People keep asking me about Silas’ preschool, so here’s a quick rundown of what we’re doing.
With three other families (one from church and two new friends), we’re doing a co-operative preschool. We meet two mornings each week, for about two and a half hours. I came up with this idea as I was researching local preschools. I visited a few, and I realized that most of what I hoped Silas would get out of preschool was not at all “academic.” He’s well on track for “kindergarten readiness” in that regard. He needs more practice negotiating with other kids, taking instruction from people besides me, sharing, listening, etc. All social skills. I wondered if there was a way to get that without spending much (or any!) money. Preschool isn’t cheap!
Our current arrangement is great. I teach for 2.5 hours every two weeks, and, in exchange, I get 7.5 hours to do my freelance work, run errands, or focus on Petra. We’re all loving this arrangement.
I’ve enjoyed the time to deal with my own priorities, but I’ve also enjoyed the days when I host all of the children. We keep it pretty low key. I usually rotate the toys out before they come, so there are different things to play with than the previous time. I read to them a lot, and we sing or play rhythm instruments. I have a pattern to our time together, but it’s flexible. I usually try to have one planned thing, like a craft or baking something for our snack, and otherwise let things play out naturally.
The other families all have similar parenting philosophies to ours. Nobody has toys that play themselves. All of the dads are very involved with their children’s lives and care. None of the children think it is odd that Silas’ lovey is a pink dolly. On our way home today, Silas and I listened to a story on NPR about gendered toys (apparently, they are becoming even more strongly gendered than they were when I was a kid!). I explained to him that some people think that certain toys are just for boys, and other toys are just for girls, but other people think that boys and girls can play with the same toys. I asked him what he thought about that. He informed me that he thought that boys and girls should all get new toys and they can play together with them. “Jillian and I were playing in the kitchen today. We were making food for the Baby Jesus. Reed was being the Baby Jesus, and we were all playing together,” he said, by way of example.
The group divides and re-divides in interesting ways. There are four children–two boys, and two girls. Silas and Eliza both turned 3 in September. Reed and Jillian won’t turn 3 until the early spring. Eliza and Silas are both the oldest in their families. Jillian is the youngest of three, and Reed is (until this winter!) an only child. The mix of personalities, birth orders, and genders means that they don’t pair off in any natural or consistent way. Some days, the boys play one thing and the girls play another. Other times, it seems that the divide is older kids/younger kids. Other days, Silas is just very excited about Jillian, whom he knows from church.
Discipline stuff has been interesting. So far, I’ve only had one day when I was hosting and just watching the clock, wondering when the other mothers would come and collect their little monsters. That day, for whatever reason (full moon?), everyone brought their grump (including, it should be noted, my own little monster!). Otherwise, we’ve had a lot of fun. The kids generally get along pretty well, and no one is straight up defiant when I ask them to do something. Most of the behavior issues have been about things. Sharing can be hard. I’m so grateful that the other parents practice teaching as discipline, instead of punishment. Today, when I went to pick Silas up from Reed’s house, Reed’s mother told me that the boys had gotten into a fight over a toy. She got them to talk about it, involving the girls in the discussion, and they decided that they would take turns with the toy. No one had a time-out. No one was made to feel embarrassed for causing disruption. She handled it very kindly, and very much the way I would try to. When I asked Silas about it later, his version of the story was just the same as hers, another sign that he felt fine about it.
So far, our moveable preschool is doing for Silas exactly the things I had hoped. He’s talking about his own feelings more articulately, as well as getting better at reading others’. His ability to share his space and his possessions is improving. The kids are playing together as a group more and more, and he is learning to collaborate with them instead of getting angry when they won’t play exactly what he wants to.
We have a long way to go. He’s still only three, especially when he’s tired. I feel like this is a perfect first step on that path, though.