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July 23, 2008

Preschool Ponderings

Shawnna Pre-school. Is such a prelude to the next 13 + years of school really necessary? Some will argue with much conviction YES. In some ways, I agree that it is beneficial for children to have a precursor to attending school all day, everyday. I think that the social aspect of a formal classroom and an (brief) introduction to the format of what they will soon become very familiar with as they start kindergarten is the most beneficial part of preschool. 

But, I can also attest to the natural learning that occurs in children out of nothing more than simple curiosity. Jazper has independently picked up Spanish from our Nanny who uses it when talking to the children regularly. He has also learned his left from his right simply by me stating which way we are going. Both my children have learned to talk from purely listening to others talk. And of course, the TV (though I know some mothers forbid it) has certainly taught my preschool-aged child how to count and even read. Jazper seems to expand on his learning all on his own. He will come to me and ask, “How do you spell ‘Power Ranger’?” And letter by letter, I’ll verbally dictate them as he writes them.

 

The truth is, fall is soon is approaching and I have no school for Jazper to attend this year. He attended preschool in Bucktown last year and I think he enjoyed it (but aside from learning to write his name, I’m also not entirely positive that he learned much more than he would have at home). We knew in the spring that we were likely going to move this summer but had no idea where we would move and in my usual lackadaisical approach to things, it never occurred to me to plan for the unexpected. Do normal people plan these sorts of things? I’m left wondering as I seemingly hit a brick wall in the Chicago Public School system. Jazper will turn 5 eight days after CPS’s deadline of September 1st for kindergarten, thus being forced to attend preschool another year. However, in Edgebrook (among their many stellar public schools), the grade range is only K-8. The one program they have through the Edgebrook Community Church is full and has been since March. In fact, the tuition-based schools also have a spring-time deadline for admission. 

Am I the only one who finds this need to plan so far in advance strange? Unfortunately, I think so and most likely because I was not raised in this urban environment of urgency. In my ‘neck of the woods’, you simply walked down (or drove your tractor) to the neighborhood elementary school the day before school started and signed your child up, no worries. So, imagine my surprise (or ignorance, as some school officials might say) when I find out that Chicago schools have a deadline that occurs almost an entire year before the child will actually be attending. My question to the many school officials I’ve talked to has been, “Does one actually plan an entire year before moving?”. Why, yes, Shawnna, they do. Normal People? 

So, does this mean that Jazper’s fourth year of life spent at home away from the formal ambiance of school is a recipe for ruin? I don’t think so. My so-called ‘plan’ is to involve the kids, as I’ve always done in the many Park District programs and also utilize the local YMCA preschool programs coupled with some special attention to extra learning at home. He already has something I never had as a child, a sibling. I think just by having Max to interact with has already given him way more social skills than I think I had at his age. I believe (and hope) that Jazper will be just as equipped with the same knowledge and experience as his fellow kindergarten classmates when the time comes. There is often much truth to literature and I often refer to old classics when searching for life’s little answers. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I don’t think it really matters in the grand scheme of things just how much planning I might have done, something would have gone wrong anyway. So, at the Rovinsky household, we’ll just go with the flow, try our hardest and hope for the best.

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