Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 2nd Grade :)

Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part III

on July 16, 2012

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

Preschool time is soon approaching, and perhaps your child is on their way this fall! Perhaps you are excited, or full of mixed emotions about sending your little one off. Whether you feel at ease and your mind is made up, or your eyes moisten at the thought of this new change, read this post, please. (School age parents read too as all this info applies to older children as well) There is so much info and opinions out there supporting a young child going to preschool. Harder to find, but pretty thought provoking, is the information regarding the cons of preschool. In this third review of the book, Hold Onto your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, I will continue to examine the trend of our time: peers replacing parents, but this time in light of another recent trend: sending young children to preschool. Preschool parents of course want to know what preschool will not do for their child, so that mom and dad can do it. For you, here is a firmer foundation to step out on your decision. Honestly, I know very few families not sending their kids to preschool. However, there may be a mom simply following her instincts to keep her young ones home, and yet can’t quite put it into words why it is she is choosing to hold on to her children a little longer. Someone else may be reluctantly keeping a child home for lack of options. For you both, here is some wind to sail through your decision.

Here are several popular beliefs surrounding the decision to preschool one’s child and some countering arguments:

Preschool Will Socialize My Child

Today’s parents and teachers view early and extensive peer interaction in a positive light. We need to socialize children, right? Everywhere you go that’s what you hear parents talking about. The belief is that socializing–children spending time with one another–begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. However, there is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity. Author of Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, Gordon Neufeld, challenges our definition of “socialize”. “Social integration means much more than simply fitting in or getting along; true social integration requires not only a mixing with others but a mixing without losing one’s separateness or identity.” That is something that takes a great amount of maturity that children do not yet have! (Christians, can our children socialize with people of unlike values and still hold their identity in the world? Be salt to the earth without first being salty? Or a light to the world that can’t be snuffed out without first being ablaze? Not yet. Children are inherently not salty or ablaze, yet.)

If you have read my other book reviews, then you know that attachment to adults, not peers, is necessary for maturation. And the maturation required to keep one’s identity in all settings is necessary for genuine socialization. So true social skills arise out of a child’s maturation, maturation that results from his attached relationship to an adult. To be sure, the socializing of playing with other children plays a part in rendering a child capable of true social integration, but only as a finishing touch. It is no easy task, even for adults, to hold onto oneself when socializing. When we are too desperate to make things work, or uncomfortable being ourselves, we make ourselves fit in or we back away from conflict. Children have even greater difficulty holding onto themselves when interacting with others. What is praised as getting along in children would, in adult life, be called compromising oneself or selling oneself short or not being true to oneself. Until children can hold onto themselves, we need to hold onto them.

Hold Onto Your Kids has made it so clear to me why having my family standards is so important–like allowing Noah and Faith to socialize consistently only with like valued families. Our parent initiated and hand selected friendships for Noah and Faith are by far the safest, most beneficial friendships they could ever have. Cousin Roman, Landon, Tayler, and David’s families are so like minded that Noah can easily hold his sense of self around them. These children are the finishing touches to Noah and Faith’s socialization. But the true socializing behaviors are wrought out right here with mommy and daddy. Preschool, on the other hand, Christian or not, is a mixed bag, and relationships arise that are often not carefully hand selected by the parents. However, the more well attached children are to the adults who care for them, the less concerned we need to be about restricting their social play. Since homeschool lends naturally to a very attached child-parent relationship, this actually allows for more true social freedom. Who would have thought? (Oh, and who said homeschooling is riddled with socialization issues anyway? ;))

Peek in at your child’s preschool one day and observe your child–does it appear that he is learning more from his peers or his teacher? Preschool interaction seems innocent enough for sure, but the environment still has consequences: the kids are learning to follow each other. This seems ok for awhile, but as those innocent preschoolers grow and become immersed in American pop trash for example, the cultural icons of our age, our own children have already been trained from young to follow these peers. Like a bit placed in the mouth, our children can be led astray. Preschoolers are completely unable to hold onto themselves and therefore, the preschool environment is not the place for learning social skills.

Preschool Can Help My Child Overcome Shyness

Preschool seems important to some parents because they do not want their child to be shy. What Hold Onto Your Kids has to say about shyness makes me sigh a breath of relief about Noah’s shy tendancies. Some kids are naturally more shy than others, but it doesn’t have to be seen as a handicap. The usefulness of shyness is that it serves as an attachment force keeping a child from making an unsafe connection. The shy child will be timid around people he is not attached to. Naturally, adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers. They might appear socially naive and awkward around their peers. Peer oriented kids, appear to be socially successful. This is their forte–what is cool and what is not, what to wear and how to talk. Much of the sociability of peer oriented kids is the result of a loss of shyness. Phew! My little Noah is just mommy oriented, a good thing worth appreciating his shyness over. What should eventually temper shyness is not peer orientation but the psychological maturity that engenders a strong sense of self (which comes from strong parent attachment). I think I will see Noah’s shyness melt away as I keep him close and as he comes into who he is. That is something preschool can’t do for a shy kid.

