Preschool Dilemmas

I know that all of you mommies out there have strong opinions about education, and ladies, I want to hear them all. I have a preschool dilemma, and need some thoughts. We enrolled my 3 three year old in a Baptist preschool this year, and it has turned out to be a wonderful thing. Top on the list of good things is that I get to have 8 hour to myself every week, and believe me, I live for those precious child free hours! But I think it has been a good thing for the boy, too. He now talks about his friends, the activities he does at school, and the things that happen there. Granted, he's not learning rocket science, but I do think there's a lot to be said for the fact that he is learning how to follow directions, how to sit still and pay attention, and how to interact with other kids. So, all in all, we've have been thrilled. Ok, here's the dilemma. They have raised the price for next year by 40%. That's a huge jump, right? And really, our finances are slightly stretched as it is, so we've decided that we definitely can not afford to continue this particular preschool next year. So I guess that leaves us with the following options: 1) Find another, cheaper, preschool. I have no idea how plausible this is, having not done the necessary comparison shopping. 2) Start some kind of "joy school" with other families in the ward. I have never done this, and wouldn't know where to start. Thoughts or suggestions on this one? 3) Do some kind of home school, academic based preschool stuff with him on my own. Again, no idea where to start. Home schooling advocates, please advise! 4) Keep him home and let him drive me crazy all the time until he's five and I pack him off to all day kindergarten. Or military school. Depends on how much he poops on the carpet between now and then (sorry, you just can't keep poop out of a post on mommyhood!) 5) Start my own preschool here. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! INSANITY HAS ARRIVED! Like I said, lots of you moms seem to have serious opinions on this, and I want to know them all. Every single one. Don't leave anything out. You can even include more poop stories if you want. We're all mothers here!


Blogger Amira said...

Well, since I'm one of those homeschoolers, I'd have to vote for that. But I know it's not right for everyone. This is just what has worked for us. The benefits you stated at the beginning of your post may well not fit in with homeschooling very well.

I'm homeschooling my 4yob and almost-6yob. I haven't ever felt a real need for formal preschool for several reasons: 1)they have learned much more at home than their friends have in preschool; 2)they are learning many of the polite niceties in Primary and tae kwon do (like following directions); 3)they have each other to play with; 4)they have lots of friends, and I think it's better for children to play in less formal situations as much as possible; and 5)it's so darn expensive.

We aren't very formal for preschool. Reading is the only thing I really think is important to work on, and if one of my boys were struggling with it, I'd not have worried about it till they were closer to first grade. I have taught them using _Reading Reflex_ and by just having them read to me lots.

That leaves lots of time for fun things. We invited several children over each week to do science experiments and other projects, and that was a big hit. We also play lots of card games and do puzzles. My boys love to do projects, so I just keep craft supplies around for them to do things on their own. I make sure they have time to do their own "school things" when they want to. My older son loves math, so we started on a cuisenaire rod-based math program a while ago. They also love playing geography and family history games.

We mostly just have fun, but I still get my time alone since they are so close and play together most of the day. We also do tae kwon do, and that has been wonderful for my older son. I think TKD has been a better situation than any kind of formal schooling would have been. If I had just one child though, I might rethink things. Probably not, but maybe. :)

And one more thing in this too-long comment. Homeschooling saved our relationship. My older son is a bit of a trial, but we get along *so much better* when we are doing school regularly.

3/14/2005 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I think, Heather, that you need to separate out your various needs, and then look at what will best meet those needs:

(1) You need time away from your child. Best solution: find another mother and set up two playdates each week, one at your home and one at their home. (Without this type of thing, I never, ever could have written my book.) You'll find that when they are at your house, they won't need much of you, and it is the ideal time to get your housework done.

(2) You want your child to be academically prepared for kindergarten. Read to him. That's it, really. Be sure, when you go to the library, to hit the kids' NONfiction shelves, too. These are often overlooked, but there are great books on everything from the moon, counting, to making maple syrup, to why we need to sleep, folktales, etc., etc., etc.

(3) You want your child properly socialized. Primary will pretty much cover this, but you could also go to storytime at the library or bookstore (lots of sitting and listening in a group), etc.

As far as a 'joy school,' I did this once (not the joy curriculum, but we made our own). It's not bad, but for someone like me who likes consistency, the constant shuffling of assignments due to sickness, travel, etc., was very annoying. But that's just me.

Like Amira, I support all sorts of different choices. But it irks me to no end to see young, not-wealthy LDS families forking over tons of money for preschool, when that isn't essential. These are all legitimate needs, but there are other ways to meet them than preschool.

(Although it isn't essential, if you want some suggestions for things like science projects, math games, etc., books for this age, I'd be happy to tell you what we've used.)

