Friday, March 6, 2009

We are So Chic

It has been a very interesting week. Sam started her new pre-school program yesterday.

She did very well, although she was a bit overtired because she woke up early yesterday morning. The day is very regimented: free play, handwashing, snack, "recess", craft time and circle time. I am so excited to have found this entirely parent-run program and am also very excited about my role as curriculum manager. I spent yesterday morning teaching her class with two other parents and yesterday afternoon designing the curriculum for next month.

As we are making these changes in our own lives, I am simultaneously working on a piece for a major magazine discussing the new trends in pre-schools,

Thanks in part to our tanking economy and a movement away from overpressuring our kids, parents are starting to opt towards co-op programs like ours or even towards homeschooling for the pre-school years. Here's why: in Boston the rat race for pre-school is I.N.S.A.N.E. To spend 13k a year on three mornings a week and to stress about how smart one's two-year-old is is destructive and silly. People are starting to realize this.

Yes, the children of these overachieving pushy parents might get into Harvard, but at what cost? Pushing a three-year-old seems ridiculous to me. As I watch Sam gravitate towards reading and art, I am struck by how little I have to do to encourage her. All I had to do was support her and she (at just 18 months) had already picked up the "pre-academic skills" educators recommend for pre-k five-year-olds: letter recognition, shape recognition, color recognition. And yes, she is also reading quite a few words and I have no doubt she will be full-on reading very soon. So, what is she going to learn in pre-school? I hope socialization, how to use scissors and perhaps getting used to a schedule. All of these are things she will gain through this co-op.

Next year we may start a more rigorous (expensive, long waiting listed) pre-school, but for now, I am thrilled with being this involved in my child's education and so excited to have her in this program where she will learn and play and be creative (and not watch the boob tube).

We may even be ultra trendy and bag formal pre-school altogether, choosing instead to follow a play "curriculum" that allows her to explore her own interests. I realize this is not for all kids and maybe Alan will need something more structured and academic, but Sam is a pretty self-driven little girl. It is nothing we did, but she absorbs like a sponge no matter where we are. I have no doubt that if she wants Harvard, she will get there easily without an Ivy League pre-school pedigree.

Us leaving for her first day:


Lis Garrett said...

Kids learn so much through play anyway, so I don't see the need for academic drills and worksheets during the preschool years.

When Jacob was 3 years old, he was in a religious-based preschool that was more academic than play-based (my fault for not thoroughly researching it). He hated it and cried every single time I took him there. One day, the teacher took me aside and said to me, "Jacob is not holding his pencil correctly or practicing his letters. What are you going to do about it?" I looked at her and said, "He's three." And then I told her, in so many words, what she could do with that pencil. I grabbed Jacob and got the heck out of there! He finished preschool at a play-based co-op (which is where Bridget now goes) and he THRIVED in that gentle and nurturing environment. And you know what? He is now above-average in both reading and math in the 1st grade.

When Hannah entered into kindergarten the teacher said to me, "I could care less if incoming kids know how to read or write, because it's MY job to teach them. All I really care about is if they can use the bathroom by themselves, tie their shoes, zip their coats and play together nicely."

Kristi said...

It sounds like Sam is in a perfect place for her. Isabella is going to a play-based semi-co-op preschool in the fall, and I want her to learn the same things you do: socialization and taking direction from someone other than me. I'm writing an article for Root & Sprout on the benefits of a play-based preschool environment, and it's amazing how much research is out there that confirms that this is the absolute best way for kids to learn.