Swimming Against the Current: When you’re not sending your child off to preschool

It’s that time of year again.

You know, when it seems every entry you scroll past on social media is a “first day of” photo or description of little Johnny or Jane’s first day and how everyone just knows it’s going to be the best year yet!

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears

If you’re a homeschool mom, you’ve probably already adjusted to this coming-at-you-from-all-sides media storm. Either you’ve posted your own “first day” photos with the kids in pajamas or you’ve participated in some fun “not back to school” first day event, or you’ve been doing it all so long, you just don’t care.

But if you only have little ones at home and your oldest is just now preschool age, then it’s a different story.

Preschool peer pressure (for you!) is very real

Is Susie going to preschool this year?

 When is Bobby going to start school?

 Everybody goes to preschool nowadays, you know. Little Jennifer will behind all the other kids if she doesn’t go, too.

My kids love preschool – and I love the break it gives me – why wouldn’t you want to send them?

Yes, it seems like from the moment your child leaves the baby stage behind and begins to toddle and talk, all the questions and comments immediately turn to school.

It’s the standard conversation-starter with kids, “Oh, what grade are you in this year,” they’ll ask. “Where do you go to school?”

Maybe you’re not even planning to homeschool your children, but you want to keep them with you for one more year to let them enjoy childhood just a tad longer, before joining the rat race of the school track.

Or maybe you’ve made the decision to homeschool, but you haven’t mustered up the courage to share that news with your family yet, and face a whole other set of questions and arguments.

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears - Socialization

Or perhaps you’ve announced your homeschooling plans to the world already, but others think you’re crazy and figure they need to try and talk you out of it now, when it’s easier to present their “pro” list as an argument:

  • Preschool is fun, why wouldn’t you want your kid to have that experience?
  • How else is Tommy going to learn to hold a pencil, or stand in a line, or wait his turn, or interact with others and follow a teacher’s directions? He’s going to get to Kindergarten and have so many obstacles to overcome!
  • Preschool is only a couple of days a week/for a few hours a day, why wouldn’t you want a break?

The truth is, you start to hear all this advice and begin to really doubt yourself and your decision.

But mama, don’t.

Calm your preschool fears

Now, preschool is wonderful for many families and for many reasons. I even know several homeschooling families whose children attend preschool for a year, even though the rest of their schooling is done at home.

Down here in Florida, VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) is actually free for all kids – and at any location, so that means you can send little Shelly off to school at church or a fancy, private daycare, or the Montessori school and have a little of the experience that you could never afford otherwise.

You’re not crazy for passing up those opportunities, though, and while it’s natural to have some sort of panic set in over whether you can teach your own child, just think about all the things your child has learned already. Was it really a struggle to teach your child how to walk, or talk, or play on the playground?

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears - Reading

No?

Those things just happened naturally, you say?

Well, guess what? Learning just happens naturally, too!

That’s right, I’ve said it. Learning is natural.

Natural learning in preschool

That means you don’t even have to develop fancy preschool plans or start “doing school” yet. Oh, no. Your little sponges are going to soak up all they need just from living life and crossing the top item off their to-do lists each day: playing.

I know it’s hard to wait when you’re itching to get started in your new “teacher” role, but it really is best to try and center your days around play and exploration, rather than any curriculum plan.

Remember, learning doesn’t just happen in school. When was the last time you learned something new? Bet you didn’t have to enroll in college to do it! Often all you need is the freedom that unstructured time allows to acquire a new skill.

And finally, let’s look at some of those items you’ll find on “Kindergarten Readiness” lists and see just how unnecessary preschool really is:

Self-Care Skills: Includes items such as using the bathroom alone, getting dressed independently and knowing his or her full name. Since I know there’s no mom out there who dreams of still wiping her son’s heinie as he heads off to college, I think it’s pretty safe to say that these things will happen, without the aid of preschool.

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears - Self-Care

Social/Emotional Skills: Includes things like sharing, waiting for turns, giving attention to tasks, the ability to ask for help and respond to others when questioned. Unless you’re planning on hiding under a rock for the next year, I can bet your child will learn these things naturally, just by being in the same space as another child or even being hauled along with you to appointments or to church.

Gross Motor Skills: Can your child jump? Run around with more energy than you could dream of having? Climb stairs? Catch and throw? Ah, I thought so. Chances are, your patience will wear out from all this activity before you need to worry about these skills developing. No preschool needed here, either.

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears - Gross Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills: These developmental skills often take longer for some children to be ready for than others. Gv came out of the womb wanting to cut and paste, but never cared a whit about writing or coloring until the summer after she turned 4. It’s a good idea to provide opportunities every so often for your child to cut, trace, color and draw (make sure to encourage a proper pencil grip), but don’t force things if the interest isn’t there yet because these skills can be developed by activities like dressing dolls and building with Legos, too.

Academic Skills: This is probably the area you’re feeling the most pressure about, but preschool (or formal lesson plans) are just not necessary for this topic, either. Whether it’s counting to 10, saying the alphabet, or the ability to draw a picture and talk about it, these skills are easy to integrate into your days in a natural manner.

Calming Your Preschool at Home Fears - Natural Learning

Get preschool-at-home help

In fact, I’m sharing some of the best resources to make this whole process as simple as possible in my post, The Ultimate Guide to Doing Preschool at Home: Everything you need to get started! Click on over and see just how easy it can be to buck the preschool trend and keep your little one hearthside for one more year!

So, dear mama-whose-child-won’t-be-attending-preschool, don’t fret. Although it might sometimes seem like you and your child are missing out on this rite of passage known as preschool, they won’t be missing a thing. Preschool can be a wonderful opportunity for some families, but no-preschool can be pretty darn great, too!

