Preschool before birth
Two months ago, my husband and I moved from Denver to Houston for his job. In doing so we left behind a growing mid-sized city to move to a growing gigantic city. Houston is huge. So huge it’s obnoxious. In attempts to find friends and resources for pregnancy I do searches all the time for Meetups and programs. Half the time it will say “Houston” but what that really means is some Houston suburb about 1 hour outside of the city. I think Houston needs boroughs like NYC, then we can all be a little more specific about where these things are actually happening.
Anyway, living in a big city has increased my parental anxiety about preschool. Yes, my baby is still 3 months away from being born, but it’s time to think about preschool. In fact, if I was planning to work full-time after maternity leave, and needed daycare I’d already be about a year behind in signing baby girl up for daycare. People sign their kids up for (great) daycare programs the second they get pregnant.
But this isn’t just a problem in Houston (or in famously aggressive NYC). The Hechinger Report has recently published an entire series on preschool/daycare and how absurd the whole situation is. One article’s title “Regardless of income level, access to quality care for 2 year olds is tight” says it all. Which is why middle and upper middle class parents in Houston are signing kids up for daycare the moment their child is conceived – there just aren’t enough spots in daycare programs regardless of how much money you make. So some parents are left with untenable options, or are placed on year-long waiting lists.
So that brings me to preschool. I plan to stay home with my baby girl until she goes off to preschool. Why? I was a teacher. Not only was my salary terribly low, but it wasn’t worth it to me to go teach other kids while my kid is in daycare (sorry, but, honest truth). The flip side of that is that I WAS A TEACHER. I’ve seen it all. I know what to look for in schools. When there are so many options, I get overwhelmed. What educational philosophy do I want for my kid? What type of setting do I want her to grow in? Whew. I also have spent my whole career working with middle school students – I’ve never worked with little kids or elementary school-aged kids below 5th grade. I still have a lot to learn about littles.
I recently read three books about play-based learning for little kids: The Importance of Being Little (Erika Christakis), Play: The Foundation of Children’s Learning (Lisa Murphy) and The Most Important Year (Suzanne Bouffard). Without getting book report-ish, these three books (in their own ways) argue that we’ve gone off the deep end by pushing high academic standards down to 2, 3, 4, and 5 year olds in hopes that this will put them on a perfect path to Harvard or Yale. When, in fact, research proves that little kids need play. That even if a 4 year old learns to read they aren’t necessarily better off or smarter than a kid who learns to read when they are 6. Basically, the benefits of the crazy academic standards don’t stick around and other kids catch up.
But, as I look around Houston, there aren’t any (that I’ve found at least) play-based preschool programs. I watched videos of one school that’s near me and it got close, but then kids were also sitting around filling out math problems in a workbook. They looked about 3 years old. Honestly that makes me sad. These kids have the rest of their lives (literally) to fill in paperwork and worksheets, do we really have to have them start when they are 3? Ugh.
So now I am beginning the process of researching preschools (and kindergartens, let’s be honest) in Houston. In fact, I’m already signed up to visit 2 schools in the next two weeks.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Lisa Murphy’s book (which is amazing and I highly recommend it):
“Play supports school readiness and is not separate from learning. A foundation of creating, moving, singing, discussing, observing, and reading is held together by play. Play, once again, is the cement holding the foundation together, and it is this foundation that will, in turn, support the house of higher learning.
We all want what is best of children. But what we are often sold as best has nothing to do with what children really need. Kits and packages designed to make your child Better! Faster! Stronger! Smarter! are nothing more than products that people get paid to sell. Contrary to what marketing and advertising departments claim in glossy magazine spreads and during high-pressure radio spots, they do not care about your children. They prey on your emotions, your concerns, and your desire to do what is best for your children in order to sell their product (p 46).”
So now begins my journey to figure what is best….