Please tell me I'm not 'harming' my 3 1/2 year old. No preschool or structured classes right now. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey all, I guess I'd like to hear your input and hopefully some validation.  I have a 3 1/2 year old ds.  He's funny, sensitive and fair with a huge imagination.  All but one of our friends with kids has their kids in private pre-k.  300-400 bucks a month average.  It's about 4 hours a day 3-4 days a week.  Most of the kids started around 2.  I know it's as much so the parents have a break (all these families have at least one stay at home parent) which I understand.  Now it's getting to the point where the other parents are so proud that their kids can count to 20 and say their abc's and write their names.  I've been asked what I'm going to dobe when ds is so far behind.  I've gotten the 'look' b/c he doesn't know all the words to a music class cd.  

 

Am I really setting him up to be 'behind'?  He is just finishing up OT and even the OT wants to know when he starts school.  Let me say that he won't be eligible for kindy for another 2 years b/c of his b-day and that very few public schools have pre-k and that's it a lottery system to get in.  At this age isn't it o.k. to learn through play.  We aren't in front of the t.v. all day.  We work in the community garden, walk to the zoo often, go to the natural history museum often.  He knows how to use dh drill and wrenches and 'fixes' things around the house for me.  He can count and is starting to recognize letters, but only because he asks when we're reading and we trace numbers for fun and use them in games.  I don't sit down and 'teach' him anything.  He can tell you the differance between a carnivour and herbivour and their physical characteristics.  He is an energetic 3 year old and behaves beautifully.  He had trouble with speech so we worked on giving him words when he was frustrated, honestly we have very few behaviour issues (and he finished speech hterapy).  Yesterday he made a cowboy set up out of gardening apparel and yarn.

 

Please somone tell me I'm not setting this precious boy up to be found 'less then' in a couple years.  I'm afraid the pressure to push him into something formal is going to escalate and I'm already doubting myself.  Or maybe I am making a parenting mistake.  Ach, I'd love others' input. 

 

 

*please excuse grammar/spelling mistakes :(

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#2 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:13 AM
 
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most of the literature i have looked at suggests that children learn far more at that age through play, not from classes.

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#3 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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My limited experience actually suggests that the kids who are left to learn more gently and naturally are happier and learn more quickly and freely than the ones who were pushed.  Granted, that's only comparing our unschooling friends' kids (and ours), to our schooling kids' friends.  But, one group wants to learn, the other thinks school is the place for learning. 


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#4 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:23 AM
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You are not harming him.

 

He has OT.  He is out doing things with you. I think that is just as important, if not moreso than formal structured preschool.

 

 I didn't have my daughter in any academic classes at preschool age.  She had some "baby gym" and one messy art class.  Then we had a couple of very loose dance classes.  I did those because that was something she really enjoyed, and I don't have that equipment at home.  

 

She's now 6, we homeschool, and she's a perfectly normal on track kid. :) Playing with and being with him is far more beneficial than having him in a classroom, IMO.  He will have plenty of time in a classroom where he won't be outside working in the garden.  Enjoy the pre-school years!! 

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#5 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:43 AM
 
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I also wanted to say that I often think about what is important (to me) for my kids.

 

I am mildly interested in them being "on track", but more so because I don't want to deal with the state or nosey people if they aren't.  It's not for my children's sake; it's for mine.

 

It's important to me to protect my children's natural selves, and to allow them time to be little.  I want to give them the chance to have a carefree childhood, apart from deadlines, schedules, and the general rush and flow of life.  I don't wa nt to introduce them to the politics of a classroom at a tender age.  I value independance and free thinking.  I don't want to "can" life for them, and make them like the others.  Etc.

 

So, even if my children were falling behind, while it would be hard for me, the things that I truly value would take precedence.  And, those things can't be found in a classroom. 

 

(I also consider how much it seems people "used" to know, compared to know.  I don't know very many people that are skilled at very many things.  I don't know very many people who know a lot about a lot, if that makes sense.  And, the ones I do?  They learned it in their free time away from school, or as adults on their own.  I just don't value a traditional school setting much.  If you look back through your own mental files, you may find that your school experience wasn't quite a necessary, either.  Maybe not, but I look back and see a whole lot of nonsense and wasted time.)


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#6 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 10:52 AM
 
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I run a play based preschool.  I find that kids who come to me from a structured preschool or school are unable to play without being given something to play and taught how to use it.  Then, they only play for a short time and lose interest.

 

I think it's sad to take the play out of childhood.  

