[personal profile] jenn_unplugged
Does that even make sense? I've gone back and forth about putting Carter in preschool, and every time I decide it's not time yet. For one thing, we have an AMAZING nanny, and I want to hang on to her as long as possible. This semester, I'm organizing my schedule so that I work two days a week (all day, 7-5) and then spend the other three days at home with Carter.

I'm a strong believer in unstructured play-based learning for little ones, so I'm not really even sure that there is a point here. Carter knows a lot already, and he's learned it all just from play. He can identify the entire alphabet and is starting to be able to tell me what letter a word starts with just by sound. He can count to 12. He can identify at least 10 different geometric shapes. He can identify many, different animals and can replicate the sounds they make. He knows all the standard (10 or so) colors. He loves books and drawing and coloring and sign language. He's just starting to get into imaginative play. Et cetera.

So that tells me that what we're already doing is working fine, and that I don't need to worry about changing it up or adding any structure. And that's the whole point of unschooling, that kids can learn everything they need to know just by playing, and that adults should watch for opportunities to build on children's natural curiosity rather than impose artificial structures and concepts on them. We go to Gymboree play and music classes every week, and Carter has a swimming lesson once a week. He gets lots of time to explore and play outside, and has plenty of toys and books to play with inside. I try to go out somewhere with him most days, so he gets lots of stimulation.

But then I look at fantastic blogs like No Time For Flashcards and I think about all the cool things I could do with Carter to enhance his learning. But then, he's learning just fine already. You know? I have no idea what to do. My instinct is to lean towards unschooling approaches, but there is something in my mind that keeps suggesting I start making it more formal, like doing a "Letter of the Week" kind of thing.

Wisdom/validation from other moms would be appreciated. :-)

Date: 2010-01-11 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anise-anise.livejournal.com
I think that what you're doing sounds fantastic. At this age children learn mainly by play anyway, and most people choose preschool just for socialization, but it sounds like he's already getting that from the gymboree classes and such. I taught preschool for five years and the two year old class was more or less daycare. They just aren't ready for a structured school day at that age. You'll be amazed at the changes you see in him over the next few years, they grow so fast. So my advice would be to keep doing what you're doing for now. I think it's brilliant that you get to spend most days with him, and your two days working will give you a bit of time to get away and be you, not just a mom, plus it gives him breaks as well. Unschooling works just fine for kids Carter's age. I homeschool now, and we follow a curriculum, but Gage is 11 and needs the structure, well we both do really, to keep us on task and focused. I say follow your instincts, they're most often right, and spend as much time as you can with him. They're only babies for a short time.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
This part-time working thing is really great for me! Of course, there's still a bit of guilt about leaving him a couple of days a week, and when things get stressful and I'm working through every nap and in the evenings, I start to ask myself why I'm doing this for the measly amount of money i actually make (after paying for the nanny). But then I have wonderful teaching moments and great days at work, and it's all good. :-)

I do feel like he's doing just fine the way things are now. Thank you for the validation! :-)

Date: 2010-01-11 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] violane.livejournal.com
We're kind of in the same boat. Ben knows far and away more than I know to be a part of any of the preschool curricula that I've observed, and seeks out knowledge on his own, so I haven't had to really teach him anything. The main reason I'm considering preschool is that he doesn't get a lot of socialization with kids his own age. Neither of us really enjoy classes, so we haven't done a lot of those recently, and I don't have a lot of friends in the area with kids his age. I had planned to put him in preschool next year, just so he could get exposure to people with different interests and ideas than I have. I am still investigating options, though. We're not religious, and most of the local preschools are. I was in Montessori as a preschooler and my mom remembers me not particularly enjoying it. So we're still batting options around. If I had a wonderful nanny for him that was more organized than I am (because I'm not, particularly, and so he might benefit from more structure than I give him), I probably wouldn't bother.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Yes, exactly. Carter's nanny is fantastic, and she has started trying to do more structured things with him every now and then (art, mostly) to see how he responds. Her approach to child care is completely aligned with my parenting philosophy, so it's basically perfect.

But you know how it is -- I'm sometimes a little unsure about whether or not he should be "doing" more. :-P

Date: 2010-01-11 05:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ahurani.livejournal.com
It sounds like he's doing great with what you have now. I agree that as long as he's getting socialization somewhere, he really doesn't need more structure...I think at this point the structure would be more for the parent/caregiver if they're not as good at knowing how to teach based on what he's playing at the time (this would be me, though Liam's with a nanny every day during the week).

