Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Just A Little More About Preschool

One thing they don't tell you about sending your kids off to preschool is how stinkin' weird it feels.  I mean, I guess if I worked outside the home and my kids had been going to daycare for years it wouldn't feel weird, but they have been with me 24/7 since they were born with very few exceptions.  Our lives are wrapped up with each other, and now, there's three hours a day they have without me and me without them.

There's something weird about having my 3 and 4 year old having their own life, even in this small way.  They know people I don't know, do stuff I don't do, it's weird, it feels weird and emotionally unsettling, raw. 

That was the biggest problem I had when Cam was deployed to Afghanistan, too, when I'd look at the sink in the bathroom and see only one tooth brush sitting there, and realize he was living a life apart from me, and I was living one away from him.

I just wish my kids could communicate a little clearer, so they could just tell me what they do during those 3 hours.  Not that I think anything bad is going on, I just want to know details, you know?The good news is, after only 2 full days so far, there's already progress.  Last night, at dinner, they sat down with us and ate everything on their plate, even though they didn't really like it much.  That's kind of a miracle, they don't usually have patience for dinner because they don't like most cooked food (not even mac and cheese), they'll eat two bites and say they are done, and if we want them to eat the full meal we usually have to spend an hour coaxing and threatening and bribing and even spoon feeding to get it all in them.  I was pleasantly surprised, to put it mildly.  

Their school had them scheduled to eat breakfast there, but after Monday they asked if they could do breakfast and lunch so they could work on it with them.  It's really nice to have them going to a place that pays attention enough to see the same problems I see and be able to work on it with them in a way that actually helps.  It's a relief, really.

I guess the long and the short of it is, this feels weird, but I think it's good.  Maybe in a week or two I'll get used to it.  I'm also super excited that I can call and make a dentist appointment and actually have a time I can go in, by myself.  I love my kids, but I'm starting to appreciate kid-less time.  Now, I'm going to go fold a load of laundry without my kids playing in it, which is the stay-at-home-mom equivalent to Heaven on Earth.

PS Happy Reformation Day, everyone!  We're going to celebrate by dressing up as a Princess and a Dark Knight and asking people for candy.  I know, I know, that sounds like Halloween, but it's not.  Haha.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Bit About Preschool, Kids, and Life in General

So, I've been slacking on this whole blog-writing-thing.  I mostly write this blog for friends and family who live far away to give them a little peek into our lives.  I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to somehow make money by blogging and I have no desire to be a "blogger."  As a result, when I do write (mostly in spurts) I try to keep it light and happy.  I try to never talk about hurt feelings and struggles because I find the internet the worst place to air out negative emotions.  I don't really need people to validate me online, and I especially don't want to hear strangers tell me how I'm failing.

There is one thing, though, I thought I'd share with everyone, not because I need validation but because I think there may be other moms out there who feel the same way and need to know that they aren't alone.

Before I had kids, and up until a month ago, I KNEW I'd homeschool my kids.  I was homeschooled, I'm fairly well educated and I don't want any job other than to teach my kids, so it just made sense to me.  I even discussed it with my husband before we got married because I wanted to make sure we were on the same page as far as education went.  I read quite a bit about education theory and the more I read the more I decided I'd unschool, at least through the first few years.  I wanted to model a love of reading for them before forcing them to learn their ABCs, so they'd love to read, too instead of it being a chore.  I wanted to teach them practical math, how it applies to their real life instead of just seeing numbers they hate, teach them the art form of math instead of rote memorization and formulas.  I wanted them to love the world around them and explore and learn by discovery.  That was my theory, and it was corroborated by articles, professionals, blogs, and real-life experiences of people I knew.  Children are sponges, especially preschool-aged children, and they'll learn just by existing.

So, I read around them constantly.  I'd read books to them, too, but they didn't have a lot of patience for that sort of thing.  That was a little disappointing, but I soldiered on.  I can probably count on one hand the days I didn't have a book out, reading in front of them if not to them, for at least a portion of the day.  Most of that is simply because I love to read, though, I don't think I'd have done it if it were a chore...but still, I'm modeling a love of reading, right?

At the grocery store, I'd chat with them about prices, how "cents" are really decimals, the percentage of tax we'd add.  They ignored me, of course, and I'm sure I looked like a crazy person.

We went places, did stuff, crafts, and sang songs.  I may not be the best unschooler, my kids watch too much tv and Sam is addicted to video games already, but I was trying, at least for a small portion of the day, every day.