 

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#7 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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You should read this article:

 

http://www.drmomma.org/2011/11/what-should-4-year-old-know.html

 

and if you want to delve into the subject more I highly recommend Einstein Never Used Flashcards.


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#8 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 11:46 AM
 
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I think you have had some good answers to your question and you can be confident in the choices you've made for him. 

 

Something to think about regarding the other parents. You wrote:  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by faithsstuff View Post

Now it's getting to the point where the other parents are so proud that their kids can count to 20 and say their abc's and write their names.  I've been asked what I'm going to dobe when ds is so far behind.  I've gotten the 'look' b/c he doesn't know all the words to a music class cd.  

 

 

It's natural for parents to talk about their children's activities (and to be proud). So if those are the things that their children are doing, that's what they will talk about. You can talk about all the interesting things your child is doing too - they will just be different kinds of things. Rest assured, some of them will question whether they've made the right choice and whether their children should get involved in the same things that yours enjoy. 

 

It becomes obnoxious when it turns into a competition, but you can choose whether to compete. It's okay to acknowledge that everyone has amazing, wonderful children who are doing amazing, wonderful (but different) things and move the conversation to some other topic. 

 

It also becomes obnoxious when the conversation changes from "what the kids can do" to "what they aren't doing" - and why - and questions what the parents are/are not doing about it. It's okay to ditch that conversation too and change the subject. The quicker, the better, really. 

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#9 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 11:56 AM
 
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I also feel that young children should not be spending their days on academics.  But I do think there is great benefit in providing them the experience of playing with a regular group of children.  I feel that with my first we shared a beautiful little world together- that was sorely lacking in opportunities to become comfortable with other children and their different ways of being.  And then when time came for school she had to spend a lot of time figuring out social things that most of the other kids already understood.  A play based preschool or playgroup can really enrich kids lives without hurting their love of discovery and imagination.    

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#10 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 12:00 PM
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I think you can get them social activities without spending $300-400/month on preschool though.  Around here the play based preschools start at $400, which was *well* out of my budget.  I did have a group for friends that had babies of similar ages and we had playmates from the time the kids were little.  So, I think there are a lot of other options than preschool to make sure you child has social connections.


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#11 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the responses and links!  Just to throw this out there- he's very social, and active with other kids. If he wanted to join a class I'd go for it.  He wanted to do ballet but one of the older girls (maybe 5) told him he couldn't wear a tutu, he decided to do ballet at home instead.   :)  

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#12 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 02:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by faithsstuff View Post

Thanks for all the responses and links!  Just to throw this out there- he's very social, and active with other kids. If he wanted to join a class I'd go for it.  He wanted to do ballet but one of the older girls (maybe 5) told him he couldn't wear a tutu, he decided to do ballet at home instead.   :)  

LOL... he just wanted the tutu?  My daughter was sad too when she realized there were no tutus in ballet class.  (just the recital if you are lucky)   Ballet is hard work, and no tutus... it's a bummer.

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#13 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 06:17 PM
 
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I didn't start my first child in preschool until he was turning five (bday 9/14) and he did preschool for a year and then went upstairs for kindy at his montessori when he was turning six.  We wanted him to be on the old side for his grade rather than young, but by this year they said it was up to us whether we wanted him to be in 2nd grade or 3rd grade -- 2nd being where he'd be if he was doing one year at a time for each grade.  So, he had more than caught up, and really by the time he started kindy, he was completely on par with the other kids his age, most of whom had started preschool at 3 or 3 1/2.  It was particularly interesting to me because my son has always been very anti-academics.  If he could tell that we were even coming close to talking about letters or numbers, he didn't want anything to do with it.  I don't think he knew nearly as much about letters and numbers when he started at five as your son does now.  I think maybe he could count to ten and sing the abc's but could not recognize any written letters.  He also couldn't hold a pencil properly and had no interest whatsoever in drawing, coloring, painting.  I was worried!  lol  But by the end of that year, like I said, he was right where he would have been if he had done preschool for 2 plus years.  He was reading for cripes sake!  That's pretty impressive given that he didn't recognize any letters just a few months earlier!  


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#14 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 08:49 PM
 
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No, your ds will not be behind. 3 1/2 is super young to push academics and developmentally many kids are not ready to read and write. Learning through play is great. Your ds will learn and grow no matter if he goes to school or not. Everything will even out after a few years anyway even if some kids are counting at 3 and some aren't. Don't worry about it and enjoy your time together.

 

My dd didn't go to preschool or kindergarten btw and hasn't been less than anyone. We decided ultimately to homeschool but she really isn't that different from other kids her age. She is naturally interested in and better at some things than others so comparing to other kids is very overrated.
 


