Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Why and How we decided against Pre-School

About a week ago the final day passed where I could have booked Boris into a place in a pre-school.  It would only have been for one term, but it was our last chance.

We have ummd and ahhhd about it for over a year and really in the end it wasn't so much making a decision that got us to where we are now, but lack of being able to make a decision. However, on reflection I know that deep down I knew what I really wanted to do, but was afraid and lacked validation.  It's really hard to make a decision which is the opposite of almost everyone you know, especially when they are singing the praises of the choice they made.  This is bound to happen because obviously people want to feel good about their choices, but it makes it hard to get a balanced view in order to make an informed decision.

So I have decided to sum up my feelings about the decision not to send him in a little  actually-quite-long post that might help others decide but mainly just helps me to confirm my thoughts about it and to clarify the reasons in my own mind.

1. Being a parent is hard, I often complain tell people how hard I am finding things, that's healthy right?  Often people's response has been to put Boris into pre-school, they see I am struggling and they think that's the perfect answer, the load would be lightened, I would get a bit more time to myself (sort of although still looking after Biscuit), it would make things easier when the new baby arrives, but I realised that I don't need Boris to be away from me for 15 hours a week, or even 5 hours a week, I just need an hour or so here and there and actually I need an hour or so here and there away from both of them, not just Boris, time to myself, time of peace and quiet, time to sort the house and time to attend to my creativity.  Time away from just one of them doesn't help me all that much because I still have to look after the other and in many ways they are easier together because they have company and someone to play with.

2. There isn't anything a pre-school can offer Boris that I can't offer him myself at home and through the home ed groups we already attend. In terms of education we look at numbers and letters, I am familiar with what's included in the Foundation Stage Profile and Boris and I are talking ALL THE TIME, he asks a ton of questions and I answer them, or we look up the answer.  We socialise with other children and adults of all different ages.  We could socialise every day if we wanted to, but usually its three or four times a week, sometimes in groups, sometimes with individuals.

3. Part of the role of pre-school is to prepare children for school.  We don't need to prepare him for school because we are planning on home educating, so there is no need for him to be ready to do many of the things that school education requires such as some aspects of self care, conflict resolution, being able to sit still for long periods of time, being able to function well in large groups of children of the same age, that sort of thing.  Not that these things are bad, but they are just not things he needs to be able to do right now and they are things I believe he will be able to do given time and space in the future.

4. I wasn't able to find a pre school with a place available that didn't use rewards and punishments to manipulate behavior and what I mean by this is, all but one of the pre-schools I looked at use "time outs" (naughty chair) or a version there of as punishment for undesirable behavior.  This is totally against our parenting philosophy so I see no reason to introduce it in a pre-school setting.  It is the way most schools operate so it makes sense for children who will be attending school to be able to function well within a system that works like this, but seeing as Boris won't be attending school, there is no need.

5. I worry about Boris feeling under pressure to fulfill the Foundation Stage Profile markers.  They are mainly about school readiness,  and I would be so sad for him to be switched off to reading, writing or maths in later life because he felt under any pressure to perform at it at age 4 because of the pressure that childcare providers are under for the children who attend their centers to fulfill the criteria.

6.  I realised that it was what I wanted subconsciously.  Whenever I looked at posts on Facebook about pre-school, I realised I was scanning through the responses looking for people who had not sent their child to pre-school or had taken them out.  I wanted to validate my choice by hearing other parent's stories.  I desperately wanted to hear about other people making the same choice that I wanted to make.  You may wonder why I felt I needed validation from others on such a decision when I find it so easy to go against the norm in so many other areas of my life, but I think it's because this is the one thing (not just pre-school but home-ed generally) which will really make us different as a family.  Most of the choices we have made so far have been health related, either physical health or mental health, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, gentle parenting etc, but home educating will really make our lifestyles different to other people's.  It's much easier to get validation on home education but less so on pre-school because a surprisingly large amount of people who home educate do send their children to pre-school.

7. We asked Boris what he wanted.  Now this was a tricky one because the poor boy didn't know what on earth we were talking about.  As far as he knew pre-school was a playground (we often walk past pre-schools on our way to places so he sees the outside play area),  which he naturally thought was great. But we talked to him about how he would be away from mummy and Biscuit and that he would have to go there on the set days and all the other things about pre-school which don't involve him getting to play outside in the playground and he decided that he would rather stay with mummy. It's a really difficult thing to do, talking about the negative side of child care, most parents are telling their children how great it will be and how much they will love it, and I was doing the total opposite.

In coming to this decision it has really helped me to talk to people who have taken their children out of childcare settings and understanding the reasons why.  I think a lot of people find it difficult to talk about because they don't want to cause offence to other parents who still send their children to pre-school who might feel like they are being criticized for their choice. It is, of course no criticism of their choice.  Every family is different and has to do what is right for them. But it can be very difficult to know what is right for your family when there is so much pressure from others to make one particular choice.  Family, who are influenced by the media and government pressure for mothers to go back to work and the benefits of pre-school, think they are being helpful in suggesting pre-school as it would give you a break and help your child to "socialise" or whatever. Friends who send their child to pre-school will naturally want to validate their choice by telling you how great it is, and if they have any mixed feelings about their choice it will make them feel better about it if you do the same; and the Government are putting huge pressure on families to send their children to pre-school so that parents can get back into work (and give them more of their hard earned wages through taxes).  So to find people who are making the same choice you think you want to can be extremely helpful in giving you a balanced view in order to make an informed choice.

So there we have it, no pressure to get up in the morning to get Boris to pre-school on time, no "settling in time", no wondering if Boris' needs are being met or if he has been left on the naughty spot.  We are going to be together as a family, starting as we mean to go on.