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Education – Help Me Out (Please)

Macy M38 comments614 views

This has been a big topic for me lately.  Hazel is 2.  There is a lot of pressure to start her in pre-school (starts at 3 now).  I don’t remember it being that way!  I don’t feel like she is ready.  She is just starting to explore things on her own and figure things out in her own way.  I’m not ready for her to go to a pre-school and learn how to be taught. I want her to be a kid, find her confidence and figure things out in her own time and in her own way.  I feel like the learning she is doing now is bigger than colors and letters… and that jumping the gun just to get those could set her independence back… at the same time, two of the higher ranking schools (if we go that way) open up next year with their pre-k, which she pretty much needs to attend to get in (there are only 7 spots for those who don’t attend the pre-k and a lot more applicants)… and registrations are coming up… this choice I thought I had a couple years to make is being thrust on me early and I don’t like it!

If you have 12 minutes, watch this.

So, no, I don’t base big important life choices on a Youtube video but I remember the first time I watched that, years before I had, or was going to have kids, it resonated hard with me.  Then I have friends who teach school who tell me they wouldn’t want their kids going to school where they teach, that it isn’t designed for all kids, just most.  And I think about what I want for Miles and Hazel.  Like any parent I easily say that I want ‘the best’.  But then I wonder what that is…

edu-options

Right now I am looking at the options of public school, charter school, international charter school, online schools, home schooling and even unschooling.  I think the child’s experience is based on the personality of that child and Hazel has already proved she is not at all like her dad or I when it comes to personality and so we would be doing a disservice to dictate her experiences based on ours… I just keep going over the options and I want my kids to think outside the box.  I keep wondering if the best way to enable them to think outside the box is to teach outside of the box… and what should that look like…

I know that the people reading this are rarely parents but I am hoping for a few… maybe some empty nesters??? 😉

I would love to hear from other parents, or interested parties, in the comments (please):

  • What was your child’s educational experience?  
  • Are you happy that you chose/had that education for them?  
  • What would you do differently if you had it to do over again?  
  • Would you have made different choices if you were in the position to not work some of those years?

I have actually be doing many a circles in my head with these thoughts, one day I might get bold and share the other website I made where I have been sorting through this stuff… For now it feels like a more personal life choice that gets criticized more than tiny houses… so I am a little guarded, probably until I actually make that choice and feel like I can defend it.

Thanks for the help!

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Macy M
I am an artist, a steward, a minimalist at heart... I love being out in the sunshine... I love animals of nearly every kind, at least the furry ones, I am trying to be a gardener... I believe people are good at the core but are also capable of very bad things when they aren't intentional about their actions... I love my family, my passions and my life... I am just me :)

38 Comments

  1. I don’t have anything to offer other than camaraderie in having the same questions/concerns/fears/ideas since we also have a two year old. Interested to see what others have to say…

  2. Macy, I’m not a parent, but have many friends with children and have helped raise some of them as an “aunt” or “second mom”. As you say, every child is different. If Hazel doesn’t seem ready for preschool, I say don’t push it on her. You will know as she gets older what type of schooling is right for her. It may involve some trial and error, too!

    I have one friend with two boys who chose un-schooling, because it best fit their personalities and helped to focus on their strengths without making them struggle with their weaknesses. Another child I am very close with (my “nephew”) attends public school, because they have a great gifted/talented program that he thrives with and he is very social and loves the environment.

    Sometimes you need to try a few different things to find what works. One friend tried several types of school before finding the best fit for her son. He has now graduated, but it was a struggle – not because he was not bright, rather he was too bright but had social anxiety and other struggles in the environment – she was a single mom so home schooling was not an option for her as she worked long hours to support them. But had she had the support she would have chosen home schooling for him supplemented with some sort of group to try and help gently socialize him.

    I really applaud you for thinking carefully about this! And I also know that you are bright and if you choose to home school or un-school, that Hazel will benefit greatly from that – as I also know parents who are not at all equipped to teach their own children but insist upon doing so.

    You may make mistakes along the way, all parents do! But, you will find what is right for your child(ren), and regardless of any criticism you receive, when you find the right thing you will know it. Just trust your instincts as you’ve been doing all along so far!!!

  3. I would suggest you avoid words like ‘perfect’ and ‘must’ and stop overthinking it. My sons – now in their mid-20’s – have done just fine. Both are university grads after public school.

    They both had a year of kindergarten to get into the flow of it, then started grade 1. Prior to that, their mom was at home and they where exposed to lots of books, parks and events, games, art, other kids, and so forth. Their lives had some structure but they could largely just play and explore… it’s not the time for pressure and performance.

    Before 5 or so, kids are biologically still in a pretty sponge-like state – soaking everything up. Its thus ideal to have them primarily around the family but getting social contact too. At about school age, they shift into more beta functioning and are ready to be more focused.

