It’s the idea of learning vs. educating. There’s a huge difference. Our children have always been in preschool (i.e., daycare) since they were four months old. Life of the average working mama in America meant that getting back to work a few months after giving birth was a huge possibility. However, I actually wanted to get back to work as I enjoy what I do in my career. So, with both of the boys, I returned in a work-from-home status, even while they started going to daycare as babies, and went back in the office a couple days a week when they were seven months old. It allowed me to get back into my swing of things & to heal the mommy-brain that pregnancy brought on (well, so I thought…).
As someone who was always the academic type (i.e., high school valedictorian, A honor roll, often bored in class because I was not challenged enough, etc.), I always had mixed-emotions about traditional schooling. Math, science, reading, English, PE, Music, Art, & Homeroom (?) – that was all. This was, & somewhat still is, standard. And the way these subjects were taught/presented are not representative of real life. Not only are our parents our first teachers, but school should supplement what we are learning in life and at home. It is not an educational institution’s responsibility to make sure our child learns to count, read, decipher, etc. Many of life’s needs can be taught at home. School should aid in filling the gaps, but not being the initiator. We also believe that If you are the smartest person in the room, then you need a new room, as often said by a spiritual-leader we admire. I used to find that me making perfect grades did not mean I was so smart; it meant, and honestly felt like, I was just not challenged. We prefer for our child to bring home a C, so that we know there’s improvement to be made, than to bring home an A where it likely screams perfection or boredom (as was my case).
Thankfully, I enjoyed college because I was able to choose my own major(s). In grade school/high school, the curriculum was one-size-fits all. That does not provide much flexibility to students with special interests, disabilities, different ways of learning, (again) nor does it reflect on real life… (i.e., when last have you used the Pythagorean Theorem? I have, and ironically many of us do when driving unbeknownst to us, but I digress)…
So, while being abroad, our boys have been in preschool (as mentioned, the youngest was also in daycare as a baby, but then with a nanny while we lived abroad until he turned 2). One of the preschools they’ve experienced where we live now has open playtime and a general curriculum of learning alphabets, colors, numbers, etc. It’s free-spirited and allows the child to express their needs and interests. And the other preschool was an art school focused on sensory learning and seemed to focus more on comparing the child to an odd curriculum-focused developmental milestones (which we did not agree with). While we prefer the one that offers more free-play (where they are now), we also make sure we are exposing them to new things outside of the home and outside of school. Having flown over to Ivory Coast for New Year’s, one of our main attractions was to find a hippo. We never got to see one in east Africa. Our youngest adores hippos. Thus, at home, when we teach techniques like teeth brushing, putting himself to sleep, etc., we use the hippo as an example. At school, teaching certain topics will only be done using the already-provided example in an often out-of-date textbook…with no opportunity to explore, think outside-the-box, or share one’s personal interest. The example in the book is the example that’s shared and that’s that.
Preschool is definitely an option for us working parents and for those who like more of a traditional routine during the day. Homeschooling is the most personalized option (honestly, for us) because it allows for the child to be in a familiar environment with their first teacher(s), one’s parent(s) guiding them based on their personal needs and pace – we love that. And Worldschooling takes it to a whole new level by providing first-hand experiences to the child where they can see, touch, end engage (i.e., zoo, museums, etc.) – anywhere; it does not have to be abroad. We choose a hybrid of these methods and do not know what the future holds and we wish to allow our children multiple methods and avenues to learn. We are not a fan of traditional schooling because each child learns differently – hence, our love for unschooling techniques. The world has so much politics and rules already. If a child has to used the restroom, why do they have to ask for permission? If a child has a question, why can’t there just be a discussion instead of holding one’s hand up hoping to be called on? And not to mention what constitutes as winter, spring, and summer breaks. For some reason, much of society thinks that learning is on some type of schedule determined by the government, states, and other institutions…when in actuality, learning should be on-going regardless of what a calendar shows.
Homework has also proven not to be reflective of what one learns, and does not always coincide with the
learning education one receives (having earned degrees up to my doctorate, I can say this as a fair statement). But learning, to us, is more important than the method of education. The retention and understanding of information, as well as how to apply it, is more crucial than memorizing and passing a test. Even life skills are more crucial. Schools really should be teaching Finance, Engineering, Mechanics, Psychology, etc. to grade school students. The general subjects are all embedded in these topics, and allow more opportunity for real-life discussions.
We are sure that moving forward, we’ll continue finding the best balance for our children’s individual needs. And even as life-long learners ourselves, we are now able to filter where our gaps are and fill with knowledge from the many resources that are available today. Times are changing…