Wednesday, 10 September 2014

First day at pre-school

I have been really enjoying everyone's posts about the first day at preschool. Nice that so many of my SMC friends have kids a similar age, reaching this same milestone together.

I have been looking forward to it too. I can get more work done when BB is at preschool, I can start running again, I can go swimming, I can get on top of the house work... In my head I used that time three times over.

But I've been dreading it too. Did I make the right choice? Should he stay at nursery? What's the point in getting school ready if we might leave the country? I hate that they start so early here. I want to delay formal schooling for as long as I can. Why am I doing this?

I hate the UK education system. One of the main factors behind my desire to leave the country is because I don't want BB to go to school here. I am passionate about education and learning, but I hate the system. The more I have learned about education, learning and development, the more I hate the way our schools function. 

DD has asked me before if I would home school. I can't, I said. I have to work! How can I homeschool and work? The reason BB went to nursery was so I could work. I have to bring money in. Plus, let's be honest, 24/7 with a kid is hard. And I want to have time to do stuff for me. And he needs to socialise with kids his age... And... And... 

Last week, someone posted in an unschooling group I belong to on Facebook, asking what you say when you get asked why it is you home school. The answers were diverse but all compelling. I even posted one myself, based on 15 years of working in the system. The end result of the thread was that a more pertinent question and appropriate response could be "why do you send your kids to school?"

Then on Saturday whilst I was working and BB and DD were off doing boy stuff, I listened to a podcast on women's hour. It was about rewards and punishments in education. It started off well, there were some very insightful comments from some students, and then the researcher missed the point entirely, disappointing me once again.

The podcast did mention a tv show Educating the East End. I watched it online that night. 

I wept! 

These are human beings! In the most vulnerable time of their lives. What are we  doing to them? 

When it ended I turned to DD and said solemnly "our son becomes part of that system on Monday!"  It was a good reminder that we needed to jot down some questions for me to ask at BB's induction meeting. We made a good list. I felt we had it covered. 

We went to the induction. Luckily another mum and son that we have met a few times were at the same session. Our boys played well together. Better still the key worker was great and all my questions were answered very satisfactorily. I was feeling really happy and hopeful.

Then day 1. BB didn't want to go. We went though, I stayed for 15 mins and settled him. We looked at all the stuff there is there, they have free play in an indoor and outdoor area. It's well organised. He let me go without too much protest. No tears.

I spent the whole time he was there wondering why I am doing this. If I want to delay his school starting age, why have I put him there at 3? The simple answer is that I really need the child care. But it feels so wrong. As I walked back to collect him all I could think of was that we should be homeschooling. 

He was quite subdued when I arrived. Tired maybe. I asked if he enjoyed it and he said quietly  "not really". He didn't talk to anyone either, just like at nursery when his buddy's not there. He says he doesn't want to go again. 

I wonder if I should have kept him in nursery instead. I have asked him several times which one he likes best, nursery or preschool and he says "I don't like any, I only like you mum, I want to be with you, for ever" . 

It's hard to know really, but I think he just endures them both, quietly and without fuss. He doesn't talk to anyone. The only thing he can do there that he can't do at home is talk to other kids and he doesn't do that. I think he perhaps just doesn't have much in common with many of them. In other situations he really is a very sociable and very verbal little boy, everyone comments on how much and how well he talks. I am hoping that when his friend is there it will better. But still, I really can't see him thriving in that environment. Surviving maybe, but not thriving. 

As I put a very miserable, tired little boy to bed last night it came to me that I might just have to homeschool. In fact the feeling arose with such emotion it made me cry. I am not sure why I didn't consider it before. I did think of it, but I thought of all the reasons why I couldn't. Now I am starting to think about how we can get around those issues. 

It's almost like a brick to my head when I think about all those papers and programs  I wrote, saying that education should be meaningful, purposeful, locally contextualised, of interest and importance to the learner, ... blah blah blah...  and yet I never really thought I could do this for my own child! Doh! Wake up lady!

So, we're starting some homeschooling. I already met some great people online and we have a few meet ups planned. I already feel that some of these parents are the people I have been looking for too. They seem more like the friends I am used to than most of the people at the preschool door yesterday! I do still need some time to work, so for now at least I need him to go for a couple of sessions a week. But maybe I can find a more suitable alternative down the track if we need.

Maybe staying there is a good idea too in that I will be giving him a chance to get used to it and like it. If he wanted to go to school I would let him, I don't plan on forcing him into home ed, but if he doesn't want to go and I can offer something better then why not? If he begins to like preschool and wants to go every day, great! If he doesn't I need to be confident that I can do it myself. I also need to find ways to make being a self employed, single mum and home ed work together. 

It's corny I know, but I do really feel like a bit more of the puzzle re what I am supposed to do with my life has fallen into place. Several bits really, from my professional pre-parenting life as well as the current professional and personal. And it solves the issue of what happens if we move country, or just even just go for an extended stay in Australia. It also means that the education system wont force us to leave the UK. I really feel I'm on the right track!

Another piece tumbled in to place as we were driving to my Nans this afternoon. BB asked about clouds. "Why are there so many different clouds? What are their names?". I said to him that perhaps if he stayed with me one day instead of going to preschool maybe we could find out. He was excited. Then I asked him if there was anything else he'd like to learn about. "Trees" he said, "I want to learn about all the different types of trees, and why do they have branches? And trains, and coupling rods, I want to see them go up and down. And all sorts of different trains and train tracks and freight trains..."  A bit later at my nans he was playing with a model aeroplane. "Can I learn about planes too? And propellers and plane wheels? Why do planes have wheels? Can they go on the road? Are there lots of different planes too?" 

Mmm... Maybe I can see why he's not so inspired with sharing a tray of dried up play dough with a bunch of strangers! I think it could be right for him too. 



So let's explore both pathways. Some days we will be more purposeful in our home (and out and about) learning and activities, meet with some other homeschooling families and work out whether this really is possible, and other days he can continue to test out preschool and I can work. Then we will see which pathway suits us best...