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April 2, 2012

Preschool?

My plan all along has been to get the girls involved in some type of Mother’s Day Out / preschool program when they were three.

I have talked with our pediatrician about it on a number of occasions, and we both think it’s the right thing to do.

I feel like the girls are being challenged intellectually at home. The girls have their little friends, and we have play dates…but I know they need more social interaction. And I know they need to learn to spend time away from Mommy. And I think it will be good for them to experience structure apart from what we have at home.

I very loosely toyed with the idea last fall, when the girls were 2 ½. I still felt like they were such babies, though. I didn’t think they were ready for any kind of structured program...and neither was I.

Over the past few months, I’ve been looking into programs in our area. I decided pretty quickly I wanted more than a “Mother’s Day Out”-type program. In theory, I like the idea of a Montessori program, but the program that I would consider is full time, and I don’t think that’s right for our family.

I am most interested in one particular preschool program here. Three-year olds have the option of two or three days a week, from 9:00 – 12:00. The teachers are certified in early childhood education, and they have many years of experience between them. I have heard and read great reviews on the program, and I had a wonderful conversation with the director a couple of weeks ago.

She talked a lot about their play-based learning philosophy. That’s right up my alley.

She gave an example of one of the activities the three-year olds were doing that week, studying nature. To illustrate how birds must search for food, the kids had pans of bird seed that were frozen under a thin layer of ice. They were using different tools to try to access the seeds.

I can only imagine how much our girls would love that activity! I can just see them, their eyes aglow with excitement as they recounted their adventures. And I can only imagine the new levels of pretend play that would inspire.

I am scheduled to visit the school on Wednesday morning. I really feel like this is the right thing to do.

…but…

It still tugs at my heart. Certainly I will struggle being apart from my babies. But – as I’ve really thought about it – I think my biggest challenge is the structure this will put into our weeks.

While I consider myself a stickler for schedules in many regards, I so love that I can follow the girls’ moods during “awake time”. If they’re engaged in a great play pattern, 98% of the time, I don’t have to disturb it.

Last week, I really needed to go to the grocery store, but the girls were having such fun at home. You know what? The groceries waited. We played puzzles and did a craft and read books.

I know that the introduction of structure is a part of growing up, and I think our girls will thrive in that environment…but I’m still working to wrap my head around the concept.

Thoughts??? Words of encouragement??? Advice for Mama to chill out and let go???

15 comments:

IASoupMama said...

I;m not there with my twins yet, but my older two were in full-time daycare from infant until school and both did really, really well. They are confident, inquisitive children who are able to transition well between activities, follow directions extremely well and learn from anyone. My son did 4-year-old preschool 3x a week for 3 hours, my daughter is doing a different 4-year-old preschool 5x a week for 3 hours. We skipped 3 year old preschool simply because they were in daycare and had fantastic social skills.

But they both have done well in a preschool program. I'm sure yours will, too. The bet part is how excited and proud they are to say they're going to school like their older cousins.

Charlene said...

I know it's hard...but go for it! The girls will love it! And you will too. It will be an adjustment at first, but once you get the kinks all worked out, you will be so glad you did it. Just be prepared for them to start branching out and making friends of their own. My twins went to preschool for 2 years and it was a great experience for them.

good luck!

Mandy said...

This is where I am right now! Do you follow PAHM? I've started implementing the Montessori-style at home because I'm not ready to send them off. I think I might be too attached to my babies-is that possible?? I'm also tinkering with the idea of homeschool but that's another topic all together. I also see them shying away from other kids, usually just the older/bigger kids, and it reinforces that I need to give them more social interaction.

My biggest concern is cost. I'm not ready for full time and even for just 2 or 3 days the programs in my area will run roughly $300+ per week for both the girls. They'll be gaining social experience, and I 6 hours a week to myself, but jeez it's expensive!!

Lastly, I hark back to my own childhood and there wasn't preschool or play groups. I played outside with the neighbors. I went to kindergarden(because that was all that was offered then) and learned to make friends, and I like to think I turned out ok. So is preschool necessary? I certainly don't want to hurry my babies to grow up, so I'm an advocate for staying home. Unless you can afford the 2-day/week program which I think would be wonderful for the interaction. (Plus think of all the things you could do in those 3 hours!!!!)

Beth said...

What a tough decision!

I have gone through all of the same thoughts and concerns. I know that my quads are only 4 mos older than your girls, but those 4 mos make a big difference. If I start the kids in school 'on time', they will start kindergarten in 2013. I want them to have at least one year of preschool before kindergarten. We may hold them back and wait a year to start formal school, but we are waiting to make that decision when the time comes, so we are preparing as though they will start kg in 2013.

I wanted at least a year of pre-k because, first of all, I just can't imagine going straight from staying home with Mom to going to shool 5 days/ week. Also, I want them to get used to being away from me and taking instruction from another adult. Of course, your girls won't start kg until 2014, so you have an extra year there.

I found a school I think will be a ton of fun for the kids. The kids will go three days/week for 4 hours/day. The focus is very 'learn through play.' One thing we saw when we toured that I loved? One week of each month, they learn about other cultures by 'visiting' that country. When we were there, they were doing Italy. The gym had 'gondola's' the kids rode through 'canals'. They ate pasta at lunch. They listened to part of an Italian opera in music... I just know that my kids would love that and would be so excited to come home and tell me about the know culture they are learning. The school also provides information to the parents to continue the lessons at home if we want. Love that. It is also a Christian school, which matters to us.