    We tend to fuss over our first-born as we’re newbies to each of their lives chapter points. Notice how you’re more mellow with Miles. It’s fine. Every mother has been there before.

    1. Having two adult children (with very different gifts, needs. and personal motivations), my experience tends to reflect what David writes. I think children need to first explore, find their own ground (so to speak) and then they are ready for a more structured environment.

      Two quotes that helped me out:

      Before I had children, I had many theories. Now I have many children and no theories.

      Do your best (by your children), and hope for the best.

      And a third at adolescence (because it closer than you think)

      When a parent can realize that his or her priorities are very different from their adolescent child’s, the ride will be a bit smoother.

      Love them, hug them and enjoy them. They will learn what is essential for a blissful life.

  4. On home schooling, we had neighbors who did that. The first, their daughter thrived on it until high school, then went to public school. She wanted the social life. The second got into a battle of wills with the mother and developed socialization issues. He was better in public school.

    With our boys, they resisted learning from us. The oldest wanted to do everything himSELF. (laughs) So we knew school was better.

    It depends on the kids but generally, if they fit the norms, school has a lot to offer a home can’t.

  5. Q. What was your child’s educational experience?
    A. My two children are now 25 (girl) and 21 (boy). Both went to preschool and I don’t think it hurt them. The main value I see in preschool is socialization. We taught them phonics, math, colors, etc. at home. Both did very well academically, especially the girl. They only watched Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers during that time and we did not have cable until the oldest one was 12 years old. And this was of course before the internet and cell phone age. They both went to public school and on to college. The boy spent 5th and 6th grade in private school because we felt his English needed extra help.

    Q. Are you happy that you chose/had that education for them?
    A. Yes, basically. We gave them opportunities to experience various activities: sports, music, art – with the hope they would find what would interest them and pursue it on their own.

    Q. What would you do differently if you had it to do over again?
    A. I would not have stressed reading and math so much. (I’m an English major and my wife is a math teacher.) Starting out at the head of the class and later skipping a grade gave the girl the impression she was “special or gifted.” This lead to her thinking she could always figure out how to get her way. Teenage years with her was hell. Many parents make their kids the center of their lives and “sacrifice” for them way too much. Rather, involve them in your interests and let them make mistakes. Trying and failing is a great education; as long as they don’t see themselves as a failure and know you love them unconditionally.

    Q. Would you have made different choices if you were in the position to not work some of those years?
    A. No. The main goal is to help them develop a sense of self worth, respect for others who are different and honesty. This will help them deal confidently with others and feel good about themselves.

  6. When my son turned 3 I put him in an “art class” 2 mornings a week for 2 hours. I felt good about it and he loved it. When that was over we did 3 one hour afternoon activities through parks and rec: basketball, soccer, tball. Whee he was learning was to wait his turn, not hit and other social skills. That was cool and a free hours a week
    The next year we did Montessori 5 mornings a week for 3 hours a day. Basically to continue developing socially. That was so-so. Spent too much money as Montessori isn’t his learning style-quite rigid.
    The next year we joined a co-op and it was hell. The teacher was mean to him. I pulled him and we homeschooled and had a blast. Then I signed him up at the Y a few mornings a week and he enjoyed that.
    Keep in mind, my son is an only child and wanted to connect with other kids socially. That was my goal. He started kindergarten the next year just before he turned 6 at an Open School and it is a pretty good fit. But 7 hours a day is a long time to be with out him.
    I think the only thing to do is trust your instincts. Most public schools are a nightmare. School was designed by Henry Ford to teach kids to be factory workers and pays little to no attention to brain development.
    In an ideal world, I would totally home/unschool and tech my son in a real environment. We’d do regular meetups. But most schools, IMO, have little to do with actual brain development. You’re a tiny house pioneer- as a woman and a mother I encourage you to keep thinking big and trusting your instincts. You know what is best for you and Hazel. You really do. 💖

