Why preschool was the best decision for this homeschooler at heart

I love the idea of homeschooling, and have been researching it now for several years. I’ve visited co-ops, met lots of homeschooling families, and been active in homeschool groups online. But I still sent my kids to preschool.

I didn’t actually start out with any thoughts of homeschooling. My son started preschool at 3.5 because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. He had a lot of separation anxiety, so I chose my preschool based on that one fact. And it was possibly my best decision ever. Our preschool had wonderful articles on its website about how they dealt with separation anxiety. That they actually did deal with it, and talk to the kids about it, and let parents stay in the class or in the hallway as long as they felt was necessary. And while we visited and liked the school, it was really that one fact that got us there.

But even once I was interested in homeschool for our family, we stayed at this wonderful preschool. My kids and my parenting have benefited so greatly from being at this preschool and among the teachers and community. And there have never been any worries for me, because the school is a shining example of developmentally appropriate practice. My kids have learned such amazing things that I truly believe will help them into adulthood, through play in this supportive environment.

They’ve learned to speak up for themselves and to stand up for themselves. They’ve learned to make choices on their own, and be responsible for themselves and their belongings. And they’ve learned that they can trust and rely on adults other than me and my hubsand. We don’t have family around that helps care for them, and I want them to know that there are other trustworthy adults that will treat them with respect, take care of them, and even like them! They learned that all their feelings and emotions are valid. They learned to deal with conflict and rejection, all while being coached along by supportive adults. They learned that they can really be themselves and people will still treat them respectfully, even if they aren’t all friends.

I can’t imagine our lives without this wonderful school in it. I feel very fortunate that we we found it and my children were able to attend.


Opting out of standardized testing in kindergarten

I did it! I opted out of the first standardized test for my kindergartner. It is a huge relief to have the letters in and be done with the first of many decisions.

I’d been researching and debating for quite awhile about the state-wide, beginning of year testing. It starts immediately and continues through the first 2 months of school. I searched and found very little information available regarding opting out. There is very little information available about what the assessments really are. I spoke to several kindergarten teachers, and a couple were quite helpful. I spoke to people on opt-out pages on facebook, but had minimal success there, as most focus is on the tests for upper elementary grades.

The test I opted out of is a kindergarten readiness assessment. It is mostly one-on-one with the teacher, and because of that fact, many people seem to think it’s okay. But while the teacher spends hours administering these tests one-on-one, the class has a substitute teacher. So when they should be learning to love school with their welcoming teacher, kids are instead spending their first school days with a sub and being tested on what they know before they’ve learned anything at school. One teacher said that her students do poorly because none of them have been to preschool. But it seems that children like mine, who go to wonderful, play-based, developmentally appropriate preschool are also at a disadvantage. They have not been force-fed early academic skills because that is not what 3 and 4-year olds should be doing. But yet my anxious kid needs to go “show what he knows.” To what end? Parents said to me that they think this testing is a good way for kindergarten teachers to learn where the children are and what they need to learn. But what did teachers do before this testing? They got to know their students. My son’s class will be quite small, which is just a lucky fluke for us in public school. So that excuse holds no water in his class. The teacher can definitely get to know the students she will have without a standardized test.

I looked at our school district website, and there are 3 other assessments expected of kindergarten students before the year is out. 4 standardized tests in kindergarten. Why have we let it get here? I’m writing in the hopes of increasing awareness that these tests even exist, and that we as parents can opt out for our children.


A parent’s view of kindergarten assessment

I posted recently about how we are planning to try kindergarten for my son even though I’d truly love to homeschool. Today was his kindergarten assessment, a 20 minute meeting with his teacher to “tell what you know,” as I heard another parent put it. We did go today, because as I said in my other post, he will have a teacher new to the district and his assessment was with her, so we’d get to meet her. In many districts where we have friends, the assessments are done by a random teacher, and honestly, if that had been the case, we would have been out of town the week of assessments.

I had spoken to the previous teacher to ask if I would be allowed to stay during the assessment due to my son’s extreme separation anxiety, and she said yes. So I emailed the new teacher ahead of time to let her know, and she also agreed it was fine. However when we got to school today, she said if I stayed in the room, she’d have to reassess him again once school started when I wasn’t there. I’m guessing that’s due to rules with standardized testing. But what a way to undermine both teachers, parents, and students. Teachers can’t choose to allow a parent to stand across a room in a spot where the child can’t see him or her? Are we not all adults here? These assessments are assessing where kindergartners come into school. Is someone really thinking we’re going to “cheat?”

I was able to stand outside the room, but still where I could see. I actually don’t know if I was far enough away for it to “count” or not, which leads me to the thought that maybe I should opt my son out of the state kindergarten assessment at the beginning of the school year anyway. Today, he was asked a bunch of academic skills type questions, and maybe that’s the problem with me staying…that I’m not supposed to know what was asked? Again, something is wrong with that situation as well.

