Since my girls turned two, the question of preschool has come up again and again. The fact that it’s even called preschool sends a little shiver down my spine. Why do children need to be schooled before they even start school? Now I’m sure most preschools and nurseries offer many experiences that I can’t and for lots, this childcare is essential or preferable but I’m just not sure. Recently I came across the term unschooling.
What is unschooling?
Unschooling is a method and philosophy of education whereby the child takes the lead in terms of what they learn, how the learn and when they learn. It is a term coined in the 1970s and is predominately but not exclusively used by homeschoolers. Advocates believe children are naturally curious and have an innate desire to learn and so will do so through life experiences, travel and social interaction.
Now the idea of removing children from the education system and allowing them to learn pretty much whatever they choose seems a little dramatic to me but the ethos behind it does appeal. Secretly, I think a modern take on home schooling would be fantastic but realistically, it’s unlikely to be feasible for us.
Here are three reasons why I’m in no rush for my girls to enter formal education.
1) Development: My twins are a perfect example of how two children raised as similarly as possible can turn out so different. While Jess took her first steps at 11 months, Emily waited until 20 months. Jess is sassy, articulate and emotions. Emily is thoughtful, cheeky and precise. Their milestones are rarely hit together and often weeks or months apart.
Schools require children to learn certain skills or knowledge at a certain time and in a certain way regardless of the individuals current needs. Is all the knowledge we try and pump into children even needed? Surely it is far more valuable to learn the skill of learning and the content of what you learn is less significant.
2) Family time: At the moment, I’m in the fortunate position that I able to be home with my girls full time. Although being a stay at home parent has its drawbacks, for me the benefits far outweigh these. I love the fact that I’m the key partner in their learning journeys and that they aren’t having to face unnecessary challenges that would no doubt arise from another setting.
3) Too much too young: Expecting a two year old to adjust to an unfamiliar environment, new adults and peers and a fully structured day seems a lot. Many children cope just fine and I’m sure many thrive. Maybe I want to keep them in a protected bubble for a little longer. Maybe I just don’t want to share my little ones just yet.
In a few short months my girls will be eligible for the newly increased 30 hours of government funded childcare each. I could choose to put my girls with a childminder, preschool or into a nursery for six hours a day. This is something I won’t be doing. Obviously this funding is a gift for those whose childcare costs pose a burden. However, while I can, I’ll keep my toddlers close and let them learn as and when they choose.
Once they are three, perhaps I’ll look into sessions for a few hours each weeks to help them build up independence but I know now, it’ll need to be as unstructured as possible and allow for plenty of play. At home we’ll be unschooling for the time being. I’ve got two more precious years before the school bell rings and I intend to savour them.
What do you think about preschool? Am I fretting about nothing?