  7. I have kids in middle school, elementary, and preschool right now. My oldest went to one year of preschool and the others went to two. I don’t think that there is harm or advantage either way. The youngers wanted to go earlier because they had an older sibling/s going. It was just two days a week for a few hours so we sent them and they have all liked it. My kids all go to public school, except for their preschool years. We have had a great experience for elementary. We are surrounded by families of charter school kids and home school kids. Everyone we know who attends charter and home school seems happy with their choices but that has not made me doubt mine.
    I felt very similar to how you are discribing your own feelings when my oldest was little. He was not starting preschool at three and he seemed to be the only one. We could not afford the high price of it where we lived at the time, so he got to wait. Now all these years later he does not care that he did not go, has no memory that he did not go, and does great in school so I’m pretty sure it did not do any damage either. I think if we had decided on the charter route instead of public we probably would have been happy with that, but we would be where we are now and not really know the difference either. I work with our kids at home and in their classes at school, once a week, so I know how they are doing. Teachers work with me, and the school has great programs in place to make sure all the different learning needs are being addressed. I feel like my kids are challenged but not past their abilities to handle it. They have music, art, PE, and multiple recesses a day. It’s been great.
    There is more to learn at school than just math and reading. Learning to be out in the world, listen to people besides your parents, sit next to a kid you don’t really like but deal with it anyway, that there is a time for work and a time for play, not everyone has to think everything you do is great, and countless other things that translate into real life as an adult. Sometimes I worry more about those lessons than learning fractions. I know we can help with the scholastic stuff, but I don’t know how else to teach the life lessons with out having them in a situation to learn them first hand.
    It’s a tricky decision to make and I hope you find what is right for your little ones. Even if it takes a change or two to get there. Because you can do that. Change your mind even after you decide.

  8. I agree 3 seems very young to begin a structured educational journey. At the understand the hoops you have to jump through to get into the better schools in a few years. Do you have an option for a Montessori school in your area? You would gain the benefits of socialization without losing the joy and adventure of learning.

    As a grandmother of a 4 yo and a 4 1/2 yo their parents have made different choices. The 4 yo stayed at home with mom, the 4 1/2 yo went to pre-school. The 4 1/2 yo is more articulate and understands the broader world BUT I think that is more because as the oldest child in his family parents (both geologists) spend more time explaining the world, how things work, reasoning skills, etc. This one loves books and adventure.

    On the other hand the 4 yo (youngest of 4) stays at home with Mom. His socialization is more in the family, at older siblings sports events and a church. He spends more time outside in unstructured learning (play) but also more time with TV.

    They both love dinosaurs but the 4 1/2 yo will tell you about the fossil evidence.

    Whatever you decide stress the joy of learning, reading and exploring.

  9. My son started school in Head start at 3. He did 2 years with that program then started Kindergarten at public school. He has except for a 6month home school break been at public school ever sense. He is smart and does well. However I think if I had it to do over with options, I probably would have homeschooled. There are homeschool social groups and activities that would met his social needs but I couldn’t keep up with work and school. So I had to put him back. It took less time to get the same amount of work done. Leaving more time for exploring other interests. When I put him back in school he actually ended up in a higher math class. So my recommendation would be to think it through. Do you want your children sitting at a desk learning or seeing the world and learning? It is obviously up to you how you raise your kids just do your best for then and they will be great people.

  10. I am a mother of 2 – my daughter is 7 and my son is 4. Neither ever went to preschool, though my son is in a lovely play-based daycare one half day and one full day a week. My daughter is now in public school, though I know that means something different because we are in Canada.

    I so very strongly believe that pushing academics on young children is not only unnecessary, but harmful. Kids have very important learning to do at ages 3 and 4, and it has nothing to do with phonics or numbers. I used to say that my 3-year-olds were learning how to be humans in the world, age 3 is about body regulation, interaction with other humans, and the beginning of emotional regulation. Age 4 is about continuing emotional regulation, relationships and safe independence. And of course there are so many fascinating things about the world still to EXPERIENCE, not draw about at a desk. And kids that age are built to move, and be outside!

    Don’t make sacrifices now for choices you hope will be the right ones in the future. Make the right choice now for your child now, and work with the myriad of options that will be presented later, later. You have made very specific lifestyle choices to save money and be able to be home with your kids now, they continue to need you for years to come.

    “Socialization” at ages 3 and 4 is not a thing. I’m sure you have friends with kids, have playdates, meet other adults, meet kids of different ages. That’s socialization! What more do they get out of a roomful of kids their exact age? And what they need most at these tender ages is a strong foundation of family. My daughter is an extrovert (as am I) so we both loved going to drop-in playgroups together, library storytimes, playdates, park dates, and my favourite, our parent-tot forest nursery (an informal outdoor playgroup.) If you don’t have this type of thing near you, start one. I started a parent and tot knitting group, which was a great success. Most of these were completely free.

    Listen to your gut, don’t give in to pressure. You know what’s best for your kids. And if you are a reader, read articles, books. There’s so much on this topic.

  11. As advanced as kindergarten and 1st grade are today in public school I would suggest pre-k. Kids today are expected to already know the alphabet, colors and how to write their name and some simple math before they start k. Myself I think they are pushing kids way to soon and not giving them the time to enjoy being a kid.