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#15 of 24 Old 06-08-2012, 09:29 PM
 
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Sounds like you're an unschooler by nature!  He'll be fine.  Better than fine!  He'll have enjoyed his time with you and have a love of learning.  That's awesome!  Go, mama!

My dd is 3.5 too, and she doesn't go to preschool and had never taken anything but swim lessons until this spring when she decided that she wanted to take gymnastics.  She did the class, but doesn't want to do it again.  She's 'on track' and then some, being that she's started to read.  We have a rich home life, which includes going out into the world at large, to parks and playdates and Science World and the aquarium and libraries and festivals and more.  It's all good!


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#16 of 24 Old 06-09-2012, 08:02 AM
 
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If you didn't have all the other parents wondering about your son in relation to their children, or hearing about what they can do, would you be even remotely worried?

 

There is enough research done that shows that delaying academics can be beneficial for kids-- even beyond the preschool years though that is not what you are asking about.  The trick is--as you have found-- escaping all the quasi-judgments without second-guessing yourself.    

 

It sounds as if the parents are excited about their kids, and it's unfortunate that you are feeling pressure from them to follow the same path.  I would definitely follow their excited comments with your own about your day (and I would desperately try not to make anything but the sweetest, most genuine responses, quashing my own urge to be snide or passive aggressive..... grrrr!)

 

I will say about the unschooling comments, (and I am indeed an unschooler): delaying academics has its *own* benefits, outside of "unschooling".  I say this because USing can suggest a lot of other things outside of just letting a 3yo play and learn within that context.  Of course, if that does sound like an interesting option beyond just delaying formal learning before kindergarten, please, join us in the USing forum and find out more about it.


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#17 of 24 Old 06-09-2012, 12:40 PM
 
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I think you're doing great!

 

Having had one of my children in both speech therapy and OT, I did get the impression that some people in this field seem very fixated on the idea of school as the place to be, and "the earlier the better" for children with any kind of a special need. So I wonder if the speech and OT therapies have been where you've been feeling some of this pressure.

 

I don't know if your child has any special needs, but since you mentioned both speech and OT, I wondered if you might have had a similar experience to mine. My 7yo had both speech and occupational therapy for several months a few years ago.

 

We unschool, by the way, and I do sometimes encounter some prejudice from people who are more fixated on kids being at "grade level." Some people think the relaxed, child-directed approach is only suitable for kids who are developing typically, and/or are ahead of their age groups in every respect, and that kids who diverge from the norm need to be "standardized" in some way.

 

It's sad when people are in such a hurry to "standardize" even every small children, and, of course, I don't think anyone should be standardized and made to conform -- but it seems like this is one trend in America right now. Thankfully, Americans have about a gazillion other trends to choose from and, all in all, I'm very happy to be living here where we have such a tremendous amount of freedom to act in our own children's best interests.


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#18 of 24 Old 06-09-2012, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You know, I wish I could give each of you a hug right now. Thanks for all the responses.

 

 We went to a community organizing event  today where child care was provided so ds spent 5 hours with 2 caretakers.  Not only could they understand him (speech therapy rocks) but the older women couldn't stop telling me how 'smart' he is and kept giving me examples.  I guess sometimes it's nice to hear, you know?  I mean it's not imperative that he's 'smart' it's more important that he's empathetic and shares.  But still ;)  

 

I do understand that the other parents are thrilled with their kids and often just want to share their daily successes, I totally get it.  That's starting to change though, to concern (from others) that he's behind, and an assumption that he needs to be in a classroom with another adult to teach him these skills (that we as parents aren't qualified).  I wonder where we learned this and learned that learning must take place in the classroom for it to be valid?  Kinda sad.

 

*I think maybe some of this doubt is coming from being pregnant again and a little afraid of how a second will change our family*

 

I sat down with dh who was shocked to hear my concerns about ds and myself as a mother.  We talked about what we want to give our children, what we want as a family and what we want to be creating in the world around us.  It was a good exercise to remember why I'm doing things and even who I am within the context of mothering.  Thank you for those who made comments leading to some self examination, I needed it ;)

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#19 of 24 Old 06-10-2012, 05:03 AM
 
