Sunday, July 18, 2010

Preschool is not a Talent Show

I've been thinking a lot lately about what kind of parent I am, and what kind of parent I'm trying to be. I second guess myself a lot, but mostly I feel like I'm on track as far as how my parents raised me and how much of that I want to pass on to my kids. For example: I had a conversation recently with parents that I'm merely acquainted with, and that live in a verrrry different community that I do. We're talking $5,000 a year they pay for preschool--a two-day-a-week preschool. I shit you not. And before I could bite my tongue, I laughed and said that my son's preschool is 100 bucks a month. The other parents just raised their eyebrows and didn't say much after that, and if they think I'm hopelessly middle class, well, I hope I am. Because what I'm hoping to pass on to my kids is a different measure of success.

I don't want my kid to feel pressured to read by the age of four--I want him to develop a love of reading, period. I really don't think that pushing them into a program to accelerate reading is going to do jack squat for their love of the written word as an adult--and that is what you hope for them, right? Honey, let me tell you one more thing--if they don't see you reading, they probably won't, either. Based on what these parents told me, there aren't many books in their house. Parents like this introduce books as a means of giving them the edge over other kids, just like they play Mozart and feed them sushi to sophisticate them early. Which is a crying shame, because classical music is awesome and even better when you can talk to them about what makes it awesome and truly appreciate it yourself rather than using it to make you appear more highbrow. As for the sushi--same thing. It is not about making your kid cooler than the next, it is about enriching them with an excitement for trying new things, an enjoyment for the simple act of eating or listening to music or painting or whatever. KWIM?

Anyway. It doesn't matter to me how 'academic' my son's preschool is, or how many languages they teach, or how many college prep courses he takes. Because that simply pressures him to study hard to get into the 'best' college, to get the high-end job so he can make lots of money and afford to send his kids to the 'best' preschool, then onto the 'best' college, and the cycle starts right over again. I just don't believe that this is what life is all about. I'm not saying that I don't want my kids to be academically challenged and ambitious--but ambition can take many forms. I want them to be passionate about something, I want them to love reading for reading's sake, and to dip from a deep well of compassion when dealing with their fellow human beings. I would never dream of limiting his college major choices to med school or law school--I'll be happy with whatever he chooses as long as he's livin' the dream--and not staying on my couch.

I hate the idea of being a 'success'-oriented parent--pressuring a kid to perform at maximum efficiency so you can show him off to the other parents--and it saddens me that there are so many parents out there who live for this shit. Thankfully, I don't see much of this in Concord, which is why I chose to live here. But I live dangerously close to Walnut Creek/Danville/San Ramon, and lemme tell you, that shit is rampant. I hate to be cynical, and I hate to slam parents for doing what just seems natural to them, especially since I hate it when those parents judge other parents. (It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?) But I just have to keep it real for my kids: Life isn't your own personal cupcake, not everyone is going to love everything you have to say, and you don't have to go to med school to make me happy.


Melusine said...

Y'know what pre-school is for? Making sure kids understand what sharing is and how to deal with a schedule they have no control over before they start kindergarten. Also, getting them out of the house so mom can take a shower.

When I worked at the Day School, I was surprised to learn that they didn't have the kids reading at all in kindergarten. Turns out, the levels of development are just too erratic at that age. They start them reading in 1st grade. Some of the kids have come to it themselves already, but the ones who haven't catch up a lot faster and with less frustration than when they start structured reading curriculum in 1st grade.

Trying to push your kid to read in pre-school if they're not ready to read is frustrating for you, but more importantly for your kid. Early exposure to books, music, museums, etc. is awesome. Pushing is pretty much pointless, from what I've read.

But, of course, I'm not a professional educator or childhood development person, so take it with a grain of salt.

CafeMama said...

EXACTLY. And I hate to see some parents pressuring their kids to like things that they don't even like, just because it looks good. Nurture and value your own art/music/history appreciation and it will become a part of their lives much more naturally. You just can't fake that stuff.

Gorgon Zola said...
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Gorgon Zola said...
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