  12. I agree 100% with that video!
    I have a large, blended family. My 13 and 9 year old attend a Classical private school. Both their father and I have college degrees and value the classical model which teaches kids to really think for themselves, as well as teaches based on a child’s natural development. For example, they actually like that teens are natural arguers and teach them how to form a clear and well researched argument. It’s a really cool model.
    That does not work for all!
    I’m equally a fan of Montessori theory, especially for those under 10. The new baby will likely have a blend of homeschooling and Montessori, especially if I am able to stay home with him. I personally don’t like necessitating “sitting at a desk” classroom model until somewhere between 7-10, depending on the maturity of the child. Nor do I agree with compulsory school attendance for kids below 7. They are meant to be kids and to learn at home through play. I recognize that is not always possible in our society, but that’s the ideal in my opinion.
    I also have a 9 year old step daughter that I am homeschooling. Before we gained custody she was bounced around and is very “behind” her peers. With homeschooling I can help her achieve her fullest potential with out dealing with comparison to children that have not been through the same rough start. Only time will tell if she has the traditional academic aptitude to attend the Classical school with her step siblings. But if not, oh well. Not every kid is a book worm. And classical is like any other method; it fits some but not all.
    I do, however, think most all kids can benefit from a Montessori approach in the early years.

    Look more into different theories and models, then ask yourself what fits her best.
    And if it were me, I’d homeschool her for the next few years because they are only small once and you can never get that time back. She has the rest of her life to learn from a book.
    Good luck!

  13. I was a stay at home Mom of two boys, now 24 and 22 years old. Because I never had to put them in daycare, and there were no neighbors with young children, I put them in a Mother’s Morning Out program. I felt it was important for them to learn to be social with other children. Teaching them to share with one another at home is a totally different concept than sharing with kids they didn’t know. They only went 2 days a week for 3 hours. They had both already learned their colors and numbers, etc. because I read to them all the time! The programs were mostly unstructured, with snack and outdoor time being the main structured times. In GA, we have a pre-k program funded by the lottery. It is not as structured as Kindergarten, and allowed them to get the hang of going to “real” school. I think it helps kids who are used to being home all day adapt to being away from home, eating in the cafeteria, and learning from someone besides a parent. I believe this helps to get some of the social issues worked out before the real learning starts in Kindergarten. I can’t stress enough the importance of reading to your children. Good reading skills are the base for all education. My oldest tested as having a 10th grade vocabulary in Kindergarten. His teacher asked if I’d be willing to have him tested because she was so impressed with his vocabulary! He went on to be his graduating class Valedictorian! His brother was always a more “hands on” learner. He loved to be read to, but not reading for himself. He wouldn’t let his brother read to him either. He was a very social child, and needed the interaction with a large group of kids, so he benefited from that aspect of preschool. I think going to preschool helped them have more confidence when they started school. They were ready, willing and able to learn. I’m sure you will make the decision that is right for your children and your situation. There is no one right way to raise your children because they are all different. You just have to trust your gut, and do what you think is best. It’s easy to see what a great Mom you are, because you are concerned enough to ask the hard questions, and entertain others’ opinions. Keep up the good work! You have beautiful children whom you clearly love, and THAT is the most important thing you can ever give them <3

  14. Hi! I’m new here. I’m a new mom, but I’m pretty versed on education as I have an advanced degree in it. And I must agree with my fellow teachers, I would not trust this system with my children unless I’d found a VERY special school with unique administrators, parents, and teachers. I actually am all the more interested in living tiny because I want to homeschool my little boo while keeping a stress free lifestyle. I think that if you feel pressure or rushed, you should fight against that and take your time. Trust yourself. You’ve got this. You built a home! You grew two humans! Youve got this. All that said, thank you so much for sharing your tiny house! You blew my mind with the super large crib and the gated bunk beds in the back. My daughter is 6months and I was both afraid of where she could safely sleep and the high steps in most of the tiny homes that I’ve seen. You’ve really helped my partner and I think out of the box. So thank you! If you were starting where we are, would you just do a shipping container instead first?

  15. I’m mother of 4 and grandmother of 9! Each child is as different as night and day. Thank goodness! With age comes experience. I had to work outside the home when my children were growing up. I think their education was a vicious circle of getting ready for standardized achievement test, taking the test then getting ready for the next standardized test. They missed out on so many life experiences. If I could have a do over I would teach them at home! With all the on line programs, home school groups etc. why would I let someone else teach my children. You know your child the best. You can tailor their education for them. Best wishes and remember what works for one child might not be successful for another.

  16. What was your child’s educational experience?
    I had my two son’s ages now 28 and 24 in public school from preschool to for my oldest Junior high school. At that time I pulled them out of public school and home schooled them until they left graduated high school.

    Are you happy that you chose/had that education for them?
    If I had a chance to do it again,I would ether home schooled or even unschooled them from the beginning. As there was too many labels and destructive teaching/ mindsets placed on them in public school. Which I see affect them even now as adults.

