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 week...it 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.


  1. Wonderful post, Carly! I always love reading your stuff. My first four kids, your favorite cousins, were homeschooled their whole life but behind by "everyone's" standards until their second or third week of college. :) They caught up quickly. :) Nothing like a little competition to get kids going. No matter how we get there, we just have to teach our kids to love God and to know that they are loved by Him, and they will be able to do anything.

  2. I absolutely love this. Maybe because my four year old doesn't carry on a conversation with me and I can relate to you situation, or perhaps because your words are genuine and I feel like I am staring straight in your heart.

  3. I really hope that my excessive bragging hasn't been a sore spot for you. You came to mind today and I almost texted you because you had seemed quiet on the blog and on facebook...now I can understand why.

    All I can say is that God made each child unique, special, and "perfect" in that sense, and you are the perfect mom for your kids. I don't think that you should feel guilty about sending them to preschool even if that wasn't your plan for their lives. I sometimes wonder if I have the discipline to homeschool and if Ezra needs more social interacting than what I can give him (hence why he watches hours of TV every day).

    And just maybe for the opposite perspective: us mommies of overly-spongy kids have a lot of guilt issues too. I have done a little bit of preschool with him and probably 80% of the activities I plan fail too. And fail miserably. He throws books across the room if he doesn't want to read them. He really doesn't like the structure so much. And he's learned far more from TV than I have taught him...which makes me feel horribly guilty. But he keeps learning from it, so we keep letting him watch.

    And I feel guilty because he's spongy, because I have a plethora of friends who have children with developmental delays, speech delays, and things like autism and SPD. I feel like it's unfair that I take for granted all that Ezra can say and do when they would give anything to hear their child speak a few words, let alone sentences or a heart-melting "I love you mommy."

    I don't know...my heart just feels sad after reading this because I want to rejoice and be excited about what Ezra can do. Yet I don't want to cause strife, jealousy, or hurt and disappointed feelings in people that I consider to be close friends. I try to keep a balance, but I am really sorry if I have failed in the balance department.

    You are a fabulous mother...regardless of the ABCs and 123s and if your send your kids to preschool. I truly love you as a friend.

    1. Aprille, I don't think you ever come across like, "look at me, my kid's awesome because I'm such a great parent." You do say, "my kid's awesome," but that's okay, because he is and you have every right to be proud of him. That "Panicking about Preschool" post that you linked to yesterday on FB did kind of bug me (not you, her) because as the mother of two kids who don't "eat and breathe the basics," it just seemed so naive. And because I'm jealous because I wish my kids really did learn like that.

    2. Aprille, i don't know if you'll read this, but i've never once gotten the "excessive" bragging vibe from you! you should not feel guilty either, for Ez being spongy! i'm praying for all of us Moms out there, that i know, that God would wipe away all the feelings of guilt we might have (including mine) for whatever reasons we have them...we are all doing our very best and that is enough! <3

    3. @carly...yeah I can see how that post would have bothered you...It was naive of me too because I tend to think of my situation as the norm even though I know that other people's norms are far different. It was helpful for me to remember that I don't have to stress or "try too hard" to teach him...

      Also, I had a thought last night that some of the struggles you see with your kids (potty training, talking, learning, eating, etc) could just be related to the "stress" of how things have been "less than stable" for you for the last few years. (I'm putting these words in quotes because they are far stronger words than what I am trying to say...so it's probably coming out all wrong lol) But just cuz you've moved like what 3 times in the last few years? And there was a deployment in there? And Cams work situation (which I'm sure stressed you out, which they pick up on even when we don't feel like it)...I don't know. I just am wondering if maybe they are just focused on "survival" in their own oblivious preschooler sort of way.

