As a parent, I'm tired (what else is new, right?). Not only am I tired because my child won't sleep, but I'm also tired of all the stuff I'm told I should be doing, am not doing right, or haven't done. I constantly feel pressure, and one thing I don't want is for my daughter to feel that pressure, too. The rare times I do feel a sense of calm and achievement is whenever I come up with a routine or answer that helps my daughter through a tough time, or when I teach her at home and she figures out her shapes, the continents, and how to spell her name. It's the external pressure that can cause things to get a bit overwhelming, and I don't know about you, but I'm tired.
I've decided to not enroll her in traditional preschool — aka the cutthroat, perfect preschool race that happens way too often — right now.
So, what am I doing differently? A lot! But what I'm focusing on is education, or more specifically nontraditional education. As my daughter is quickly approaching the 2-and-a-half-year mark, so are the questions about preschool. Am I a bad mom if I haven't given it much thought? I feel guilty about that sometimes, but other times I think I'm doing just fine. Getting through the day to day of parenting is hard enough, and truthfully, I have an almost impossible time planning for the future. I want my daughter to get a great education, but I've decided to not enroll her in traditional preschool — aka the cutthroat, perfect preschool race that happens way too often — right now. In the area I live, you can pay upwards of $5K a year for preschool, and your child will most likely be on a waiting list for at least a year before they're accepted (if they're accepted).
Of course, I'm not ignoring her preschool needs entirely. I've enrolled my daughter in classes and activities for socialization — classes that encourage play, kindness, and a love for the outdoors (though these are looking different these days). I can already tell she's a creative explorer and performer. She can't sit still for long hours to draw lines or listen to stories. She has a huge love for reading, but it's on her own time. She's got a free spirit and loves a sense of control and choice over a situation. Most call it strong-willed, but I call it spirited with a huge love for life. I'm concentrating now on keeping that spirit alive and by giving her an education through the one thing she loves most: play.
Another reason for forgoing preschool right now is traveling, which has been by far my biggest teacher. I've learned languages, cultural sensitivities, and appreciation for the world around me. I've learned how to juggle my time, to be calm in a variety of situations, to adapt, and to be kind and respectful of all people. This is what I want for her. We've been traveling since she was 11 weeks old, though that's been put on hold amid COVID-19. But I'm saving my pennies, because she's getting closer to the age where she will not only remember these experiences but will also learn and grow from them.
If I was to enroll her in an expensive, best-of-the-best preschool, I would feel like I'm not giving her the education I think is important. How will she learn her shapes? I want to use the architecture in Paris; I'll teach her to find triangles in the mountaintops of the Himalayas and watch her create her own shapes in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. She'll learn history at the sight of ancient ruins like Machu Picchu and will learn to count to 100 by counting zebras grazing in the Great Serengeti. This is my plan for her, once we can hop on a plane. This is my dream for her.
I haven't put a label on what I hope to do for her education, at least in the preschool years, nor have I figured out what will happen after that. Kindergarten? Maybe. But the thought of attendance records and testing make me squirm a little. What is really best for her? Honestly, I haven't figured that out yet, like many of us haven't. But I am willing to swim against the school of fish and find our own way.
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