I liked his teacher-to be. She seemed kind and interested in getting to know my son, and we had a pleasant conversation after the assessment. But the whole interaction left a sour taste in my mouth. So many of the points I worry about with formal schooling came up just in this quick half hour at the school. Early academics, parents “needing” to be away from their children for schooling to “count,” the homework assignment we received today that has to be brought back on the first day of school.

There were also discouraging events surrounding these assessments, like the parent of my son’s classmates humble-bragging on facebook complaining, but also letting everyone know their 5 year old is already reading. Other parents comparing notes on whether they got “feedback” on how their children did. Because, you know, school is one big competition, right? And maybe you’ll say I’m just worried or jealous because my child is reserved in new situations and isn’t reading yet. Maybe that’s even a little true. But it doesn’t make it any less true that I have real reservations about the culture that I’m sending my child into. It’s going to be a big culture shock for us both, I’m afraid.

Why this Homeschooler at Heart is giving kindergarten a try

 

I am a Homeschooler at Heart.   But I’m planning to send my oldest to kindergarten in the fall. And to public school. While I am doing so full of trepidation, the positives outweigh the negatives for now and we’re going to give it a try. Here’s why:

Freeimages.com/Daino_16
Freeimages.com/Daino_16

Half-day kindergarten—We live in a suburban district that offers both free half-day kindergarten and full day kindergarten that costs about $300/month. My son will go half-day, which is about 3 hours per day. It’s the only year he has the option to go to public school on a part-time basis, basically. He’ll still have time to do other things during the day, and plenty of down-time and play-time.

Small class size—There is only one half-day class at our neighborhood school because most parents choose full day. Therefore, half day is housed in a very small room, and the class-size is capped at 15 students due to size contraints. So far, we’ve heard the class will only have ten students this year.

Other kids—Strangely enough, 4 other kids from my son’s wonderful preschool class will be in his half day kindergarten class, even though the preschool is not in our community. That means, not only will he know them and feel more comfortable, but there will be 4 sets of parents with the background of this wonderful preschool. They are people who know and are willing to stand up for how children learn best and make sure that they are treated with respect.

Observation—My son and I both have been to the school to observe the kindergarten classes. I went without him and then took him with me more than once. While it took a lot of calls to initially explain what I wanted to the principal, she eventually agreed. And we were comfortable with the teacher he was to have. Unfortunately, there has been a last minute change and he’ll have a brand new teacher. And we learned just today that there will also be a new principal. But I’m leaving this in the positives list because it did influence our decision.

Confidence—Even if we end up homeschooling, I want my son to know that he can handle school. I want him to have the confidence to know if he has to stay in school or has to go back one day after homeschooling for a period of time, that he has done it before and survived, or even thrived.

We’ll all know—My husband and I haven’t been in public school in a long time. Much of what I read leaves me very hesitant about the school experience these days. Our neighbor friends constantly talk about how much they love the school, but much of what they talk about are after-school programs that I don’t even know my child will want to participate in. But we haven’t tried it, or experienced it first hand, at this school. Once we’ve tried it this fall, we’ll know a lot more. Maybe we’ll all love it. Maybe we won’t make it through an entire school year. Only time will tell.

I know there are arguments to be made against what I’m saying from both sides. Veteran homeschoolers will say we shouldn’t need to try public school to know that homeschooling is what we want for our family. And school families might say that it doesn’t sound like I’m planning to give it much of a chance at all. But the best part for us is that no decision regarding schooling/learning needs to be permanent, so we will work toward figuring out what will be best for our family.

Homeschooler at Heart

About a year ago there was a post online discussing school options. Someone there used the phrase “homeschooler at heart” and it really resonated with me. I realized I am most definitely a homeschooler at heart. Does this knowledge mean I’ll homeschool my kids? I don’t know yet.

What it means to me is that I know I could. I know that my kids would be fine without school in their lives. It means I want a life for my family where we spend more time together than they spend with other adults. That my husband and I get to decide how and where we spend our time. It means that I know my kids can learn everything they need to know from me, the other adults in their lives, and outside resources we can access for them.

It comes down to both freedom and trust. Freedom to be in control of my family’s schedule. Freedom to let my kids be kids. Freedom for them to follow their interests in depth rather than learning what’s going to be on a standardized test. Freedom from doing something just because everyone else does it. Freedom to travel if we can. Freedom to discover who they are free from the confines and pressures that come with typical school. Freedom to develop at their own pace.

I trust that my children were born to learn and that they are learning all the time. I trust that when their brains are ready to learn how to read and write, they will learn. I trust that all of us learn best when we are interested in and enjoying what we’re doing. I trust that my kids will learn what they’ll need to be successful adults even without school. I trust my children to make decisions about their own interests and lives and to have a say in what and how they learn.

We have a lot of decisions ahead of us. But as far as schooling and learning go, no decision needs to be permanent and we can always try something new. And there is freedom in that fact, too.