Wednesday, February 10, 2016

why elden isn't in preschool

We do not currently have Elden enrolled in preschool. A lot of the time I feel a strange guilt over that. When I browse the net I read all about what the kids his age are doing in their preschool classes and have a mild panic attack. Are we setting him up for failure? Is he way behind? Are we terrible parents?
pretending the snow was soup
We aren't entirely opposed to preschool, but we also aren't in any rush. The main issue we have with preschool is that once he starts he will either be in school or working for a significant portion of the rest of his life. He's 3.5! There is still so much time for learning. Right now he is free to be carefree--just a toddler who freaking loves Power Rangers, pretend play and fighting bad guys. I'm so afraid that if we start throwing numbers and spelling and reading at him that he will lose his joy and creativity. Education is absolutely important, but does he really need to start that now? We read anywhere between 5-10+ books with him per day at his request. We paint, color, play with play-doh, etc. We find ways to discuss colors, numbers, etc. through these experiences rather than having him sit still and talking at him. But most importantly, we let him run and play and be free to do whatever his mind comes up with. He would absolutely benefit from the act of being away from us--for this reason alone we have been looking into preschool. But when we ask about the curriculum we aren't looking for the excitement the director has when she tells us all the goals they have for the kids within a year (reading and writing their own names! Learning a second language! Recognizing the countries! Fast track to a Michelin star!) In fact, it's quite the opposite. I couldn't tell you how happy I would be if we found a preschool where the teacher said, "you know, at 3 years old we just want them to play and use their imagination. We do story time and encourage social skill development but there is very little formal structured learning here." Why can't we seem to find that!? Lev Vygotsky had some really interesting theories relating to the role of play in the mental development of children (with a paper by a similar title) and how imaginative play is a critical part of a child's normal development through a process he referred to as "inner speech." Furthermore, Vygostky believed that children learned just as well from observing parental behavior and conversations as in a traditional educational environment. He is one of the most widely cited developmental psychologists of the 20th centuries so I really recommend reading his work (widely available on the Internet) if any of this seems interesting to you. His theories have made us feel better about our delay in preschool enrollment.
he is in costume 98% of the time
That being said, I'm often conflicted because there is an unspoken pressure for Elden to be hitting all sorts of preschool-related milestones. I try not to give it much headspace, but how can you not? I just want him to play. I want him to be young and free to use his imagination. It's amazing, really, just to sit and listen to him as he discovers the world and incorporates it into his pretend play. I don't ever want him to lose that spark. 

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