I often worry about whether Liam's learning enough, specifically because the whole teaching small children thing doesn't come naturally for me. But that's a wonderful website, I've seen it before but had forgotten about it. It has great ideas for crafts that I should really try out on the weekends.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
We (Carter's nanny and I) have both tried to do some of the activities there with Carter, and he's just not ready for a lot of the more artsy things yet. He's still at an age where he wants to explore and experiment, and so making pictures with a particular goal in mind really doesn't work well! The sensory tubs are good activities right now, but they really need to be done outside, I've learned. :-P

Date: 2010-01-11 05:47 am (UTC)
ext_3190: Red icon with logo "I drink Nozz-a-la- Cola" in cursive. (waldorf)
From: [identity profile] primroseburrows.livejournal.com
You should definitely have a conversation with [livejournal.com profile] patchfire. She's homeschooling her kids and is really good at it. :) Also, I highly rec Waldorf-inspired stuff. Early childhood in Waldorf is all about letting the kids learn by watching adults and using freestyle toys and doing entirely non-artificial stuff.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Ah, thanks! I've been doing a lot of reading on early childhood development, and it's fascinating stuff. The more I read, the more I just want to stay out of his way! But then I start to worry that maybe that's not enough. Argh. :-P

Date: 2010-01-11 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sukidee.livejournal.com
Will is going to be 5 in a few months (ack!) and he hasn't been to any kind of preschool or other structured setting. We've always just let him learn things on his own, or like you said, "look for opportunities" to teach him. He is also rather smart for his age, has a lot of curiosity, and a huge imagination.

Mike and I have toyed with the idea of continuing homeschooling (he REALLY wants it, I'm about 50/50), but I think we're going to send him to public school starting with kindergarten this fall, and a big part in our decision is the lure of the Kalamazoo Promise (free tuition to any MI college) :)

Date: 2010-01-14 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
I have taught in public schools and am now a teacher educator, so I obviously have a strong commitment to public education. But, since I'm a teacher educator, I also have a strong sense of what is wrong (and what can go wrong) in public schools, and when I think about Carter in one of those kinds of classrooms, I really start to entertain the idea of homeschooling.

I seriously doubt we'll go that route, though. I just don't see it happening, for a variety of reasons. But every now and then I read about the cool things homeschooling coops are doing around town and go, "oooh."

Date: 2010-01-11 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] handstil.livejournal.com
I do lots of montessori at home and we're set to start just two days a week for three hours, at a local montessori/waldorf preschool. The only reason I feel compelled to put E in school is because of his developmental progress. It feels like a good idea to have him in a position to model his peers. I plan to homeschool/unschool for elementary school.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
You live south, right? I've heard good things about that W/M school, but it way too far from us. There is a fantastic preschool up here (Terra Luz (http://www.terraluzpp.com/)) that I will probably look into in another year or so. I want to see what happens if we have another baby first, and then figure out how that will change things. I keep thinking I might like to have a little alone time with a new baby every now and then. I have no idea...

Date: 2010-01-14 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] handstil.livejournal.com
We're North-Central, the preschool is called Natural Child

Date: 2010-01-15 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Oh, cool! I'll have to put it on my list of things to check out when the time comes. :-)

Date: 2010-01-11 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sassywoman.livejournal.com
I would re-eval this when C is three. We have not put Emma in any type of preschool and she is almost three. I really don't sit down and teach her in a structured format. Like you, we just explore, talk, read, go out etc... so I think what you're doing is fine. I put Emma in a Mother's Day Out program at our church when she was 18 months more for socialization then anything and ended up pulling her out because from my observations it was just a rowdy play environment that really didn't offer her anything that I couldn't do at home.

I want to put Emma in part-time ps just two or three mornings a week in the fall when she's 3.5 because I do think at that age she needs to start having some structure, practice with listening to other adults, interacting with children during her play, etc... the preschool we are most likely putting her in is a cooperative preschool meaning a parent is required to volunteer at least once a month (more volunteering = a reduction of tuition). I really like the concept of parent involvement. It makes me feel like if parents are volunteering in the classrooms everything is right out there in the open and I will know what Emma's daily activities etc ... through my involvement in her room and other rooms in the school.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Yes, Carter will be 3.5 before we would likely enroll him in anything, and even then it would be only part-time. I want to wait and see how things will work out child-care-wise when/if we have another baby. At this point it looks like we'll have our nanny at least for another year, but she's about to graduate and is weighing her own options. It's complicated!

Date: 2010-01-12 07:15 pm (UTC)
telemicus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] telemicus
I think you could wait til 3 and be fine, but I am an advocate for preschoolers getting to spend some time playing with other kids with no adults within reach -- we did Gymboree too and it is good, but my kids preschool gives him lots of free play with kids his age and it is invaluable. I think like with language learning etc there is a sensitive period when kids needs unstructured play time with other kids or they never develop necessary social skills, and I think waiting til 4 or 5 is honestly bordering on too late.

Date: 2010-01-14 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
I know a lot of people who homeschool who would probably disagree with that, but I do think that if your child is going to be in school, they will definitely benefit from learning some of the social skills they need for school before they start kinder. Of course, a generation ago, that's what kindergarten was for, right? It was meant to ease the transition into school after kids had been home with mom for the first five years of their lives. Interesting how things have changed...

Date: 2010-01-14 10:08 pm (UTC)
telemicus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] telemicus
Oh I know my opinion is not a popular one :D You might like this article, sent yesterday from the head of my kid's preschool, where its ALL playplayplay

My and my cognitive psych PhD think that kids need those social skills (and a chance to learn them at 3 or 4 yrs old) regardless of whether or not they are going to be homeschooled, they will eventually go into the world, and from the homeschooled adults I know, there is a sensitive period for unsupervised socialization skills and they have missed it.

