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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.