3/14/2005 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

1. Preschool generally has no academics. I work with numbers/math/patterns, letters/phonics/reading, science, etc. at home with my children. Do not expect anything more than a letter of the day, etc. from preschool unless its an ivy league preschool. But they do get good exposure to things like the weather, the calendar, brief letter and number practice stuff for kindergarten.
2. Preschool benefits for kids are:
Learning how to be away from home
Learning how to follow school rules
Learning how to participate in a group setting (waiting in line, raising hands, waiting for your turn, everyone doing the same activity, singing, listening to instructions, listening to a story, etc.)
Paint/playdough and other art activities that moms can't do as often as kids would like
Learn independence and making choices of things to do
If you can get things done mopre effectively while your child is gone then you can pay more attention to them when they are home.

That said, I don't think preschool is nessessary. If one can't afford it, I don't think anyone should feel bad. Kids go to Kindergarten soon enough.
We decided we could afford one year and one year only for each child. So we did the 4 year old year of course. It was $140/month. The previous year I signed my daughter up for gymnastics once a week for 3 or 4 months for a total of about $130. She was ready for something, but I couldn't commit to $110/month for preschool. If I had not been able to afford preschool, I would not have felt bad.
I did not choose the cheaper co-op since I had a younger child and did not want to find a babysitter for the baby so I could go to school with the older child every single week. You might want to check into co-op options. They tend to be cheaper and you get to be very involved. Some co-ops in other areas I've heard might be once every 3 weeks, instead of once a week like here.
I was never interested in Joy School because I had a younger child. That makes it much harder.
I find that when we have playdates I supervise a lot. Without the supervision, they might be learning to play badly with each other. And while there is social practice, it doesn't do the other things of preschool. Some kids play together better than others. I do plan playdates in addition to preschool which is only 6.75 hours/week.
I would look for a cheaper preschool that you could afford.
Another thing I noticed was some friends who signed up their child for a preschool at age 3, their child was bored with it by sometime the second year.
Go ahead and work on academics with your child. I love to do that. With my 5 year old we have made ice, melted ice, boiled water....learned all about the planets....we are working on reading....we make patterns....we work with numbers....we do addition. It is fun to teach them things. Last year I opened the trunk and pointed out the gas, water, oil and engine (that's the extent of my knowledge) but it was so fun to share!!!!
My school district has a website and they clearly list all the curriculums of the elementary school. Knowing what your child will be learning will help you know what to focus on in the preK year. For instance, you may not know that patterns are in Kindergarten math.
If you are considering having your child go to school at age 5, preschool this year would probably help ease your fears. If you are going to have him wait, you are facing 2 more years of preschool and that is a TON of money for stuff that really isn't totally important. You could invest that money and pay for his freshman year of college instead.
If you play to wait for K until age 6, then maybe take this year off and then send him to preschool the following year.
I did have a friend who signed up her Nov. b-day kid for preschool right before he turned 3. (My kid is 3 weeks older). She didn't even think about the fact that her child was going to have 3 years of preschool. And her income could NOT support that. Yet she was just so excited to do things like that. She kept signing up kid #1 for this and that and this and that. She didn't do it for kid #2. Because it just made no sense if you couldn't afford it. So she conveniently forgot that her first ever had all that at such a young age. They have no money, and for what she paid in 3 years of preschool, I just wish she had something to show for it other than a divorce, no assets, and an ADD kids and an ADHD kid who are both a mess.
Signing up for preschool doesn't make you a good parent.
ANyway, pace yourself and consider the big picture. Is it worth it to you, to him. What are the benefits now and what are the benefits long term for using the money for preschool.

3/15/2005 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Heather - here is the website for Joy school http://www.valuesparenting.com/joyschool/index.php

Look it over to see if you think it's something you can do.

3/15/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

We did Joy School for my second daughter when she was 3 -- it was a good experience mostly with socialization, since the program was mostly values-based (learn how to share, learn how to love, learn joy, etc.). It's a cute program, but not an academic one.

One of the mothers in our Joy School group is an elementary school teacher, and looked over the Joy School pre-K cirriculum. She found it lacking, especially in today's world. Thankfully, she offered to design a preschool cirriculum for us, and to teach the kids herself (including her son). My daughter loves it. It's cheap -- she charges a nominal fee to cover costs -- it's in her home, it's with my daughter's friends. And I feel like she's really learning, not just playing.

Is there anyone in the ward, or that you know that would be willing to do something like that?

I do agree with jks -- contrary to popular belief sending our children preschool doesn't make them better students later or make us better parents. But, in today's world, I've found (especially in the DC metro area) that there isn't anyone around for your kids to play with unless you send them to preschool.

3/15/2005 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

oh -- I almost forgot. Because of the No Child Left Behind Act, many school districts are starting Pre-K programs. Have you checked to see if your local school district has one?

3/15/2005 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Heather O. said...