    What would you do differently if you had it to do over again?
    I would get into a group of homeschoolers when they were preschool age. And find the learning style of each child, so I know what makes them want to learn and not kill the desire to learn in the process. And keep on learning with each child so that you can meet the needs of the children. Also since I would be in a group of home schooling families, the children would have more connection with friends.
    As for socialization and missing out on public school types of gatherings. I found my sons are now more at ease with dealing in different age groups. From tiny babies to dealing with the death of senior citizens. I think they are more socially older then most people their age.
    As far as my teaching ability I was a teachers daughter, but did not have a teaching degree. And I don’t think you need one, as if you as a parent can teach your child to use a fork and potty train them then you can teach them math problems as well.
    But like I said before get connected with others in this. As then you will have support and encouragement in the process.

    Would you have made different choices if you were in the position to not work some of those years?
    I did not work during the time they were in school.If I were to do it again, I would find better ways of earning extra income as well as keep my resume up to date when they are done in school. As I did help both of my sons with learning but at the cost of a lousy resume now.

    Side note:
    Small blurp about college and the value in it. The cost of college is going up and costing students more and more debt because of that. I am questioning it now, and wondering if hands on trade skills might be a better bet. instead of crippling debts for years and years later. With a degree that might not be used fully to the extend of the debt amount.

  17. I am a mother of three. My kids started preschool when the were potty trained (they all took their time) and were solidly into their threes before preschool. I was looking for a traditional preschool expirience by which I mean one focused on fun, socialization, and creativity. I was lucky to find that through our local Recreation Department. There was no focus on “kindergarten readiness” which I find to be code for “sit at a desk and start writing letters until you go home”. My boys are now in a charter school focused on natural science and outdoor education. Most of the learning is done outside on field studies. My daughter is still having fun at preschool and one of the coolest things to see is what a good friend she can be.

  18. Hey, I’m Katie. I’m only 17 and I just found your blog because I’m interested in more natural/sustainable living. Obviously, I’m not a parent, but I AM a homeschooler and previous public schooler. Right now I am preparing to go to college. So hopefully my experiences will be of some value to you. 🙂 I apologize as this will be long, but I want to include all the helpful info I can.

    My education experience in public school was not ideal. I was always at the top of my class in elementary school and could have probably moved ahead much faster in a homeschool environment. I have also always been something of an oddball and I did get bullied by a few other kids. As I got older I began to feel more isolated and awkward. Let me tell you, going to public school through my awkward faze was not a good thing. That’s a pretty delicate time for kids and feeling as though I was under the constant judgment of my peers was stressful. This coming from a girl who was always happy to swim against the current. I can imagine it would be even worse for others.

    In middle school I was again bullied, this time by a boy with Aspergers. Now, I’ve known other people with the same disease who were wonderful people to be around, but this boy didn’t have a good home life and he often harassed me. The state gave special protection to him because of his disorder and there was nothing the principal of the school could do, so I was constantly being called disgusting names.

    Fast forward to eighth grade, my first year of homeschooling. Things weren’t all peaches and cream when we started out. We got a horrible curriculum (A Beka Books. NEVER use them if you homeschool your daughter) and my mom tried to teach us like she taught her students (she had been a teacher) which didn’t work because my sister and I were already at the level where we could pretty well do things ourselves. But as the years went by things grew better. I now have a 4.8 GPA thanks to several AP classes, am making exemplary scores on my ACT practice tests, and will be done with high school a year early. I’m not saying these things to toot my own horn, but to show that homeschooling can produce some great results. I’m so so thankful that my mom decided to homeschool me and that I didn’t have to go to the hell hole that public school was for me.

    By no means do I think homeschooling is for everyone, because it’s not. I personally lean toward unschooling and hope to unschool my children some day. Other parents have no choice but to send their kids to public schools and that’s not always a bad thing, some kids thrive in that environment. But I will always advocate home education for the people willing to give it a try and put in the work.

    I don’t want to make this any longer, so if there are any other questions or specifics that you would like from me, I would be happy to answer them. Just let me know. I wish you all the best in making your decision about your daughter’s education. 🙂

    1. Katie! That is especially helpful! I thank you SOOO much for taking the time to write it! If there is anything I can ever help you with do not hesitate to reach out! Good luck in college!

    2. Thanks for writing. I’m a mom of four, ages 3-13. They all (but the youngest) had been in private school until this year. Now at kindergarten, 6th, and 7th “grade levels” we have made the decision to unschool. So far, so fabulous. Love hearing the opinion of someone not far past my kiddos.

  19. My experiences: preschool was awful. I felt as a adult I didn’t enjoyed my childhood as I had to ‘learn’. Didn’t know childhood could be fun. You by far are the best teacher for your children. Let them be.