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My child is 6.5 and has never been to a preschool or had any structured classes or activities.  Actually, she's never been away from me unless you count being with other adults whom she trusts and knows well like my parents.  And you know what?  She's much more emotionally secure and academically well-rounded than her friends who have done the whole preschool-since-age-2 thing with a billion out of home activities afterward.  The children we know are so very stressed and burnt out, whereas my daughter is greatly looking forward to starting her first ballet class this Fall.  Your son is so little.  Just enjoy being together and do lots of fun, enriching play and activities, and he will thrive.  At 3.5 we started doing weekly nature walks and instituted painting day with dd.  We read lots of books and played.  As homeschoolers, we deal with a lot of judgment about what we do, and usually I frame my response in the context of not wanting to send her to school because we enjoy each other's company so much, which at it's heart is the primary reason we do what we do.  At some point all children take an interest in more "academic" pursuits but when they are little it just really doesn't matter.  You can always say something like how you strongly feel the value of "real world living" for children's development and how you like to incorporate your son into the larger culture.  Then, you can give examples about how next year he'll be learning all about how to take care of another new human being--a monumental and wonderful task!  If your mom friends continue to look down on you I would honestly suggest moving on or mentioning your feelings to them--that you feel in some sort of "competition" and that's making you uncomfortable.  I would also recommend reading the Waldorf-inspired blog The Parenting Passageway  as a way of re-affirming your ideas and of creating a healthy family culture (her blog also has a nice search feature!).


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#20 of 24 Old 06-10-2012, 07:35 AM
 
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I don't know about you, but I second-guess myself, when I seek opinions from people who are almost certain to validate what I want to hear.  Ex.:  When I was a first-time mom getting some pressure to go to work full-time, all my working-mom friends assured me full-time daycare would make my kids more independent, more ready for school, and show them that their mom can have a career just like their dad.  Yet, considering the source, I still found myself wondering if that was the right choice.

 

On the whole, the Mothering community is not as mainstream as the friends you describe, who've all had their kids in preschool since they were two.  Plenty of members here would support never putting your son in school or giving him the kind of structure you find in classes and programs for preschoolers.  I'd hate for the "crunchiness" of this source to leave you second-guessing the reassurances you get here, that what you're doing with your son now is absolutely fine and arguably better than having him in classes.

 

I'm fairly mainstream.  My husband's and my older 3 kids all started preschool shortly after they turned 3.  They're in middle and high school now and have always attended conventional (as opposed to home) schools.  So, somewhat like your real-life friends, I appreciate the benefits preschool and a bit of structure can give.

 

I also know preschool is not critical to a kid's development and that our older kids' enrollment was not 100% for their benefit.

 

I was heavily pushed to enroll my oldest (twins) in preschool by the time they turned 3 because they received OT, PT and speech through First Steps and (here, at least), starting at age 3, these services are provided through your neighborhood school's special ed dept.  Our neighborhood school would only send therapists to preschools, not to people's homes.  I could probably have appealed that, through the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But I was only 25 and didn't think of that.  In fact, I worried that I'd be shortchanging my kids somehow, if I didn't enroll them in preschool like everyone else did.

 

I'm not our middle child's mother.  I think his mother (who was more involved, when he was preschool-aged) put him in preschool because she was a first-time mom and that's what her best friend across the street was doing with her son.

 

All three of our kids made friends in preschool.  They took fun field trips.  They learned some things that we, their parents, might not have thought to cover at home (like counting in Japanese, or reciting the months in order).  

 

Did preschool fundamentally change their innate abilities (or challenges) in making friends at the park, or in kindergarten?  No.  The twins were still on the Autism spectrum and will always struggle with social nuances.  Our middle child (who lived as an only child until he was 8) still struggled with sharing (both toys and friends).  Preschool did not affect this one iota.

 

Did preschool fundamentally change their academic readiness?  No.

~~ The twins learned to read early because both parents and all their grandparents are avid readers and everyone read to them and played literacy-related games almost constantly; and the twins liked that and had an aptitude for it.  Decoding written language early did not change the fact that they have learning disabilities - including comprehending and retaining what they read - and will always struggle in school.  

~~ Our middle child had the same preschool teacher as the twins, but learned to read late.  At home, he was not read to nearly as much and preferred a lot of gross motor activity to literacy-related activities.  Reading late did not change the fact that he's innately very bright and, by 4th grade, was reading on an 11th-grade level.

 

Did preschool fundamentally change their ability to adapt to classroom expectations in kindergarten?  No.  It still took the twins a lot of repetition to adjust to new routines, every time they changed teachers throughout school.  They're Autistic.  Defiant kids will challenge teachers' rules, whether they first have a teacher at age two, or at five.  A cooperative child will adjust to classroom  routines in kindergarten, whether or not he's ever been in a classroom before.