My Child Would Be Bored Without Preschool

“I’m bored” is the all too common refrain of older children. I remember finding myself bored during childhood summer vacations–so much time, so little to do, and mom and dad at work. Many parents find themselves trying to alleviate their child’s listless type of behavior by facilitating peer interaction or finding a social activity of some sort. Even preschool parents are are trying to prevent boredom with play dates, sports, summer camp…..Thank goodness this is not what my parents did–they left us bored and alone. 😉 Social activities and friends are exactly what bored children do not need. It may temporarily seem to work, but it actually exacerbates the underlying issue. The underlying issue is that children become bored when their attachment instincts are not sufficiently engaged and when their sense of self does not emerge to fill this void. In other words, the hole that is usually experienced as boredom is the result of a double void of attachment and of emergence: the child is not with someone with whom he can attach and feel comfortable, and, on the other hand, she lacks sufficient curiosity and imagination to spend time creatively on her own. Ideally, such a void comes to be filled with the child’s emergent self: initiative, interests, creative solitude and play, original ideas, imagination, reflection, independent momentum. My sister and I were forced to “find ourselves” in these long summer hours, and that we did–emerging from all that ‘something from nothing’ type of play as thinking, creative young ladies with a strong sense of self. 😀 Peer orientation only blocks the emergence of the vital, curious, engaged self. So don’t be afraid of boredom! It will serve to mature your child! Better bored at home, than constantly superficially stimulated at preschool.

I would be so bold as to say that too much social play is an endangerment to emergent play (creative play). For young children, the closeness and contact with the person attached to must be very secure, like an anchor, in order for the child to be venture out into emergent, or creative solitary play. Children can never be a strong enough attachment anchor for one another, so their emergent play is always preempted by social play. Because we strongly emphasize peer socialization now days, emergent play–play arising from the child’s creativity, imagination, and curiosity about the world–has become endangered. Even parents serving as a playmate need to be careful and not overdo it, lest the emergent play deteriorate into social play, which is far less beneficial. Emergent play is more important in regards to a child’s development; social play is just fun, the icing on the cake. Upon discovering this, I too became aware that long solitary playtimes need to be carved out in the week for Noah and Faith, rather than having a constant stream of friends and play dates at the house. Preschool may be fun, but make sure it does not preempt true learning time at home alone.

My Child Needs Preschool Friends

The very concept of friendship is meaningless when applied to immature people. A true friend is considerate, acknowledges our boundaries, respects us as individuals, supports our growth and development. The capacity for true social integration comes with maturity and individuality. Many children are not even remotely capable of such. Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends, just attachments. What a child really needs is to become capable of true friendship, a fruit of maturation that develops only in a viable relationship with a caring adult. Our time is more wisely spent cultivating relationships with the adults in our child’s life than pursuing “friends” for our child. If its adult interaction that our child really needs, then we must admit that a lower adult to child ratio than what is found at preschool will best serve our children.

Preschool Will Smooth Out My Child’s Personality

When we think of homeschooler, we automatically think eccentric, right? Ha! We have an obsession with wanting to be “normal”, and for our kids to fit in. Perhaps we ourselves have become so peer oriented that we have a hard time expressing our own individuality and take cues from each other instead. To be cool is essentially to conform; we seek safety from shame. I urge you to consider that down through history it is the non-conformists who have made a difference in our world. The more a child depends on accepting adults, rather than peers, the more room there is for uniqueness and individuality to unfold and the greater the insulation against the intolerance of peers. Sorry, its just not cool to be cool. We are going to have to celebrate our children’s oddities and idiosyncrasies, or run the risk of suffocating their unique contributions in this world. Nowhere is there more freedom for a preschooler to be himself than at home!

Being Liked at Preschool Will Boost My Child’s Self-Esteem

Our challenge is to use our influence with our children to break (or prevent) their dependence on popularity, appearance, grades, or achievement for the way they think or feel about themselves. True self esteem does not say, I am worthwhile because I can do this or that. Rather, it proclaims, I am worthwhile whether or not I can do this, or the other. Only a self esteem that is independent of these things is going to truly serve a child. Only the unconditional loving acceptance that adults can offer is able to free a child from obsessing over signs of liking and belonging. Time at preschool can never do for your child’s self esteem what time spent in your love at home can.

Preschool Will Make My Child More Ready For Kindergarten

In the first days of kinder, a peer oriented child will appear smarter, more confident, and better able to benefit form the school experience. The parent oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would appear to be less adept and capable–at least until he can form a good attachment with the teacher. Peer oriented kids have all the advantages in situations that are adult poor and peer rich. Because peers are plentiful and easy to spot, the child need never feel lost or without cues to follow. Thus, in the short term, peer orientation appears to be a godsend. And it is undoubtedly this dynamic that research taps into when discovering benefits to early education. In the long term, of course, the positive effects will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation. Anxiety becomes the haunting long term emotion of the peer oriented because peer attachments are inherently insecure, and peer oriented kids are among the most agitated, perpetually restless, and chronically alarmed. Preschool may appear to serve the kindergartner, but the closer preschool brings a child to peer orientation, the worse off the child is in the long run at school.