  20. Macy, you are a conscientious parent who considers your children’s learning styles, strengths and weaknesses when approaching education. Good for you! These are decisions you will continually re-visit as your little ones grow.
    When our children were 4 and 2, we chose to try homeschooling so that they wouldn’t have to spend so much time apart. Our son and daughter were very close and we didn’t want a school schedule to weaken the bonds they’d formed. As they grew and learned together, they stayed close, despite having different personalities and learning styles.
    We kept homeschooling them because it kept working. It was great to go at their pace, and develop unit studies based on their interests. I didn’t give them actual grades until middle school, because I didn’t want them to become “just tell me what I need to know to pass the test” students. Both my children (now 23 and 21) love learning and have a respect for education that many of their college classmates don’t share.
    Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t rush my children into structured classes outside the home. Story times at the library and group activities with friends were the right choice for our family’s pre-school days. I trust that you and James will make the decision that’s right for your family,too.

  21. I cannot help you with the practical choices as I live in Europe, but share and understand your feelings (and I was a pioneer of mommy-blogging in Italy so I read and wrote my share on all issues about growing kids 🙂 ). My children started around 8 months old with nursery school first 2 and then 3 days a week and it always seemed the most natural choice to us, even if in the Netherlands where we live, it is extremely expensive and certainly not your average choice. Point is, they get professional carers who knew more than us on children’s development and care, so I felt they could also help work away the anxieties of young working parents, as they see so many more kids than us developing and could compare. Which does not mean you delegate all, because in the end you know your children much better.

    If Hazel seems to need more time to you, find a way to comply with regulations and give it to her. Maybe she can start next year, maybe she can start one – two (parts )of a day per week now. The only thing you can be sure of: they will grow faster than you are ready for, so maybe something being difficult now, can be totally forgotten in 2-3 months because she grew through it. I sometime have the impression thatt when we get to school choices we young parents tend to thing already in the long term, but we can base ourselves only on how our kid is right now. Only, they change, and we might just as well have a vision for the long term but be ready at the thought that we can change path for now until we understand better how our kids develop and the personality they build. no choice is forever if it turns out it does not fit anymore your kid’s development and needs.

    With the second one and a large home annex my language school combination my husband suggested we would hire someone to baby-sit at home as we even had the material space to do so, and I felt it was not right for the young one, as he would miss the group experience his brother had. Groups where at the time of 9-13 kids with 2-3 carers, and they never wanted to get home in the afternoon as at school they had more (larger) and interesting toys than we had home (plus: age appropriate).

    In the Netherlands they start school at 4 yo, but until 5 years parents are not obliged to send the kids every day. I wish I knew this better, because for nr. one starting school was extremely exciting but also very tiring. I just did not grow myself in this system and thought we were obliged. When I discovered that one mother I knew from nursery school was sending her daughter only 3 hours in the morning so she could relax or take a nap home in the afternoon I could have slammed my head against the wall for not having done the same.

    In the course of the years we discovered both my kids have ADHD and the young one some slight autistic treats, which never stopped them to have tons of friends and doing good at school, but some schools can deal better than others with kids which are not average learners. In Luca’s old school they were a bit rigid in accomodating the more gifted than average kid. Sometime he and the school were struggling while my feeling was more: give him free acces to the library one hour in the afternoon and leave him alone, he will be fine and you will have more time for other kids.

    His new school on the one hand was giving him more space to learn his own things on his own, and giving him the opportunities to “lecture” the class on topics he found extremely interesting, but were also extremely open in changing their average daily plans (Dalton schools work at teaching kids to make their own planning, while my kids needed a more structured approach) to accomodate his way of learning, while at the same time aiming at him learning to work independently as the rest of the class.

    They just realised he needed a longer time of structured work before taking the plunge and were willing to give him the space and the resources. It was a small starting school and sometimes they chose new books to buy for the library based on his interests. They guided us perfectly thought the adhd diagnosis process, getting first experts at school and then being very active and cooperative in finding resources outside school. (Yes,and that Ken Robinson TED talk does not apply to our adhd situation, situation 🙂 everyone was sending it to me at the time and stressing me out, I adore it as general principles but it simply did not apply to us.I send it to others too, though).

    All this happened through public schools as this is the standard in our country. So we got everything reimbursed by our health insurance/public resources.

    Thats why I say I cannot suggest what of the resources available to you to choose as I do not know them. Teachers change every year, so choosing a school because of the one teacher of first class you like is also a short term thing. but it helped me choosing a school based on their willingness and openness to adapt their standars to the individual needs of a child.

    Basically I learn to trust the head of school, if they had experience, a clear vision of what they wanted to get to with the kids and the teachers, and who could manage to get the teachers behind this vision. You see it from the small things. and the head of school should be someone who likes and understands kids. we had our first head who came from advertisement, she was great with finance and networking at a moment the school needed it to get a new building and more resources, but she had no vision and plan and was a cold, unpleasant career tiger.