Just my 2cents btw, I don't mean to sound snotty.

Date: 2010-01-15 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Thanks for that link! I reposted it to FB after reading it, actually. Since I'm a teacher educator, I see a lot of that sort of thing firsthand, and it's frustrating to watch idealistic young teachers get sucked into the accountability machine that is public education these days. But now that I'm also a parent, it's a whole new level of fear. :-P

Preschool is a fairly recent phenomenon, and so I'm guessing that traditionally kids would get lots of chances to interact unsupervised with other kids even while staying at home -- neighbors, cousins, siblings, and so on. But these days we live much more isolated lives, and I can see how that could be a problem.

And hey, that wasn't snotty at all! My PhD was not in education, and so I always like to hear from people who actually know more about this stuff than I do! :-)

Date: 2010-01-15 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
Thanks for that link! I reposted it to FB after reading it, actually. Since I'm a teacher educator, I see a lot of that sort of thing firsthand, and it's frustrating to watch idealistic young teachers get sucked into the accountability machine that is public education these days. But now that I'm also a parent, it's a whole new level of fear. :-P

Preschool is a fairly recent phenomenon, and so I'm guessing that traditionally kids would get lots of chances to interact unsupervised with other kids even while staying at home -- neighbors, cousins, siblings, and so on. But these days we live much more isolated lives, and I can see how that could be a problem.

And hey, that wasn't snotty at all! My PhD was not in education, and so I always like to hear from people who actually know more about this stuff than I do! :-)

Date: 2010-01-15 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scrtkpr.livejournal.com
Hi! I keep meaning to reply to your entries on the subject of education, because I've been doing SO much thinking on this subject in the last couple years. I don't know if you remember the ages of my kids, but I (now) have a 7yo, 5yo, and 3yo. (You met the 3yo when she was 18 months old.) We really struggled over whether to put our oldest in Kindergarten, finally did put him in public school, and, for a variety of reasons, were incredibly unhappy with what the schools here had to offer. So this year I've been homeschooling them!

As far as preschool, for my older daughter, I went with a play-based preschool that's just an hour and a half, two days a week. She absolutely LOVED it, and I think it was good for her. There's a good chance I'll put R in the same program next year (she has a late birthday, so she'll still be 3).

Date: 2010-01-15 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenn-unplugged.livejournal.com
I went with a play-based preschool that's just an hour and a half, two days a week.

That's exactly the sort of thing I would be interested in for Carter in another year or so. I want him to have a chance to play with other kids in a rich setting, and just a few times a week for short bursts. I'm not looking for day care -- I really want to make sure that this will be something that enhances his learning.

Wow, was she only 18mo then? She seemed so much older than that at the time, heh.

Date: 2010-01-18 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] merrywandering.livejournal.com
I haven't read through all the comments, but I'll just say that I'm of the opinion that any kind of "educational" program for kids under the age of 5 is a waste of time. Young kids learn best by play and exploration. Our job as parents is to foster and encourage the joy of discovery and exploration, and to expose kids to a variety of experiences (depending on comfort level, interest, etc, etc.) His interaction with you and the other people in his life is far more important than any so-called educational program.

And really, what does it matter if they know their ABCs and colors by age 2 or 3 or 4? That stuff isn't hard. It's not like they have to learn it by age two or they'll never learn it at all OMGWTFBBQ!!!!! What matters more is their interest: are they interested in coloring? or playing with blocks? or singing songs? Sam took a long time sorting out his colors, but by god that kid could name every kind of construction vehicle by the time he was 18 months old. When I realized that, I didn't worry so much about academic things like ABCs and 123s. I knew he'd pick up on that at his own pace, and he did.

If you fret about these things, just remember: the country with the highest literacy rate in the world is Finland, and they don't teach kids to read until age 7.

All that said, Sam of course is in daycare/preschool because I have to work. He really enjoys it, loves his teacher, his fellow students. Over Christmas holiday he would wake up every morning and ask, "Go to school?" I think preschool is fine so long as it's not overly-academic in orientation, nor just parking them in front of the TV. They have lots of activities at Sam's school, but it's not highly structured or enforced.

So my opinion is: whether you homeschool or preschool ultimately matters far less than the attitude you take to it. Emphasis on play and discovery rather than academics and "education."*

(You already know all this. I'm just trying to reinforce you! :D)

*Ask me sometime if interested, and I'll tell you about a very interesting study on preschool and parenting.


Date: 2010-01-18 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] merrywandering.livejournal.com
Oh yeah: cute story about trucks and colors. Somewhere - probably school - Sam picked up "John Deere green." Now every shade of green is "John Deere green." But my cousin works for Caterpillar, so I've been trying to teach Sam "Caterpillar yellow." He has so far failed to asorb the lesson.

So you see? Go with the kid's interest, not your idea of what you think they ought to know!

(I'm still hoping he'll get "Caterpillar yellow" before our family reunion next summer, though, or I'll have some explaining to do to my cousin....)

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