Someday our son is going to be a rocket scientist and our daughter is going to be a brain surgeon.

Okay, an engineer and a veterinarian.

A front-end loader driver and a birdwatcher?

Or maybe a civil defense siren and Tatu from Fantasy Island. “Nee! Nee!” (The plane! The plane!)

Clearly, their interests as a preschooler and a toddler, respectively, are going to determine their life’s interests. Just as where they go to preschool and elementary school is going to determine their success. The options, the opinions and the pressure. All before they’ve learned to tie their shoes. And all before their father and I have been approved for a second mortgage.

It’s all a little… ridiculous. I should not be on Prozac because my son won’t participate in a full-day kindergarten program (yeah, I’m already on Prozac, anyway).

Lest you think otherwise, I’m not a negligent parent (when it comes to education). I like to think I approached our preschool decision with solid advice in my back pocket…

Many moons ago, I worked for an organization that counted among its staff esteemed early childhood professionals. The Ph.D. kind with more years of experience than I’ve had years of life. And you know what they recommended? Learning through play. Imaginative play.

So we (and by “we,” I mean I told my husband what we were doing) chose to send our son to our park district’s preschool, which supports a “learning through play” philosophy. And, despite some parents’ protests that they were lax on academics, our son’s experience was exactly what we sought: he participated in developmentally-appropriate activities, learned appropriate behavior for the classroom, made friends and enjoyed school. Score one for us!

This fall, we enter the big leagues. Kindergarten. You know, where entire academic careers are made or broken. Our community is bursting with options, from exclusive to public to parochial full-day. Part of our master plan in moving back to our hometown five years ago was to take advantage of the excellent public schools. But to back up our good intentions, I all but earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Google.

I have sought international research about full-day v. half-day kindergarten. I have studied philosophies of education: classical method, Montessori method, progressivism, anthroposophy, homeschooling, afterschooling, unschooling. I have read about John Dewey and Francis Parker and Charlotte Mason and John Holt and Neil Postman.

Happily, it’s all led back to our original decision (score two for us!), to send our children to our neighborhood public school, where our son will attend a half-day kindergarten program with peers from (slightly) varied backgrounds. And as I’ve planned, I’ll supplement his education using the methods/philosophies that suit him best. I think he’ll be eager to build his critical thinking skills, to learn from a hands-on approach. We’ll see.

As I’ve said before, he’ll learn his reading, writing and arithmetic. He already knows his letters and their sounds, and can do simple math (especially with M&Ms). My hope is that with our help, he’ll develop a love for learning that will complement his unbridled curiosity and imagination. Thinking, reasoning, questioning, experimenting. Whatever works. If we can achieve that, we’ll all win.

Advertisements