    The other school we shorlty tried had a great director with a fantastic vision we totally subscribed, except that in the six months between the school choice and the actual moment our son turned 4 and started, the teachers managed to get rid of her as they did not believe in these plans and we started in an interim period. We missed focus and vision and in the end after a few months changed school to Elianto, who kept a few friends from the experience but forgot everything about it.

    So changing schools sound more scary and disrupting to us parents than to the kids if they find an environment that better suits them.

    Good luck

  22. My kids are 8 and 10 now and you are right to not want to send yours to somewhere they’ll be drilled on letters and numbers at 3. Yes, the vast majority of people in the US want this, but a significant minority do not. You are not the only one!

    As a director of one of my kids’ preschool said when questioned yet again about kindergarten readiness “All kids will learn to write at school, my kids will have something to write about”. The push for early academics and test-focussed teaching does not come from teachers and early childhood people, it comes from anxious parents. The people who deal with the actual kids hate it. They recommend that early literacy exercises involve things like looking for details in picture books and talking about stories, not drilling on letter recognition.

    One thing you might want to read more on is that highly rated school you want to get your kids into. It may be that they don’t offer the sort of childhood you want for your kids.

    Some buzzwords to look for in schooling are “inquiry based” and project based”, and for preschool you want to look for “play based”. For schools ask questions about homework and recess time.

    I’ll post this and continue in another comment.

  23. Continued…

    We started with the Seattle co-op preschool system, they are thoroughly play based and really are very phenomenal. There is a blog by one of the teachers of one of the preschools, Teacher Tom, which explains the concept very well. We never found another quite as fantastic, but by looking for co-ops in each city, have found fairly decent play based places. I would have liked to try a Reggio Emilia preschool, but that never happenned. I briefly flirted with Waldorf, but we’re both scientists and my kids were interested in the world around them at an early age and I would have hated to have someone lie about how electricity works or similar. I also was unimpressedwith the social conditiong of the Waldorf schools I looked at. I’m all about the preschool environment pushing being kind and nice and gentle and conflict resolution, etc.

    There are reams of writings about why play is the best way for young children to learn the things they need to learn.

    As for actual school, I am not organised enough to school my kids. I would be teaching in the unschooling style (not radical unschooling, but the sort where the child’s interest is used as a jumping off point for having them learn the things you know they need to learn), it takes a tremendous amount of work and dedication and mental discipline, which I don’t have. You also need to have a child who will learn from you and I couldn’t even teach my oldest to tie her shoes. My second would learn from me, but not my oldest.

    I also could never find a good community when I was flirting with homeschooling. They seemed to be either the christian packaged worksheet type or the unvaccinated freebirthing radical unschooling type.

  24. My word, another comment. Sorry about that, but I feel very strongly about this subject!

    I found a play based preschool in Boise, with an FAQ page which really sums up the philosophy
    http://www.cooperativepreschool.org/#!frequently-asked-questions/cvxo

    One thing to look for when you’re considering preschools is the posted artwork and craft projects. Think of the difference between handing a three year old some precut supplies, and instructions on how to mkae them look like a groundhog/turkey/pumpkin/santa or handing them paper, scissors and glue and just being nearby to help navigate frustration. So, by looking at how polished the arts/crafts on display are you can get a feel for how much actual creativity the kids are allowed. Teacher Tom’s post on hot glue should make interesting reading for you.

    One last thing – it is relatively easy to find a play based preschool, and relatively hard to find a non-testing obsessed elementary school. Don’t discount sending her to preschool and then homeschooling afterwards. Preschools have things like glitter, and huge sets of magna tiles which you will never have at home. They also give that three year old a little space from you, which can be very very very useful, as it is at no other age except maybe teenagerhood.

    Good luck! I’m so glad you’re thinking about this now, your kids will thank you for it.

  25. So sorry for a thousand comments, I’ve been up since 5 and am avoiding getting out of my warm bed, plus I’m a little evangelical about progressive education.

    Googling found this amazing school in Boise, which goes up to ninth grade and has a Reggio Emilia preschool! We live in a massive city and there’s only one Reggio school here, I’ve never lived in a city with one before. It is a beautiful philosophy, I’d highly recommend investigating it. The school is called the Foothills School.

    Some points which impressed me are the talk of having kids learn how to think, not just test well, the vertically grouped classes which help them place kids in the right group, and talk of inquiry and project based learning.

    1. Anny! Your comments are VERy welcome, this is all such GREAT information! I really, really appreciate you taking the time to write it all out! It’s funny, I have no direct experience with Foothills School but I have mentored SEVERAL different schools in the valley and have not heard it spoken well of once… I should have known that means its different and potentially more our style… I will be looking deeper into it! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      1. I’m glad you found it useful!

        Yes, one thing I have discovered is that in schools more than anything else, you need to suss out the perspective of the person you’re talking to. If they have their four year old in Kumon and travel soccer you may not have the same ideals. I use those as hints, but also their thoughts on homework and recess time.