      Another thought that I had was that in having "kids that could care less," while it may be frustrating now, is kind of a good thing. Sometimes I worry about how spongy Ezra is, because he will repeat anything we say. And so much of what he does (like going potty early, "helping" with chores, even doing school or letters)...he does out of a heart that wants to please us so badly. He's been that way since early on, and while it's like "aww he has such a tender caring heart" right now, sometimes that worries me, because I know what a pain it can be to constantly try to please people and make everyone happy. It's one of my biggest faults and has got me in a lot of trouble over the years. I want him to do things because he wants to, not because we want him too, and right now sometimes I worry that those lines are blurry just because of his people-pleasing personality. So, just another flip-side-of-the-coin comment...at least you don't have to worry about your kids constantly caring what other people think. And they get that from you I think, because it's one of your biggest strengths. You are one of those people that is just "like a duck" (as my MIL says...) where you just let water roll off your back and don't get flustered or stressed out about pleasing people or doing things right. I love that about you.

      @ sara...thanks so much for your comment. I love your prayers!!!

    4. Actually, I spent a couple of years trying to tell doctors and the speech people we took Sam to about our chaotic lifestyle (I moved to NY when I was 8.5 months preggo with Sam, we've moved 8 times since then, in three different states, and there was also that year-long deployment in there). I definitely felt like that was the major problem, but all those people acted like that was silly of me to think. These last people we took the kids to, though, agreed with me. Maybe that's why I felt comfortable with them and no one else...I feel like they actually listen to what I have to say.

    5. Wow...eight times. That's really hard to imagine. That's an awful lot of adjusting for such little beings. Those first few years are hard enough by themselves!!!! We have been in the same location since I conceived of Ezra... I'm kinda dreading moving!!!

  4. I feel you on the reading thing; I LOVE to read and I had hopes of having my girls love it as much as I do. Instead I have one who is dyslexic and says she hates it and the other who wants to read but is having troubles this year and they are starting over with phonics for her ( I almost cried while talking with her teacher about her reading problems). I work 5 days a week, two of those days being nights and I go to school and I struggle to find time to do homework, read with them and have them read to me plus cook and clean. I was hoping to keep working till I graduated but I believe my kids need me more then we need the extra income so I will be quitting work come the new year.
    I feel like guitly should be my middle name as I feel that way all the time at just about everything lol!

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  6. aww Carly, at first i wasn't sure how to respond to this, but i want to say that 1) i like this post because it's real (i don't like fake, i'd much rather read something that is honest), 2) you have not/did not fail!!!, 3) your kids are awesome and they are blessed to have you, and 4) i understand (b/c of Stephen) ...also, we live in a society that tends to make us feel guilty for things that we have absolutely no reason to feel guilt for. it's part of the suckiness of a fallen world. as far as i can tell, the majority of moms i know who have kids that struggle with anything at all are NOT at fault for the way their kids are. you are doing a GREAT job. being a Mom is hard work whether your kids are sponges or not. and sometimes our plans don't work (believe me, i've been there!), but God has something better :) keep doing what you're doing, it is obvious to me that your kids are ridiculously happy and loved <3

  7. Aww, Carly. I've homeschooled and I've sent them to public school (and preschool, too!) Every child is different and they don't always respond to the same things. (I know you know this already!) Even Maggie, who has never attended a day of public school and is a senior this year, went to preschool because she needed structure I couldn't provide. It may be, like her, once they get the idea, you can do it at home and/or in homeschool co-ops and at the very least, you'll enrich and supplement their whole lives. I love your kids and I haven't even met them yet ;0)

  8. Thank you for sharing your heart on this, Carly. I've struggled, too, knowing that Noah is attending a preschool this year based on the fact that he failed his developmental screening so miserably. I felt like if I had done *something* differently, he'd have turned out "better". I definitely think you're right about being quick to take credit for successes and blame ourselves for their "failures". It occurred to me recently that my kids are the way they are because GOD MADE THEM THAT WAY, and since then I've been focusing on just letting them know how much they're loved and accepted just like they are. Keep on keepin' on, mama. You're not alone.