At the same time, this year Will started first grade. In our school district, kg is half day, so this is the first time he has gone to full-day school. I cannot believe how long he is gone. Then with activities, I feel like I barely see him some days :-( This certainly made me want to keep the kids home. They are going to spend a lot of years in school away from you. You only get a few years to keep them home with you. Why rush things?

I know it is such a hard choice. My advice, keeep them home another year. Use some of the money you would have spent on school for some sort of structured class or activity. Dance, tumbling, art, music... They will still get a chance to be away from Mommy and learn from someone else, but it will probably only be a few hours/ week.

You are doing such a great job and your girls are so bright and curious! You'll all be fine whatever you choose. Good luck making your decision!(sorry this got so long... I've spent a lot of time thinking about this.)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

That school sounds perfect for you and for me - a limited time away to get some social skills but still not enough because they're still babies :) LOL

As everyone told me, you'll be fine but I think they'll be getting some behaviours from the others you may not like...

Marcia (123 blog) said...

I meant, but still not TOO MUCH!

Also, love Beth's comment and Mandy's

cat said...

Ah, it's tough but twins also need to socilaize in a bigger group, to make their own friends and reinforce their individuality. Mine went to school at 3 and it was a good choice

Johanna said...

I'm sending you an email. :)

Cuz I'm the mama! said...

I have no advice, but thanks for posting this because it's been helpful to read through the comments. Our girls have a mid-September birthday -- so they will be almost 6 when they start K. I'm struggling with when to send them to pre-school as well. It's such a hard choice when it comes down to it.

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

As you know, I sent the Crazies when they were 2. Some people thought I was nuts, but you can definitely see a difference when they're in class now.

I think it will be great for them and great for you. You'll still have time to engage in the play you want at home, but they'll be exposed to things you haven't thought of. Seriously...it's amazing how creative these teachers are!

Lastly, I'm sure that if you're not sending them this year, you'll send them next. My mother taught for 30+ years and said you can definitely see the difference between kids who went to preschool and kids who did not. It's important.

strongblonde said...

i was just talking with rebecca this week about this. i'm late to this discussion, but wanted to reinforce that only you can make the decision. i know that you will make the best decision for your family.

we've decided on the stepped approach. this year the kids have been doing "school" one full day a week (we drop them off around 8:30 and pick them up around 3:30). and they LOVE it. in may we're going to two days a week and we're going to see how that goes. we'll prob stay at 2 days a week for a year and then see if we want to switch to 3 days or half days or what we want to do. in my area kindergarden is full day, mandatory, so that made us think that we should start to try to get them used to that. plus they LOVE it. they ask to go to skoo and see their friends. they love their teachers. they do things that i would never do. :)

you'll make the right decision. but know this: you're already doing a great job!!

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

You can do it! We sent Vivi to a play-based co-op at age 3.5 for two mornings a week and it was wonderful. Of course, her twin sisters were around then and we both needed something that was just for her. I didn't want anything too academic and because it was a co-op I had to volunteer in the classroom a certain number of hours in the school year. It worked out great.

We are sending J&E to a childcare center associated with the YMCA in the fall. It will be two full days but *I* need that. Maybe because my twins aren't my first and only children, I'm just really burned out by being a stay at home mom. We would have done the co-op again but it would have meant double the amount of classroom time and it didn't work out to be worth it.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Also Mandy, if you are considering a public school kindergarten, I would strongly urge you to send the girls to preschool. Kindergarten is NOT the kindergarten we had-- it is basically first grade. There is little time for the social stuff since the national standards are so high. My daughter is in full day kindergarten and her school is considered a good school because they get 10 minutes of recess *most* days. It could be a big shock for a kid who hasn't had a structured environment outside of the home. :-(

Christina said...

For us, it was a no brainer sending the girls off to preschool. Me being home with them 24/7 was not good for us. We need the time away, time for them to grow on their own, and Mommy time, because you do need it, even if you think you don't. :) The socialization was very important for us too. Abby needed it, and Alex needed more then just her sister. This year they went 3 days a week, from 830-1040. They are thriving. The teacher said they both are right on track with everything, and she even said keeping them together next year in the 4's room was something she suggested because they do so well together in class....always knowing each other is there, but also branching out to others. Next year, they will be in the 4's class 5 days a week, from 845-1115...I wasn't going to send them 5 days, but it seemed to workout best now that I'm working from home. :) I hope you find what works best for your family, and 300 a week???? I couldn't afford that....we don't even pay that a month.

Barbara Manatee said...

Well, as you know, I've had my kiddos in a structured program since they were babies due to my working. I think even if I wasn't working though, I'd likely choose to put them in a structured program at least a few days a week. There's lots I can do with them academically and even socially - but there's really something to learning the rules of 'school' and play with other kids when we're not there to run the show. From a teacher's perspective, I think it gives them a lot of growth for school in the future - and since you can choose how much you want them to go at this point, it helps a gradual transition to when they HAVE to go for Kdg.

But, I also agree with what StrongBlonde said - only YOU can make the decision based on what you think is best for your girls. Just b/c it was what worked for us...doesn't mean its what works best for the next person. Your girls seems so well adjusted and curious that i bet they'd love it though!