Not Preschool Friends, but Best Friends

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Homeschool Preschool

So what if I decide to preschool at home you say? I feel overwhelmed! Let me put you at ease. One of the most pressing questions of parents who have made this decision is, “What preschool/kindergarten curriculum do I use?” The short answer that you are probably looking for is Before Five in a Row, Sonlight, or Rainbow Resource (supplier of curriculum). All wonderful curriculums. However, let me diverge into what really matters. Do you know that 85% of a persons personality is formed by age 6? What are the implications of that? The time to pour your life (rather than academics) into your children is now. As I have been shouting from the mountain tops so to speak on this blog, your investment in the preschool years is unsurpassable. Perhaps only 15% of what you do with your children needs to be academic. Where does that place curriculum on the todem pole? Pretty low. The other 85% of your investment is one of the heart. Whose personality was ever formed by letters and numbers? Have you come to realize at this point in life that it is so much more about what is in your heart than in your head? Values, character, love of God, spiritual skills, family life–knowledge of the heart–outweighs the importance of intellectual pursuits, especially in the formative years before age 6. You needn’t give away these priceless precious years to a preschool teacher.

Besides learning these lessons of the heart while at your side, the next most pressing need of preschool age children between 2 and 5 years old, is unstructured playtime. Too often, when not engaged in academic activities or some other intellectual pursuit (eg. music lessons), young children are engaged in other activities substituting for play, like playgroups and playdates (social fun, yes, but emergent, no). The current trend is to plan short play activities for children. Play that is adult planned and structured is rarely emergent, imaginative and creative. Children allotted short play periods over and over again may give up on more sophisticated forms of play and settle for less advanced forms that can be completed in short periods of time. Play that develops a child is long, uninterrupted, spontaneous, and initiated by the child. This is hard to achieve at preschool. This is hard to achieve even on non-preschool days at home as music, gymnastics, art classes, little league, church classes, playdates, playgroup–not to mention errands and other family obligations–fills up the schedule. And preschool goes from two days one year, to three days the next, and then kinder is a full 5 days! In my estimation, preschool + our calendar, may not leave enough time for emergent play. Find a way to get home and stay home, a lot.

If you are homeschooling, try to resist the urge to pack too many activities into the week or to make your homeschool preschooling too structured (I think I am speaking to myself here!!). Take heart that if you provide books, colors, paper, pencils, scissors, the outdoors, along with plenty of time with you, your preschooler will easily acquire the so-called school readiness skills. Learning comes naturally in the early years, our attempts to “teach” often just gets in the way. What pre-school/kindergarten curriculum should you use? The one God has already provided. God’s curriculum includes His Word and His world, loving parents, and the natural learning abilities of young children. With your Godly guidance, your little one will learn everything he needs to know without ever having a pre-packaged, store-bought curriculum.

Cherish those Rosy Chubby Cheeks!!!!!

Finally, from my heart to yours, please don’t send your little ones away to preschool unless you have to or are led to. Try to put yourself in the future and imagine how you will yearn to be able to once again kiss the cheeks of your preschooler again. Just to spend one more day with them when they were little. You wouldn’t care how bored you used to be pushing them on the swing, or listening to another story that didn’t make sense to you. You would just ache for the time when your little one saw no flaw in you, when you were perfect in their eyes, when they had absolutely no shame being smothered in your kisses, no flicker of embarassment present in their eyes when you lavished your love. You would long to hear their belly laugh as you tickled them on the swing, or to hear their sweet young voice eager to tell you everything they are dreaming up. Haven’t you already wished to be able to go back in time with your preschooler and hold them as a baby just one more time? This time in life will never come again. Hold Onto Your precious little ones a little longer and have no regrets!!

May God speak to your heart concerning the important decision to preschool as you pray.

Mommy’s Cupcake. Look at those cheeks!


2 responses to “Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part III

  1. Katie Ciccone says:

    I really enjoyed this post 🙂 We are also very careful who Rocco spends too much time with, his little spirit is so sensitive and can attach so easily to the wrong type of friend. I am very grateful for our preschool which requires each family to attend a church and I can trust that each parent is as involved as I am outside of school to raise their child. My biggest struggle is having an only child (not by my choice) and filling the void of the sibling relationship with myself and his friends, there’s really nothing equal to that sibling relationship. Keep it coming Lynn, you have an incredible passion!

    • Miss Lynn says:

      Be encouraged Katie that kids attachment needs can be completely met by a close parent child relationship, making a relationship with another child just the icing on the cake–even a sibling relationship. Thank God, Rocco has two awesome Christian parents who really love each other. What a gift that most children do not have! Never the less, I hear you and your longing for a sibling, and more so, God does, and I know He has something in the works for meeting the needs in your family. Tayler, my little neighbor, has no siblings yet, but has declared to her family that she does in fact have a brother, AND a sister–Noah and Faith! God is so good to fill every gap in the lives of each of His loved ones as we stay in prayer. God has some icing for Rocco too!

      Thank you sooooo much for reading this blog and taking a minute to bless me with your comments!! I hope it will continue to speak into your life.

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