Thanks for all the thoughts. Julie, I'd love to hear what you've used. You can email me at hbenn99@aol.com. I think it could be fun to do important activities at home, and yet I really do feel pretty clueless about where to start, not being a totally creative gal in this area to begin with. There is a reason that when I worked, I worked with 90 year old stroke patients, not autistic 5 year olds!

As for the socialization, there is a pretty good group at church, but we are struggling just a little bit to get integrated into this neighborhood. I think that will change a little bit when the weather gets warmer and all the SAHMs get out there at the park with the kids, but right now, I'd have to say I'd be pretty hard pressed to find a mom who could trade play dates. I suppose I just need to be more aggressive, like putting out a sign that says, "HEY, MY KID NEEDS FRIENDS! COME PLAY AT OUR HOUSE!" Maybe I'll the E.T. thing and lure them in with Reese Pieces.

3/15/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous JLewis said...

Now keeping in mind that I'm your spinster friend with no kids of my own...I actually think it might be interesting to explore the open your own preschool idea. Honestly, you're an incredibly intelligent woman and great with kids and if you could do everything needed to be in line with state guidelines then you'd be good to go. Plus, you already have your target audience identified - parents who want good socializing, some basic schooling, good moral guidance, and not cost an arm and a leg.

3/15/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

'I suppose I just need to be more aggressive, like putting out a sign that says, "HEY, MY KID NEEDS FRIENDS! COME PLAY AT OUR HOUSE!"'

We moved here 2 1/2 years ago and my kids quickly made friends..I'm the one who needs the big sign, "I NEED FRIENDS, BUT DON'T COME PLAY AT OUR HOUSE - IT'S A MESS."

On a more related note, thanks for posting about this, Heather. I'm in the same situation and very back and forth on the issue. The comments have been very helpful, thanks everyone.

3/15/2005 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Heather O. said...


Wow, you've got a lot more faith in me than I do! It is an interesting thought, though, isn't it, the whole starting my own preschool thing. I am getting licensed to practice speech therapy here in Virginia, so maybe I could get around the whole educational certification thing and call the whole endeavor something vaguely therapeutic like, "Group developmental linguistic treatment". Then the parents wouldn't have to say something boring like, "I'm sending my kid to Heather's basement for preschool." They could say something exciting like, "My kid is seeing a developmental specialist and getting group linguistic therapy!" Really, we'd still be playing ring-a-round the rosy, but hey, it's all semantics, right?

3/16/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

What you might want to consider is starting a "Late-talkers" preschool or even a playgroup for SAHP and late talkers.
I may have been a little more pro-active than average, but parents with speech delayed kids are desperate to find kids who are in the same situation, and parents and professionals who can give support and knowledge.
EI can only do so much. And not all insurances cover speech therapy. And it is expensive.
Many parents don't know about early intervention, or worry about the school district labeling--which is a funny story by itself, really. Or you could just do summer sessions while the school district is off (ours doesn't provide services during the summer).
You could easily try advertising through pediatricians. Explaining your credentials and give them flyers to hand out to parents who are worried about their child's language. In the flier you can specify that its for kids with only language delay. Since you'd have just you as the teacher, a larger range of developmental delay would be difficult. You could even advertise in SLP offices. I always read the fliers and they have lots of workshops, etc. although ASD has much more stuff up there than other speech delay diagnoses.
My son's preschool at age 3 and 4 through EI had one "regular" child. The regular child interests just fine with the late talkers.
My daughter who is 2 years older than my son, seemed to get along with him wonderfully despite the absense of speech. And all of his friends knew he couldn't talk and easily accepted it. It was so cute one day in the speech therapy waiting room, my daughter started talking to a child, when the child didn't respond, she matter of factly asked the mom, "Does he talk?" because to her, it was normal that some children just didn't talk.
Or would you consider teaching a class for parents of late talkers. I went to an SLP taught class (through EI) that used a Hanon textbook (mostly, plus some UW movies you can find online). It taught parents how to encourage language. That class was great. I bought the textbook for my bro and SIL because their premie son is now exhibiting speech delay.
Anyway, I'm sure you wouldn't make a ton of money at these options, but it is something to consider.
Those things would have been on my wish list.
I would put my baby daughter in something like that in a heart beat. Even though she has started talking, I still worry. My oldest got to 1st grade and they said her speech & language was behind--not enough to do anything, just enough to check on her again next year. What!!! I mean, I always knew that they had the same strengths (early readers, good at math, very logical and literal) and the same weaknesses (verbal communication & social) but I didn't know I had to worry about her too.
OK, so I quit worrying, mostly. And I held my breath until baby Kate said her first words and then gave a big emotional sigh of relief (but of course I did that the day I she was born and she was a girl--speech delayed kids are 80% boys).
This post is too long. Stopping now.

3/19/2005 03:29:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Those are great insights from a mom who has been through it all! Thanks for the suggestions-they certainly give me a lot to think about!

3/20/2005 08:26:00 AM  

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