Here's what happened: I have a nearly 5 year old and a 3.5 year old who are speech delayed, Sam, the oldest, is two years behind most other kids.  They can count to 12, but it's a rhythm and pattern to them, they don't really understand what it means.  They don't know their ABCs.  They only get colors right maybe 50% of the time and don't really care, and know maybe two shapes.  They are just now getting potty trained, despite my best efforts.  As far as I can tell, they don't recognize their own name when it's written out.  We spent months testing them recently, and there's nothing wrong with them as far as anyone can tell, they simply aren't motivated to learn, at least not without peer example and structure.

There are kids, quite a few kids, whose moms never thought twice about their education, who plan on sending them straight to public school and giving their educational responsibility up to the government, never to think twice about it unless they come home with a bad report card, whose kids know more than my kids.   I don't mean that as a judgement on those moms, if I hadn't been homeschooled, I might not prefer it, I dunno.  There are kids who spend most of their day watching tv who talk better and clearer and more prolifically than my kids.

I think my kids are less spongy than most.

Don't get me wrong, there are things my kids do better than most, too.  The people who tested them called them "satellite skills," so even though they tested in the low average in motor skills, for instance, Sam can do cross the monkey bars better than kids two years older.  They are also hilarious, one lady who tested them mentioned their comedic timing and said it was a shame they didn't test in that area.  So, I'm not knocking my kids, I wouldn't trade either of them in for anyone else's genius toddler, reading at age 3.

My kids, contrary to unschooling theory, do NOT learn by simply sponging information out of the universe.  They oppose structure sometimes to the point of rebellion, but they also respond to it.  They also learn by example; Sam potty trained in a single day after he spent a week around two boys who "went" in the potty.  After two years I spent coaxing, bribing, crying, reading, threatening, dragging him bodily to the toilet, cleaning pee and poo off the floor, he learned instantly by peer example.  He didn't watch them go, he just knew that's what they were doing when they went to the restroom, and they told him his pullup was gross and he believed them.

So, when the developmental people suggested they go to preschool for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, I went home and cried.  I couldn't even teach my kids the stupid ABCs, when every other person in the free world seemed to have a kid that learned it from watching Sesame Street once.  All the singing on all the car rides and all the youtube phonics videos and all the letter printables and all the this-letter-is-for-this-animal flash cards and the big dry erase board I put in the kitchen and wrote a single letter on which we talked about for the entire failed.  I failed.

Afterwards, I realized that maybe a structured environment, surrounded by kids their own age, might really be the push they need, the push I can't give them.  Maybe it's not, but maybe it is.  So, after some thoughts, prayers, advice gathering, my husband and I decided to do it.  They are at their second day of preschool right now.  And they seem happy, in fact, yesterday they seemed happier (though more tired) than usual.  They were excited to go back this morning.  I don't know what's going to happen next year, or the year after that, but I do know, right now, I think we are doing what's best for them.  Which I guess is all any parent can do.

My point in all this is, I don't get upset when my friends and family have kids that are smart and articulate, like I said, I wouldn't trade my little boogers for anything, besides I love my friends and family, so I love their children by default and want them to do well.  I do get a little hurt by the suggestion that it's something great some parent did that has made their kid so awesome, thereby implying that I'm a terrible mother because my kids are so far behind.  I guess we moms are just as quick to take credit when our kids do something great as to blame ourselves when things go wrong.

I think the problem is we are surrounded by moms who tell us how awesome their kids are all the time, about their A's in school and their early walking and early talking and "advanced for their age" somersaults.  That's great, I don't think there's a problem with bragging, I just think the rest of us need to realize that what we hear is the exception rather than the rule, we simply don't hear from people who have problems as much, or we only hear the good stuff.  I'm proud of the fact that Jubee said, "I love you too!" last night instead of "I wuf you!" but I'm not gonna announce on FB that my closer-to-4-year-old-than-3 daughter was, up until last night, unable to pronounce a letter that many of my friend's 18-month-olds don't have a problem with.  That's just how it is.  If we do hear about a kid with problems, it's because the kid has real problems, medical problems or mental problems, something definable, we never hear from people whose kids are just average or who really struggle with undefinable problems, like 5 year olds who struggle through speaking full sentences, or 8 year olds who have trouble getting through Cat in the Hat.

So, to all those moms out there with imperfect kids, just remember, you're not alone.  You're not even the minority, despite the evidence to the contrary online; we're all imperfect, so it stands to reason all our kids are imperfect, too.  They are imperfect...but also perfect.