This is another “oldy” post from the first years of our unschooling journey, in response to a poster who was looking for ideas on how to deal with her daughter voicing a desire to go to preschool (courtesy of some intensive lobbying by the grandparents. Ah, grandparents. Can’t live with them, wouldn’t be alive without them…).
It was written in 2008, when I was both a little more defensive than I am these days… and at the same time much more prone to offer advice. (My only excuse is that it was asked for advice… Today, though, I’d just shut up and think―she’ll figure it out herself…)
I spouted thus:
What does she really want?
First, I would try to find out what it is that your daughter really wants. A friend of mine who intended to homeschool since before she had children was absolutely shocked when her little girl asked to go to school at age three–and found out that it was about the bus. Having watched Magic School Bus, Franklin and a dozen other shows in which kids seem to be having an awful lot of fun on the bus, she wanted to ride the bus…. and living in Calgary with a mama with a car, she had never even been on transit! So they took transit everywhere for a week, and the need was fulfilled. Another friend found a lunch box and a backpack were the desired things.
Can you fill that need with a class?
If it’s about actually going to a schooly type place–take a half hour class once a week. You can even phrase it to the grandparental units “Instead of a traditional preschool, we’re taking [as long and complicated class name as you can muster]. Or it can just be story time at the library.
Is it about a social need? Are you sure?
Is it about spending time with other children? Make a space and a schedule for that. And remember, the more you hang out with people who don’t school, the easier it will be too, because then your children won’t be using schooled friends as the norm. (But make sure it’s about her social need, and not your perception of what ought to be her social need. Children, frankly, don’t need as many other children around them as adults who’ve gone through the traditional school system think they do. Meditate on that for a minute…)
If all else fails―try it
In the long run, home trumps everything. Sandra Dodd has a line in one of her essays–if someone cares to hyperlink to it in the comments, it would make this lazy-ass blogger so gratefl–that her kids were free to go to school if they wanted to, but she makes home a pretty fun place to be, so it’d be pretty hard for school to compete with that. When we had tried preschool for Cinder–for three awful days–his verdict at the end was: “I don’t want to go to that terrible place. It’s boring and noisy and I’d rather just be home with you and Flora.” I didn’t think it was a terrible place―but I was generally under-impressed with what was offered, and my verdict was, “Jeesuz, I do sooooo much better than this on my worst, lowest energy days!” Which is a roundabout way of saying that if you decide your unschooly, “listen to your child” path leads you to the decision to try preschool… home will carry the day anyway. And if preschool is absolutely “not on the menu,” there are lots of ways of addressing your daughter’s desire for it–if real. And if it’s just coming from the grandparents, well, ya can’t change them, but you can ensure your daughter is getting more potent, positive messages at home.
Coming next week: when grandparents actively lobby for school
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