacher assured me that his tears were drying on his cheeks before I could even cross the parking lot to the parent's lounge.

After the transition class ended, we moved Ethan up to a 5 morning a week summer camp program at the same school. He loved it. My kid is a social butterfly. Nothing makes him happier than being around his friends & he made some great ones in LA.

When we moved to the Bay Area, we enrolled him in a 5x/week preschool. Our thought process was that, 1.) he'd already been going to summer camp 5x/week and was thriving. So why not continue on that trajectory? and 2.) Husband and I always just blithely assumed there'd be a second child, a new baby, that Ethan would want some time away from & I'd want some one-on-one time to bond with. Five days of preschool, in that scenario, made perfect sense. He'd get time every day to run around like a lunatic and be the center of his own universe at school & I'd get guaranteed time every day to snuggle on the couch with some squishy newborn deliciousness.

But we know now that that is simply not to be. And the kid I DO have? Is getting older every day. And 5 days of preschool means something like NINE HUNDRED hours I won't have with my son this year. Given how our concept of our family has changed in the past 4-5 months, that's just not a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Husband and I have thought about it long & hard; Ethan's in a 3x/week summer camp at his school (same teacher, same kids) right now and loving it. He hasn't once asked to go on the days when he's not scheduled to attend & we are loving sleeping late (if you'd ever told sleeping-til-noon college Sarah that 8AM would be "sleeping late," she'd have kicked you in the shins and told you to shut your damn mouth--well, probably not, but its fun to imagine) and lounging about our day, letting it take us where it will. We've been filling our time with play dates and trips to parks and the fro yo place down the street. I have been loving having him around & find that I look forward to Tues & Thurs even more than I do the three days he's in school.

I've had a few people question our decision to cut back on the preschool, especially in the year before Ethan heads off to kindergarten. Will he be prepared academically? Will it undo some of his social preparedness? Aren't you being selfish? Isn't this more about you than him? (I should note that no one's come out and actually asked the last two questions, but I've heard them implied in the other questions and of course, I asked myself those questions while coming to this decision).

And maybe I'm a horrible parent, but I don't really worry too much about the answers to those questions. This time in his life is not one he will remember clearly; I don't anticipate that 20 years from now he'll be lying on his therapist's couch lamenting the year his parents switched him from 5 day preschool to 3 day. But I do believe that the time he spends with me will weave itself into the fiber of his sense of self & help us stay closer as he does move forward (okay, re-reading that line, I have to conceded--maybe THAT is what he will be talking about on the therapist's couch in 20 years)

Socially? Nothing short of solitary confinement for extended periods of time is going to undo his ability to get along with his peers--the kid lives to interact with others, and gets to do so just as much on the days that he's not in school.

Academically? Well, I'm one of *those* parents. I'm not so very concerned about Ethan's future academic achievement that I am letting it guide my decisions about his preschool experience. I know some people will clutch their pearls in horror over that, but it's true. He's a bright kid; I love watching him discover things and the teacher in me is giddy when he starts to recognize words by their spelling and when he pulls a pile of books to me at the end of the day, climbs into my lap and says, "read to me." But? He's 4. Having taught in a private, high pressure college prep high school, and having watched my driven students slog through their academic requirements with determination and frenzy, but no joy, feeling that in some way, mom & dad's love was dependent upon the grades they brought home, my primary desire for my child's academic career is that he enjoy it. Do I want him to do well? Absolutely. But more than that, I want him to LOVE learning, even if that love doesn't always translate into A's or even B's. I don't think he "needs" to be in preschool 5x/week to achieve the kind of love of learning that we hope to instill in him.

Am I being selfish? Meh. Maybe. The decision is, in part, guided by our inability to have another child and my desire to soak up as much time as humanly possible with the child I do have. So yeah, 100% selfish. And since, like I said, Ethan's unlikely to have a ton of solidly clear memories about this particular age of his life, when it comes down to it, it is definitely more about me & the memories that I will have going forward. I'm okay with that.

Stepping back is rarely seen as a positive move. But in this case? It's all good.


Corinne said...

I think you've got to do what you guys are comfortable with, and your plan sounds excellent to me!

Fynn's only going to have one year of preschool, and I have a feeling that it'll be just three days a week. They have the rest of their lives to adhere to schedules and academics and whatnot...

Wish we didn't live across the freaking country so we could have playdates on Ethan's days off!

Mama Bub said...

The standard here is for kids to go two days a week when they're three and three days a week when they're four - the year before kindergarten. I think three days per week is PLENTY.

gringa said...

I think its great and its wonderful that you want to do it. I don't remember much about the year before kindergarten but what I do remember is going to the park with my mom, lying on the grass, coloring, and mainly I guess what might be called today, "vegging" They are wonderful memories.

Moderate Means said...

Being able to spend time together isn't selfish - it's the making of wonderful memories :)

Enjoy those two days a week and have a ton of fun!


Anonymous said...

You're absolutely NOT a bad parent because of this! Yes, it's all good and it's all going to be good. You go, girl!

Michele said...

I think the fact that you have pondering the question of whether you're doing the right thing shows that you wants what is best for him. And at his age, what's best for him is love and exploration. He can get that both at home and at school. There is so much pressure to "prepare" kids for school that we are always going to feel like we're not doing enough. Not to say that preparation isn't necessary, but I think you have obviously given him the foundation he needs to succeed in school. Parents that don't provide that foundation most likely don't ask themselves these sorts of questions. If anyone gives you a hard time, boo on them.

A friend of mine went to a kindergarten orientation and there was a parent there that was really concerned with whether or not students were more successful in the morning or afternoon classes (since the kids either went from 9-12 or 12-3). My friend thought he was kidding when he first asked, but he wouldn't let it go. He wanted to make sure that he enrolled his child in the "more successful" time slot so that he or she would grow up and be a doctor, or whatever he determined to be worthy. It's just too much.

Oh my, I just babbled on and on...

Sarah said...

Sarah! We're doing the SAME thing!! Harry went 5x a week last year, but we're doing 3 days for both of them this year. I don't even think I am going to schedule any classes for us on our days off-- just lolling around the house and playing in the snow, I think :)

Judy said...

What a well-written post! I applaud you for doing what you feel is best for your family and not caving to what others might consider "better." It sounds to me that Ethan is not only getting an academic jump in preschool, but life lessons at home and during activities with you that will be just as valuable to him! Good luck!

Hyacynth said...

I say kudos to you, Sarah. Ethan has the next 17 years to sit in a classroom five days a week, assuming he goes to college.
Nothing can replace the time you and he spend together. Nothing at all. :)
{Of course, this comes from a woman who is adament about homeschooling her children ... but still!}

Anonymous said...

Awesome decision!I hope you can hold on to this perspective for next 14 years. I agree, it's not all about the grades you achieve in school...It is about the LOVE of learning!


lonek8 said...

sounds like a perfectly good decision to me. I know that I always try and manage to squeeze in a little one on one time with each of my kids to make the kind of memories you are talking about. how luck Ethan is to have a mom who wants to spend time with him rather than just shuttle him off to school so she can pursue more selfish interests.

Jen said...

Sounds like a great decision, Sarah, and one that you'll all be happy with. Like others have said, he'll have the rest of his life to be in school and to spend more time away from you. I applaud your decision!

Heck, when we were growing up, half of us didn't even go to preschool!

If I could scale back my work hours and spend more time with my daughter, I would in a heartbeat! It's wonderful that you'll be able to spend more time with Ethan.