Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mediocrity reins supreme

My son's preschool is closing. It really is a nice school. It is the only truly academic preschool in our community. Yes there is a handful of other preschools in the area, and many do include some learning, but this is the only one that was completely preschool in nature. It's true - it doesn't work for everyone. His teacher really wanted it to be a school and not a daycare, so her schedule was less flexible, and she only kept the kids for 3 hours a day. I understand that for working parents it just doesn't work.

What really floors me about it is some of the comments she has received over the years. She has had parents (educated, well-traveled parents) pull their kids out of her school because she was teaching them, rather than just letting them play. "Why can't you just watch them?" they would ask her. (I can tell you that those kids got plenty of free time, they played outside every day. Oh, and here is a big shocker for you - even when they were learning, they were having fun!) "I would rather my child be at the bottom of their class than the top." Ummm, hello?

As parents, we are the first teachers in our children's lives. We teach them to eat, and walk, and talk. We (hopefully) teach them respect, and how to dress themselves, and good hygiene. We teach them these things not just because they need to know them. We teach them these things in preparation for a whole lifetime of learning. From the day they are born we are setting them down the path to one day be self-sufficient.

So what are we teaching them by keeping our expectations low? What message are we sending when we don't encourage them to TRY to get along with others. What are we REALLY saying to them when we SAY we want the very best education for them, but aren't willing to lend our own time to make it happen?

Our children will learn more from our actions than from our words.

That's all I'm going to say.

I am very lucky that I got both my kids through this preschool before it closed. As many of you know, and many more will learn, the education system in our country is far from perfect. It addresses the needs of only some students. You will spend every year watching what your child is learning in school, and talking to their teachers about how their needs are being met, and what they can do to better educate them, and what you can do for them at home. You will search out books at the library that will challenge their reading level while still keeping them engaged., You'll do flash cards, and find ways to expand their homework to make the abstract lessons hit home in a real world setting. (I hope you will do these things.) Maybe you will even explore alternative ways to give your child the best education you can. Your children are bound to struggle with something at some point down this road. The very best base you can give them is to love learning. If children could just have the mindset that learning is fun, and an adventure, rather than a chore. It changes their outlook on school for their whole lives.

I was raised to value education. It was always just a given that I would go to college. I understood the value of education, even just for education's sake. College was the most fun I had in all my years of school, and it wasn't because I was involved in activities and going to parties and making lots of friends. (Because I wasn't.) And if I can give my kids one thing it would be this - learning is fun, and it is something that never stops. You will learn every day of your life. Learning doesn't start in school, and it doesn't stop there either. Learn everything you can.

As I am planning our summer activities and scheduling swim lessons and vacations, and wondering how on earth I'm going to get some quality me time when I will have the kids home every single day (yikes!), I'm also thinking about where I can take them, and what can I do with them to keep their little minds wondering, and keep the gears turning. What can I do to make them that much better off when they go back to school and have to share their educator with 15 or 20 other kids? And I'm thinking how lucky I was to have had a preschool available to them when they needed it with a teacher that shared my view on education, and how thankful I am that I'm not one of the parents that are now wondering what they are going to do next fall for preschool.

I am not, nor have I ever proclaimed myself the perfect parent. I am quite flawed, and I'm sure I've screwed my kids up slightly more than the next person. I am not being "high and mighty" with this post. I'm just saying...

Name: Christine
Location: Wyoming, United States
I'm the Mom of two. They drive me crazy. I love them dearly. I want one more. I'm not insane, yet. My hubby says I'm a snob with an inferiority complex. There is more to me than being a mother. I just don't remember any of it.

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