Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How Preschool made me a better mom

This post is not meant to convince or persuade, it's simply a narrative of my experience that I wanted to record for my own personal history, and I felt like sharing it with others.

Transforming from anti-preschool

When we first moved to Kokomo, I decided to sign Cheyenne up for preschool. It was a big deal for me because I've always been anti-preschool.

 I consider the time before formal education a sacred time, where mothers have a unique relationship with their children as their sole influence. I certainly didn't want to shorten that time by beginning school early. But ultimately, I did decide on preschool, and here's why:

1. I found a less intense preschool. One of the reasons I was originally anti-preschool was because the thought of a three- or four-year-old being away from their mom for half the day seemed unnecessary to me. What could they possibly be learning at school that was more important than them playing and enjoying those early carefree days? But when I enrolled Cheyenne in preschool last year, I realized she would be away from me a total of 9 hours a week (three times a week for three hours). In the grand scheme of her time at home, that's really not that much. And all of the things we gained from doing preschool really made it worth it to me.

2. It teaches my kids their ABC's.  I don't consider myself a good little kid mom. I do not enjoy teaching kids their ABC's, how to write their letters, etc. Unfortunately the way schools are these days, you can't get away with not teaching them these things before they get to school. In our school district kids need to know how to write their name and all their letters and numbers before kindergarten even starts! They actually learn to read in kindergarten. I've suffered a lot of "mom guilt" on this issue, and it's so nice to see that my kids get to do crafts, "educational play"-type stuff, ABC's, all the stuff I can't bring myself to do. Maybe I should try harder, but I was more than okay outsourcing the ABC thing to someone else.

3. It gives my kids a social outlet. Cheyenne is a social butterfly, and really really thrives being around others and learning in a group setting. She got a lot of social interaction when we lived in Provo with some great friends who lived just across the street. In this town stay-at-home moms are very rare, so it's really hard to find playmates, and I knew I needed that for Cheyenne when we first moved here. I have so many little kids and they do play a lot with each other, but I think there's a lot to be gained by spending time with other kids, and preschool seemed a good way to find that in my unique circumstance.

Picking the right preschool

When I started looking for a preschool I had a lot of opinions. I came from Utah where childhood education is (how do I put this nicely?) very personalized. Some of the women I came in contact with in Utah had strong opinions about childhood education. And their opinions varied widely-- homeschooling, Montessori, Waldorf, religious-based, half-time, private school, joy school, charter school, public school, and everything in between. I was convinced that the "method" that I wanted for Cheyenne was Montessori. So I went to check out a Montessori school. It was everything I imagined, with all of the tools I wanted Cheyenne to have. Then I went to check out our current preschool. To me, the methods seemed basic, the tools for learning maybe even a little dated. Yet, ultimately, after much prayer and thought, I realized it was the right place for my daughter. And I even signed up Delaney as well, who was only 3 (something I thought I would never do!). Why?

The feelings I felt in my heart were that it's more important to learn from somebody who cares than somebody who provided the type of education I wanted. When I went to Sonlight Station Preschool, I could tell that these were people who loved children. You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat a child. Do they show them respect? Do they talk to them on their level? Do they scold them unnecessarily? Do they belittle or demean them? I'm certainly not perfect at all of these, but I am their mother. I love them more than anyone else. If I was going to trade some of the time they had with me for another influence, I had to feel confident that I was sending my child to a place where they cared about children, and not just to somebody who simply had the job of teaching children.

How preschool made me a better mom

I can still remember that first day after I dropped the girls off for preschool. I had two whole hours to myself (well, with Ephraim, who at that time rarely talked and was quite obedient), and I would, twice a week, for many weeks to come! At first I felt a little guilty, life was so easy during those two hours. Eventually, however, it came to mean much more than just "me time."

I have always loved Cheyenne, but her toddler years were some of the hardest years of my life. She was a ball of energy, had strong emotions, and talked incessantly (ok now that I think about it, not much has changed!). That is just who Cheyenne is, and I have no problems with that! But with my personality, it's essential for me to have many moments of solitude, quiet, and internal thinking-- our personalities sometimes seem at odds with each other.

