Friday, October 24, 2014

In Defense of Homeschool {Preschool is a verb}

My daughter started her first day of a weekly Spanish Immersion preschool this week, during one of the days she spends in her dad's care. I totally respect November's father's desire to contribute to her education in the way he feels most comfortable, and I'm sure he respects mine. I'm hoping that, over the next three years she spends before kindergarten age, we can come to a full agreement about her educational future, but in the meantime, our mixed approach will be great.

While my daughter may have started her first day at a preschool, I don't consider it her first day of preschool. I'm not saying this to negate the quality or importance of the preschool she goes to; I think her school is great! I wholeheartedly support preschool! What I am doing is showing that our home-preschool days (and homeschooling in general) are equally as important.

When people hear the term preschool, they often think of it in the traditional sense of a noun; a building, a place, a school.

Less often, but still commonly, people think of preschool as an adjective; pertaining to the age group of children before kindergarten, as in referring to preschool aged children.

This second definition of preschool definitely allows more freedom and versatility for what the word can mean. It can mean an age group, regardless of whether the child attends education in a formal building dedicated to schooling. It can mean that once your child reaches that age, they are automatically a preschooler; preschool becomes life; preschooler, an identity.

For those of you who have preschool-aged children, you are familiar with the growing curiosity that blossoms more and more with every day; the onslaught of constant questions and why. Why mom? What are you looking at? Why? What are you thinking? Why? Where did you go? Why? 

Yes, learning and a desire for knowledge are all happening to your little preschooler, regardless of being in an actual school. Learning definitely happens in a school, but it is also happening at home, in every activity, in every moment. Everything becomes a learning experience, even without you realizing it! Which is why preschool can also be a verb.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. This lady wants to homeschool her kid, and claims that preschool is a verb?" I hear you say. Ok, disclaimer: I know preschool, by definition, is NOT a verb. BUT, for the sake of this analogy, I am making it one.

Preschool is something you do. It's learning, teaching, playing, reading, listening, touching, looking, exploring. All those things preschoolers do at a school, they can do at home, in the car, on a walk, during an activity, or on a playdate.

When we're in the car, we talk about the seasons changing, point out the colors of the fall leaves as we drive through streets lined with trees. November vocalizes things she remembers us learning, she names the colors she sees, she talks about the weather. We preschool in the car.

At home, we do art projects, she helps me cook, she learns to pour tea, we do puzzles, she does imaginative independent play, we play together, we have conversations, I ask her about things we've learned. She asks a million questions and I try my best to answer her. She helps me take care of our plants. We preschool at home.

Preschool is a noun; a school. Preschool describes an age group; an automatic identity. Preschool is a verb; something you do. It is all of those things. For those who send their children to a preschool (noun), terrific! For those who purposefully preschool (verb) at home, still terrific! And even those who have chosen to do neither (formal schooling isn't mandatory until 1st grade in the state of Washington), even you are preschooling by nourishing his/her thirst for knowledge through reading, talk, and play in everyday life.

Now, let's talk about another word; homeschool. Some people cringe at the word, imagining a dark, boring room in a quiet house where a student sits alone surrounded by books with no one to socialize with. While this CAN be the case, it certainly doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be! There are so many resources for homeschooling these days, whether preschool or older. There are groups, co-ops, activities, and so many ways to nourish your child educationally AND socially through homeshooling.

We spend more time socializing, playing, AND learning outside of the home on our 'homeschool' preschool days than any other day of the week. Just because your 'school' is based and planned from within the home, doesn't mean that's where your teaching/learning is restricted to!

I think it's a little easier to swallow the idea of preschool being a verb than school in general, since most can agree that preschoolers primarily learn through child-led play and activity during that age. But it's much harder to trust education to the desires and interests of a student once they get older. But the truth is, learning IS a verb, and not just for the sake of an analogy. And you can do it anywhere, whether from within a building called school, or from home, a field trip, a study group, a homeschool co-op, an activity, or a book.

Education IS important. Learning IS important. Schools are essential. But an education can be joyfully and lovingly taught from home as well. Socialization isn't restricted to a school building.

Learning is a verb. Preschool is a verb.

Do you agree?

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