The preschool bus, part one.
The sun is shining today so all is FUCKING AWESOME! This despite the fact that the hot water heater is actually broken, but in a bearable way where I just have to re-light the pilot light every so often, so this morning I got up at 5:30 so I’d have hot water for a shower at 6, and boy have I gotten to be a pro at lighting that pilot! The plumber suggested that they should send me any calls to light hot water heater pilots… I also just had invigorating conversations about 1) research and 2) teaching, so I’m in a Better Mood. Time to take on a Contentious Topic through a series of loosely organized posts.
All around me, parents with a child/children Bun Bun’s age (almost three) are ramping up for preschool in the fall. Not me. Which of the following options best describes the reason:
A) I think vaccinations are WRONG so my un-vaccinated child is legally prevented from being enrolled in preschool.
B) I think preschool is WRONG because children should not be separated from their mothers. Ever.
C) I asked my husband to set up open houses and he didn’t do SHIT about it so it’s too late for the convenient ones in our area.
The answer is C. But the real question is why a control freak like me would hand this task over to someone else. Here’s why. When I think about Decisions Concerning Education, my mind starts spinning out of control to such an extent that I decided it was in everyone’s best interests for me to not be at the helm on this one.
Even trying to think about my reasons for freaking out freaks me out. There’s the fact that considering preschool vs. not is a luxury reserved for those who have options, and having options makes me feel guilty. There’s the fact that as soon as my child enters this world of education, she will start getting labeled. I know, I’m labeling her already, but will I ever be ready for others to do it? I am not ready to hear that she’s average or above average or below average…
So let me try my tested approach to this kind of anxiety. State 1) what it is that I’m afraid of, 2) how likely it is to occur, and 3) whether there’s anything I can do to reduce the chance of that outcome.
- I’m afraid Bun Bun will not be ready for kindergarten, in the kindergarten readiness sense.
- I’m afraid that if I don’t vigorously seek out the best possible education for her she will be disadvantaged. And that I might be prevented from doing this not because of good reasons, of which there are plenty, but because of my extreme discomfort with the drastic change in my socio-economic position. I have gone from working class to upper middle class, and it’s a source of endless weirdness for me, of psychic whiplash.*
- I’m afraid of letting her go off into the world, period. It’s fucking dangerous.
- I will probably come up with at least one additional thing as I think this through.
The rest of this post will focus on #1.
How likely is it that Bun Bun will not have kindergarten readiness skills? Well, what the fuck are those in my state? *Googles.* Okay. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle. It’s a lot of stuff, and if I had to teach it to her, I’d be fucked. But luckily I do NOT. Here are some random things that I have seen enough data on to feel comfortable sharing with you:
- Mother’s education is a good predictor of IQ. For all the problems with IQ-y measures, they measure something. Why does mother’s education predict IQ? In large part because educated primary caregivers (hence mother) use more complex language, and exposure to complex language predicts acquisition of language, and verbal ability is one thing IQy tests measure. We’re going to be okay.
- I tend to think of myself as average. I am not. College graduates are very likely to have above average IQs. Chances are my children will be average in MY sense, but have above average educational outcomes. We’re going to be okay.
- Preschool enrollment predicts academic achievement for kids of less educated parents. For kids of more educated parents, it doesn’t. We’re going to be okay.
- Kids learn best through PLAY. This is something I am passionate about to a disturbing degree, but there’s also plenty of data to back it up. Bun Bun has already acquired some of the pre-K basics by doing what she feels like doing, though partly because she’s fortunate enough to be surrounded by caregivers who support her without intruding on her THING. I read the passage below (from the book Play = Learning, an edited volume by a bunch of developmental psychologists) in grad school but recently re-read it as a parent and it brought me to tears:
We’re going to be okay. The probability of Bun Bun not being kindergarten-ready, even without us doing anything different to help her get ready, is…LOW.
Is there anything I can do to reduce the chance of that outcome? Sure.
- Glance over the pre-K standards occasionally and think about how she’s doing, in a I’M NOT FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS, JUST KEEPING AN EYE ON IT way.
- Find her a preschool with a heavy focus on learning through play, for 2015. Or not.
- Maybe you can think of some other things. She does probably need more opportunities to learn not to bite people.
*It’s due to my husband’s income, not mine. Don’t want you thinking college professors are rolling around on beds covered with million dollar bills.