N. and I always look at our local newspaper together over breakfast and this morning we saw first-day-of-school pictures of kids and parents, including one of a boy crying while his dad comforted him. I said I felt sad looking at that picture, and N. said he did too and asked why he was crying. I said, maybe he doesn’t want to go to school, or maybe he’s just nervous and doesn’t know what it will be like. N. said, “Well, he doesn’t have to go to school! He can do homeschool! That’s so much more fun!” I tried to explain without going into it too much that there are lots of reasons why parents send their kids to school. Maybe the parents have to work and can’t stay home with their kids, or maybe they believe it is important for their kids to go to school.
Yesterday especially I felt so grateful that we are able to homeschool, that my husband is willing to do this with N. Here’s why I feel good about our decision not to send N. to kindergarten, in descending order of importance to me:
- He has lots of unstructured play time, which is increasingly disappearing from kindergartens, and which is the primary vehicle for young children's learning.
- He can pursue his interests, whether art, old buildings, trains, or whatever, for as long as he wants, and those interests can lead organically to other unforeseeable interests.
- He gets lots of unstructured time outside, which again is not common in many kindergartens and which is simply crucial for children (and adults!).
- He doesn’t have to be tested; we know what he is learning because we are with him and talking with him all the time. What he learns is not predetermined by tests.
- He can eat a healthy leisurely lunch at his own pace. This may seem minor, but like me, N. is a slow eater and lunch is his biggest meal of the day, but it takes a long time. When I went to an all-day kindergarten, I lost a significant amount of weight because I couldn’t adjust to the short lunch time. My mom had to ask for permission for me to stay in the cafeteria to finish eating rather than go out for after-lunch recess so that I could get some food in me! For N., lunch is a big learning time because he and Tim talk, read, and listen to music over the 1 ½-2 hours that lunch sometimes takes!
- Our mornings are low-stress because I am the only one who has to get somewhere by a specific time, and that’s usually not till 9:30. I have seen so many pieces in the media recently about getting your kids adjusted to the early morning deadlines of the school year, and I am so glad not to have to worry about that yet.
- Finally, N. gets lots of interaction with a broad range of people. Yesterday, N. had lengthy conversations with several adult neighbors, acquaintances at the farmer’s market, a chicken farmer, and a coffee roaster, and he played with his friend next door (though not as long as he would have liked to). I believe strongly in the value of multi-age social interactions, but I have not yet made strong enough connections with other homeschoolers N.’s age, and that is one of my goals for the fall.