Are you the parent of a preschool-aged child who’s felt pressure from others this time of the year? I’d love to hear! Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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  • Kristin says:

    I get really sentimental when I start thinking about all the things I was looking forward to about school before we decided to homeschool. But then I think about how I’d have to work to afford the school we wanted, we’d have hectic mornings getting out the door, and the evenings would be spent doing loads of homework. We are choosing homeschool in part because we want a different lifestyle so that’s what I try to remember when it gets hard! (And we are not even technically homeschooling yet… just being intentional about the toys she uses, and our special together time, as oldest is only 3)

    • It sounds like you have a great perspective on things, Kristin! And just think, there will probably always be memories that we anticipate for our kids (or ourselves) that don’t work out (like when I split my chin open the day before homecoming one year…), so while you might miss out on some, surely there will be plenty of others that come along that you never even anticipated! How fun that you’re already sharing such a special time with your kids, even though they’re still itty-bitties!

  • Nadia says:

    My oldest turned 4 yesterday and my youngest will be 3 next week. I have been keeping both my boys at home after a horrible experience with daycare two years ago. I am a early childhood teacher and we do a lot in a week but all through play. They are free to participate in any activity or they don’t have to.

    I was very worried about my oldest lack of interest in numbers till we were playing with his small Dino’s all of a sudden he counted all the way to 13.

    Later that day I handed him a vew dreid apricots and without counting them out he said: mommy I only have 3 can I have two more to make 5. I neerly fell over. There is no way I would have been able to count that fast in my head at 10.

    They learn even when you are not watching.

    • Yes! They totally learn, without even fancy, formal lessons! That is so cool that your son was figuring out math like that — and good for you for making the change to do what was best for everyone!

  • Emily says:

    I had to chuckle when Pam’s email about this hit my inbox! Not only am I not sending any of my kids to preschool, but I do not get to homeschool my kids. My husband has no desire to homeschool, while both his siblings, my sister, and so many of the people we know have chosen to homeschool. My two boys are in first grade and kindergarten at the nearby elementary school, and my daughter has two more years before she starts school.

    Thank you for this article – even though I don’t plan to do anything formal, this is a good reminder of the things she is learning by walking beside me in our days at home. They are much too busy for my preference, so I’m trying to figure out how we can simplify…and read more books!

    • Lisa Healy says:

      That’s great that you’re getting to spend this extra time with your daughter, especially since your kids will all attend “regular” school (and they’ll be just fine, too!) I’m so happy you’ve found a good plan for your family!

  • Eileen says:

    My oldest is in her senior year of high school. She has been homeschooled for her entire academic career. I remember well how I felt when she was a preschooler, and we were preparing ourselves to walk this unconventional path!

    This year, she is taking a couple of courses at the local community college. An unexpected emotional experience: dropping her off at school for the first time at age 17. I snapped pictures of her walking away from the car, wiping away my tears, as if she were in kindergarten!!

    We have never experienced any of the traditional school-related milestones, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how much I had missed them. Even though I myself hated school as a kid. Even though our homeschool has its own “first day of school” traditions. Even though I do not regret the path we have chosen (usually. The past two years of navigating the college testing and application process have been daunting to an unexpected degree, and we are simultaneously working through special needs issues for a younger child. Doubts are … part of the mix).

    It really is different, and it really is hard, and, despite all the benefits that have made it a good fit for our family, there really is some loss involved. Life unfolds one day at a time, and no matter how well you think you are preparing yourself and your children, you can’t know what you don’t know until you get to the place where it matters. That’s just the way it is.

    • Lisa Healy says:

      Thanks so much for your perspective, Eileen! And sending you big hugs for that moment of tears while she walked away to college! You’re right, we will always have doubts, but we just need to do the best we can with these precious children, right?

  • KellyRBaker says:

    Thanks for all the encouragement and tips, Lisa! I’ve just started preschool with my third born, and I’m blessed to have a child that has already taught himself to read most of the words in the beginner books plus all the other preschool topics. He must get his smarts from his daddy. 🙂

    • Lisa Healy says:

      Awww, I’m sure he got quite a few smarts from you, too! How fun that you’re starting the preschool years now with your youngest! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  • Alicia Owen says:

    It is always refreshing (and a good reminder to myself, sometimes 😉 ) reading posts like these. Oftentimes, so many people don’t realize or overlook all of the true learning opportunities their children encounter each day, all for the fact that they aren’t “formal lessons”.

    I was having one of those days yesterday where I started to doubt myself and wonder if we should do more “formal schooling” instead of “fun stuff”. Then I got to thinking about what all she has done this week: Even though yesterday we did arts and crafts, she was working on fine motor skills and even wrote our names on one project, all because she wanted to! She learned how to use a sander at my in-law’s house and got to hammer some nails the other day. She was able to interact with a group of school kids at the nature center and learn more about turtles. She got even more social time today at story time and got to make a fun apple craft! There are just so many things. 🙂
    Alright, enough rambling. Heading back to your other post. 😉

    • Lisa Healy says:

      I’m so proud of you for stopping to consider all the things your daughter had been learning the other day when you started to doubt yourself! And just think about how many unique things she learned, because she wasn’t in school! I mean, a sander! That’s something special! So happy you shared your rambling with us today, Alicia, I loved hearing all about it!

      • Alicia Owen says:

        Exactly! I think life skills are more important than memorizing things just to pass a test, more often than not. She doesn’t do it nearly as much now, but whenever she claims that she wants to “ride on a school bus and go to school”, I remind her we wouldn’t be able go do fun things whenever we want, like the library, park, and “special field trips”. 😉

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