        If open questions aren’t getting you the info you need, try asking about those specific things (homework especially!). Parents boasting of their children’s advancement is a big indicator of a very competitive, rote learning type of school. Parents of actual advanced children don’t boast about it.

        Using judicious questioning of people I meet I can tell you I’d put my kids in the worst rated district here rather than the highest rated. Here, the highly rated districts are all about homework, and Kumon and Russian Math, and competitive sports and padding your child’s resume for Harvard.

        But! You also have to make sure you don’t get so caught up in avoiding the crowd that you run into the arms of a serial killer!

        1. “But! You also have to make sure you don’t get so caught up in avoiding the crowd that you run into the arms of a serial killer!” I feel like we should be friends! I really don’t say that often (or ever) but that is something I would say!

  26. My 2 girls, now in grade 10 and first year university, did not attend preschool. I did, however, drop them off at the Y babysitting service a few mornings a week so they would learn how to separate from me, and so I could exercise too. They both started junior kindergarten at 4, which at the time was half days (2.5 hours). In Ontario, Canada both junior (4 year olds) and senior (5 year olds) kindergarten are now full day. Great for the working parent but as a stay at home mom I loved the half days.

    No school and no teacher is perfect. You can change your mind. I started my older daughter in an alternative school but switched in grade 1 to a french immersion school. Living in a bilingual city this was important. My second daughter would have benefitted from a Waldorf school but that was not in the budget.

    If you want to avoid commercialism and consumerism, I would say homeschooling is the way to go. I could never make a special Valentine’s dessert as the kids brought home soooo much candy every Valentine’s Day from school. They also picked up a lot of “I wants” and “so and so gets or has” etc. I suspect there is less of this in a homeschooling community.

    Assess the situation each year, based on both your child’s needs and wants and your values. Both can change from year to year.

  27. A little late to the party, but we have 4 kids 0 to 10. Currently, we homeschool all of them, but our oldest went to public kindergarten and our second youngest went to public preschool for a couple years (after we decided to homeschool the oldest two). It comes down to you and your kids personalities. If you love being around your kids, and have no desire to pass them off… then don’t do it! They’re only little once. If you’re worried about thier education…. don’t be. The general homeschool guidence for preschool/kg is READ! Beyond that, if your kid is curious about something, explore it. Play math games, build puzzles, cut paper, glue stuff together… It’s very easy and natural for a parent to guide kids through the early elementary years…. with one caveat. If you feel your child is developmently delayed, have them assesed and change course to help address that. (That’s why we had a few preschool years in there for speech therapy.) We’re not anti-school, we just assess one year at a time. I had even looked forward to preschool with our first, but when we had actually experienced public preschool, I was glad we hadn’t enrolled any of our other kids in preschool. It’s been great to have this time together, and I feel that we’ve done a good job.

  28. Iʻm reading your post well after you wrote it. Iʻm guessing by now youʻve decided to keep Hazel, whoʻs turned into a powerful “Princess”, home with you as much as possible. I had to work and didnʻt have the opportunity to keep my son home, even though at the time I knew it would have been best for him. Heʻs now 33, and I deeply regret that I couldnʻt guide and protect him more. He was too young for childcare and preschool when I was forced to send him at 3. He needed me to give give him a couple more years to mature emotionally. He was smart, could read, had an amazing vocabulary, and acted more mature than his emotions could support. He ended up enduring years of bullying by teachers and students. He kept it from me most of the time. It damaged him.

    Follow your intuition. Youʻre an involved mom. You and James are engaged parents, well-educated and able to tell if Hazel and Miles are thriving. Sheʻs going to learn math, colors, vocabulary, etc. from you and the people who surround her. Given the pile of “gifts” the kids received for Easter, Iʻd say there are plenty of people they will interact with and learn from. People who will love them and teach them in kind and caring ways.

    My friend is homeschooling her 6 year old and heʻs thriving. She found tons of teaching supplies and course work for free on Craigslist. There is plenty of info available to help you fill out Hazelʻs experiences and make sure you feel youʻre not depriving her of anything that will affect her development. The suggestions of a few hours a week with kids she doesnʻt know are good ones. Lots of home schoolers form socializing/teaching outing groups that fit that bill. You can be there for security when needed, but she has the option of autonomy as long as each adventure goes well for her. Youʻll also read her moods and know which days are not good days to introduce something new.

    Youʻre a wise and loving mom. Do what you know is best. Things always work out, even when we think theyʻre falling apart and the outcome isnʻt as we think it should be. Avoid feeling later that “I should have…” and do what you feel is right. You already know what that is. Trust yourself.

    Now please go hug those beautiful children that youʻve shared with us all. Itʻs so great to watch them grow from babies!

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