When Cheyenne was little (before she turned 5), I was very anti-television. I don't like t.v. for a variety of reasons (which is a post for another day). To the point that my kids rarely watched it. We had "quiet time," but it seems like my kids had such a hard time staying away from me. So real, true "breaks" were hard to come by. Some women find other ways to get breaks other than with the television, and I wanted to be like them. But the older I get the more I realize that with my personality, even if "I can do it," I can't do it well without real, true breaks-- and the only way I've been able to find that with the age of my kids is with television. Now that I think about it, often when their dad would come home, I would demand to be alone in my room, because it was the very first time I was truly alone the entire day. I was also so spent emotionally by the end of the day I couldn't help with bedtime without losing my temper (I still have days like this even now, but back then it was mandatory). Now the way we live, we have the television occasionally in our lives, which really helps me have a break.

I had three very young children and it was really hard for me. The girls were so active, and a handful! On top of that, Cheyenne had a late birthday (November) so she was nearly 6 when she went to kindergarten! I love that girl, but the thought of her incessant questions for yet another year made me wonder if I would have a mental breakdown!

So... preschool. It was time. Time for me to have a real, consistent, break. So for twice a week for two hours (and with Cheyenne she had preschool for an additional three on Fridays), I was without those sweet, rowdy girls. And slowly, I saw myself change.

I used to have such a short temper. I used to have a hard time seeing the positive in my kids. And, my house was a complete disaster. But slowly over time, I found myself having more patience with my kids. I found a lot to love about their personalities. And with dedicated time on Monday and Wednesdays without so many little people underfoot, I was able to keep up on the housework a little bit better (okay only a little better... I am still such a terrible housekeeper!). I was more of the mom I wanted to be. I still find myself falling into the "mean mom" trap whenever we have a transition period-- when we have a new baby, when we start a new routine (we're currently going through one right now with Cheyenne getting adjusted to all day school)-- but I know now  what kind of mom I want to be, what kind of mom I can be. Preschool may not be your fairy godmother like it (kind of) was for me, but it helped me remember that I am a good, nice person. It helped me see that I could thrive in, and not just survive the early childhood years.

This post is not meant to convince you to try out preschool, it's simply a post to show my gratitude for people who care about our children other than ourselves, and give all of us the chance to be our best selves! How blessed we are that raising children is not a one-person job!!


  1. I had a very similar outlook with Tess and a similar experience. I even tried Montessori for a couple months and I loved the theory, but it just didnt' fit. We ended up waiting for a year and I found a preschool with a wonderful woman who loves preschoolers and has it in her basement. That was the right fit and Tess loved it.

    I too am happy outsourcing as much education as possible - well academic education at least. I just am not interested. Hah...I just would rather go to the park or something than do something like that. That probably sounds lazy, but there are so many things that only a parent can teach - patience, apologizing, how to show love, sharing, love of outdoors and exploring, freedom to make mistakes, the Gospel, and on and on...I am ok with letting someone else help out with the easy things like Abc's!

    I also appreciate hearing your thoughts about TV. We don't watch tv or videos regularly either and sometimes I forget the why. I get a little too caught up in "we don't do this" to remember why we decided that in the first place. I think flexibility, good judgment, and moderation are it everything I guess.

    I'm so glad you found a place that works for you guys and that you have a little break that you can plan on. Tess just has half-day kindergarten but I am LOVING having that time off-call and so is she. Best wishes for the transition to all-day. That will be hard for us I think.

    Thanks again always for your thoughtful, uplifting posts!

    1. That's a good thought about there's some things that only parents can teach. A good way to look at it and put in perspective what's most important.

      The moderation thing is so hard with the TV. I feel like it's so hard to turn it off once it's on. I can get stuck in the "we don't do this" thing too.

      Thanks for your comments Jill! It's always interesting to hear other people's experiences.