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Monday, August 29, 2005

Preschool by any other name...

Something happened to Toddler in Chief's playgroup last week. One of the kids was missing. Her mom was missing too. There was an eerie absence to the group. It was Halloween-esque, even though pumpkin season doesn't officially start until September 22.

Our meeting tomorrow will be even smaller as the absentee list triples as two other kids start preschool. But more than just a scheduling wrench thrown to the meeting that has taken place for more than 100 weeks, I'm fascinated by the decision to send two-year-olds to school. They're two. They're still wearing diapers.

On the other hand, I totally get it.

Marketing Manager Mom told me that she just feels maxed out on what she can provide for her daughter at home. And so often she finds that she can't wait for her daughter's next nap, so that she can get a break. I can relate to that. There are many days when I anxiously await that coveted and sacred nap time or bedtime so that I can get some of my projects accomplished, uninterrupted by a little voice and sticky hands that want, want, want. And preschool will provide a stimulating environment with all kinds of new toys and new songs and new art projects (that someone else gets to clean up).

There's also something to be said for getting kids used to being in a structured environment that is run by an adult that is not a parent or family member. That's what prompted Bay Area PR Friend to sign her son up for a once-a-week preschool program.

That, and the underlying pressure from other women signing their kids up for preschool. I can't help but feel that they know something I don't know. Or that my kid is going to fall behind socially and academically because he's not in preschool and won't be until next fall at the earliest.

Still, TIC gets tons of socialization from our weekly playgroups through the mothers club and from his play dates through our shared time with the sitter. And while hours with the sitter and hours and preschool both cost a fortune, maybe its easier to justify spending money on preschool to get the dedicated and much-needed break from your kid than it is to spend money on extra childcare. Maybe it's all a mental: childcare is frivolous, while preschool is essentially?

Then again, many of these moms who are signing up their kids for preschool are pregnant. And it might just be easier to make this transition to being away from mom before Baby No. 2 comes along. They are nesting in a way that gets the kid acclimated to a new schedule, a new experience before the sibling shocker rocks the family unit. So regardless of whether the break is for mom or for stimulating educational programs for tots, breaks--in whatever shape or form--from our 24/7 job as parents are golden.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting analysis... since (even when I was a work-at-home mom) I wasn't able to attend playgroup regularly... I didn't see this trend. But no doubt would have if I would have stuck around instead of going back to work full-time.

    Let us know how the playgroup dynamics change... I'm curious... if at all. And honestly (and this is my opinion) children will develop at their own rates. If TIC doesn't get school-related activities now, be sure he will when you sign him up. And, all those skills you didn't think he had? They'll jump out and wow and surprise you. :-)

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  2. Another potential benefit of preschool is that the toddler might become more comfortable with playing by his/herself. I think any independence my son has in playtime is credited to that.

    My toddler's still a very needy kid around me but lately he seems to actually be listening to me when I say "No, mama and her 7 months pregnant belly need to sit right here on the couch and can't go run around playing chase me" and then he'll go do something by himself for a while.

    I'm on the opposite side of the fence in my playgroup... started meeting when our kids were wee little, and then one by one we all started going back to work from maternity leave. And then one by one, most of us quit our jobs... except me. So I don't see them much anymore but I still consider them 'my' playgroup, at least for now.

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  3. both our kids started a preschool at the age of two, but only two mornings a week for 2-3 hours. They were both ready for it and really enjoyed it. They met other kids besides the ones on our block. I think the key is to phase it in, rather than suddenly dumping them into full time school at kindergarten. Plus the preschools were very low key, not at all academic but about playing. And the break for a few hours a week was nice too...

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  4. I signed up my daughter for preschool on a whim. I called the 'highly recommended' one near us, there were openings, so that's where she went 2 days a week for 2.5 hours each time. Granted she was 3 going on 4, so she was quite a bit older. But I was so glad I enrolled her, and I wished I had done it sooner. It really is playing and socialization for the most part. I thought of it as more variety in our day-to-day activities, but it was also a great way to get a bit of a break.

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  5. When I signed my daughter up to start preschool at 2 1/2, I honestly didn't even think - "Oh, that's three years of preschool, who needs that?" I just got caught up in the research and I had TONS of parental pride when one montessori teacher saw my then 19-month-old and could not stop gushing that she had never seen a child that young with the focus and skills that my daughter had. (She was doing puzzles and sitting down with the other kids and working with them) And I just thought, "well, she's definitely ready."

    I don't think it's necessary at this age, but after a first tough week, I'm very glad I've sent her. She's more interested in books than ever before. She talks about what she did at school (which I think is just fabulous). And hey, it is worth it ALONE for her to see the big kids using the potty!!! :^)

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