Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pre-school?

Grandma, today, told us that she contacted one of the local temples, a Reform temple in town, about membership for us, specifically because this particular temple has a wonderful pre-school program for which we are eligible for scholarship money. The Wife later told me that she thought that it was a three day per week thing, with some potential for full school day length activities (until 3 o'clock), which does solve a few logistical issues for us. There isn't a spot for January for Younger Bro - the 18 month programs fill up faster - but that's not necessarily the point.

Now, prior to The Boy's diagnosis, I was not in favor of pre-school. I figured that we would be able to provide a richer experience for him at home, or with a single sitter: library programs, baby'n'me programs, the zoo, the children's museums, etc., etc., etc. And, before Younger Bro was born, we might have been correct with that. With one child who is 2 or 3 years old, significant socialization experiences and learning experiences can be given and scheduled pretty easily. However, there are a couple of considerations that have risen.

First consideration is the socialization delay that The Boy has experienced due to his cancer diagnosis. The fact is, for the past two and a half years, he has not been able to socialize with anyone outside of the immediate family and grandparents on any regular basis. Bringing him around other kids has been dangerous to his health. Kids learn by experience and by observation: by being around other kids, and seeing what they can do, and showing off what they can do, they learn an awful lot. (Many will say, naturally, that kids learn more from each other in school than from the teachers. The egotistical teacher inside of me would like to believe that it isn't true, but that's also the guy who isn't employed, so take his opinion with a grain of salt.) When your kid is part of a playgroup, or a baby class, or a day care experience, they are learning by watching and participating with the group. Younger children show that on a regular basis, when they pick up skills earlier than their siblings because they're watching and observing a child perform the skill.

Not having that experience has been a handicap for The Boy. He's more than a little bit behind, socially and physically, and he doesn't do many things that your average 3-year old does. Granted, he has his own skill set - he knows letters (Hebrew and English) and letter sounds and draws letters and numbers pretty darn well, and few kids at 3 know the entire book of Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog. But, we do want him to get a little "shock treatment" when it comes to socialization, and I'd rather that happen at 3 than at 12.

The second consideration is the employment situation. If one (or both) boy(s) are cared for during a chunk of the school day, then life is made considerably easier for whichever of us is at home. One child - even an energetic, busy child like Younger Bro - is fairly simple for which to care. That allows us to have one full-time job (or temp position, like I'm starting on Monday) AND the other parent to work some part-time employment (substitute teaching or temping or both) without fear. Realistically, this way, we can build up some fairly substantial capital for when we go house shopping when (and if) one of us finally lands a teaching job. Even if the hours aren't quite lined up with what we'd need as a full-time teacher, then the hours might be more amenable to help from Grandma or friends.

The third consideration is, of course, The Boy's health. Children are little germ factories, and it's a reasonably accepted hypothesis that exposure to dirt and germs and mold and such as a child promotes immunity and health in later life. Of course, when you're a cancer patient and have no immune system, that hypothesis breaks down. The Boy is off-treatment for seven months, and his immune system should be back up to par. I'm not thrilled about putting it through a normal workout, but better he get the colds and sniffles and other yucky stuff now than when he's supposed to be in school. This is the only one that's a holdup; Dr. Graves said that we might want to hold off on a full-time daycare center at this point. If this is a 60% thing, that might be a good compromise. Still not sure.

The fourth consideration is The Boy's academic success. This, to me, is kind of a lesser concern. There's no correlation whatsoever in a child's preschool activities and his collegiate academic success, even though many parents would like to believe that introducing their toddler to vector calculus will turn them into the next Albert Einstein. Sorry, but it's not likely, unless the parents are Albert's intellectual equals already. If you're normal, slightly-above-average folks, then your child is probably going to be a normal, slightly-above-average kid. That's how it works. The kid might be a mutant and inherit super-intelligence; it certainly happens. It's not likely. I don't really see that putting him in preschool, or NOT putting him in preschool, is going to make him smarter or more successful. Some of the extra skills he might pick up are nice, but aside from tying his shoes and learning how to go to the potty before he poops his pants, I'm not optimistic in this regards.

Fifth consideration is religious knowledge and skills. I'd love for him to learn Hebrew reading and singing and speaking, and I'd love for him to learn more about the Jewish world outside of the Musical Household. That's an awesome thing, and something I'm very interested in. Growing up Catholic, I never really felt connected to my faith; never had friends at my church, despite my parents' efforts to keep me involved with the youth groups and trips and such. If The Boy could get around that and develop friends and a connection with his faith, then I feel like he'll have a better chance for long-term happiness.

So, first consideration is extremely important and says do it. Second consideration is important and says do it. Third consideration is moderately important and says don't do it yet. Fourth consideration is not important and says do it. Fifth consideration is important and says do it. Your vote is?

3 comments:

Elana said...

I say "do it" and mainly from a developmental standpoint. The twins were SEVERELY lagging behind in their verbal skills (among other things) when they were home with a nanny all day by themselves. Within a few weeks of being in day care with other kids they were starting to say words, and my daughter is now even saying 2-3 word sentences (only two months after starting at day care).

Johanna S said...

I say do it! If his immune system needs more time and he is getting sick constantly, you can always rethink things and pull him out. Ask lots of questions at the school. See if they are a good match for all of you - you, Logical Mommy and The Boy. Ask if they have a hand-washing policy. AT my daughter's school, the first thing kids do when they walk into the classroom is wash hands, for example. My daughter is an only child and only has one cousin. She gets to see him two or three times a month. In other words, not many opportunities for socialization. I don't drive and Daddy works, so getting her to events where she can socialize is difficult. Long story short: preschool has been great for her. Being in that environment is giving her things that, no matter how hard I try, I can't give her at home. She has gone from being the shy, awkward kid to being the kid who doesn't shut up and talks about her 'friends' all the time!

Sarah R said...

I say do it. If we could afford to send Andrew to pre-school, we would. He definitely could benefit since he really only hangs out with "us" and the grandparents. He does have issues around other kids, and prefers to converse with adults.

He is on a waiting list for HeadStart, but I'm not hopeful we'll hear back since we are just a tad above the income requirements.

We will be sending him to 4 year old kindergarten next year -- our school district has an excellent program.