 

Being attached to you, spending time with you, getting out around other people with you (at the zoo, park, library, store), is infinitely more important to your son's development than anything someone else will teach him two or three mornings a week.  Enroll him in school or don't.  Regardless, he will learn what he's ready to learn when he's ready to learn it, as long as he's exposed to things and his interests are encouraged.  Three-year-olds who would otherwise spend all day every day in front of a TV would be better-off attending preschool.  But if you offer to read to your son; if you ask him to help you measure things when you cook; or count how many squirrels you see on your morning walk; if you notice and respond to what interests him; if you involve him in the daily routines of your family (help set the table, help get the laundry out of the dryer, time to brush teeth, time to water the plants...) he will be as ready as he is personally capable of being, whenever he does enter school.  You're doing a fine job, Mom.

 

P.S. Our youngest child won't be starting preschool until the fall, when he'll be 4 1/2.  And that's mainly because he's interested in school, since his older brothers all go every day; and he wants more friends and play-dates.  To facilitate that, I need to get to know more moms with kids his age.  So he'll be going to a co-op.  It's only 3 mornings a week, for two hours.  And my husband or I will be there with him a lot.  

 

Co-ops are usually cheaper than other preschools, because the parents run everything on a volunteer basis.  Teachers have the only paid positions.  They're also a great environment for making friends who might share your parenting priorities a bit more than your existing friends seem to.


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#21 of 24 Old 06-11-2012, 02:37 PM
 
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OP your son sounds fine to me.  I agree with pp that there is no particular reason to push learning to read or whatever this early.  Sooner or later your kid will read, do arithemtic, and whatever; it really doesn't matter if it's at age 3 or at age 6.  Best if he learns it because he has reached the point in his own development where he is truly interested, rather than being 'taught' to do it because that's what the adults around him deem appropriate.

 

By the way my DD1 has been in Montessori day care/preschool since 18 months because DH and I both work ft.  I think she benefits a lot from being there but not for any instructional/academic reasons, rather the social experience of being with a regular group and learning to make friends and negotiate with others.  That I think is really useful, but learning numbers/colors/abcs?  Nah.


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#22 of 24 Old 06-22-2012, 04:43 AM
 
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When this became an issue for us a few years back, I argued back with information from David Elkind's The Hurried Child.  Elkind's Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk is another great work.

 

Being able to recite a song means absolutely nothing, IMO.  Sounds to me as if you are right on track!

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#23 of 24 Old 06-22-2012, 08:01 PM
 
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My DD was in Montessori since 2 years old and  now she's going into first grade.  It was never about academics for us, however, but rather an environment for her to feel safe and wonderful despite the fact that her loser parents both worked and she'll probably be permanently damaged because of that.  Snark.  I did see a  lot of parents, however, who thought that preschool was the beginning of the entrance exam into Harvard, and it was disturbing to me on a lot of levels.  I found this to be true of both stay-at-home parents and working parents in my area.  There's a super amount of competition because everyone is so success oriented.

 

My DD had her strengths in certain areas, and being the type-A person that I am, I really had to hold myself back,  OP, from certain expectations that I had for myself and my incredible desire for her to succeed in life!

  

I keep having to remind myself that she is a child.  I keep having to remind myself to not place my own expectations on her.  She learned to read at 5.5 but on her own terms.  Because we allowed her to achieve that on her own terms, she is excited about it and totally into it.  Again, we work outside the home, so our experiences are very different from the majority here at MDC, but we totally believe in child-led learning and it has worked so well for us.  It is the same for music.  I was essentially beat into submission on music lessons and I hated playing music for almost 30 years.  It should be about the joy, IMHO.  


"Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Charles Lamb.
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#24 of 24 Old 06-25-2012, 10:43 AM
 
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I'm sure I'm just repeating previous posts but I think everything is more than fine. My dd is 5 and has never ever been in any type of daycare or preschool. I homeschool now for kindy and she is doing great. 

I will gently say to you that you might want to examine your feelings towards early academics since these comments about being behind seem to be bothering you. It's not going to harm him to learn these things if that's what you want and you can teach him abc's or 123's or anything else you want all on your own without spending $$$ for school. 

I'm not saying it's better to do early academics but just reassuring you that it's possible without sending you child to school. Starting at 3 y/o I took a 20 minute block of time most days to do a little bit of structured learning with dd. It certainly didn't interfere with the other twelve hours a day she spent playing with toys, meeting people and going places with me. 

I don't believe I've harmed dd in any way because she can read now. However, I also don't believe that someone who waited until later for academics has harmed their child either. They'll both be fine! And so will your child no matter what you choose. Listen to what you feel is best and tune out the rest! 


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