Couldn’t stop laughing & loving this post by Dan Hon on Medium, called, “It’s Preschool Open House Season, Motherfuckers.” This is how parents actually think & talk, just in case anyone was wondering.
After seven years & three kids, we are done with preschool this year, believe it or not, but for anyone searching, here’s my sincerest advice from my experience as a teacher & as a parent:
Find a place where your kid can be an actual f*cking kid–where everything about being a kid is celebrated & channeled into a joyful learning adventure. Pick a school that has teachers who specifically love children ages 3-5 & think that childhood is a magical, wonderful time that shouldn’t be rushed through. Pick a school that doesn’t shame & label & pick kids out to be victims or perpetrators. Preschool *is* a big deal–but mostly for the reasons that we all forget: it is the first place other adults’ voices will enter your child’s consciousness & become part of their own inner voice. Choose those voices carefully, because the inner voice follows us into adulthood.
Am I good?
Am I trying hard?
Am I kind?
Am I strong & brave?
Am I curious?
Am I heard?
Am I worth listening to?
Will someone come help me?
Am I able to solve problems?
Am I resilient?
Your child’s preschool teacher will be the first one besides *you* who answers these questions in your child’s mind. Worry less about what your child will learn in preschool than who their examples will be.
And when it does come to the actual learning part that you are going to worry about, do yourself & your kid a favor & do not pick a place that is actually kindergarten or first grade, where they’ll be doing worksheets & academics. Preschoolers should be touching, smelling, playing, getting messy. They are natural scientists if you give them sand & water & bugs & nature. They are natural empathizers & justice seekers if not every single interaction they have with peers is judged & monitored. They are natural learners if you give them an environment rich for learning–which is one that appeals to all five senses & that was designed with them in mind. Look for a preschool that is run & designed WITH KIDS IN MIND. The best environment for learning may not look like you expect it to.
For example, we want things to look tidy & neat, but if it always looks like that at a preschool, then it means the kids don’t actually get to touch & play with the materials. We want things to be sanitary, but if it always looks clean, then it means the kids don’t get to make any messes. We want things to look modern, but sometimes it’s the old-fashioned toys that use the most imagination.
So if you go to preschool, and the wooden blocks are covered in paint, & the sidewalk outside is covered with chalk drawings, & all the artwork that the kids do actually looks like kids did them–you’re on the right track. If the water & sand toys look like they’ve actually been in water & sand, & the crayons are broken & worn down to nubs, then you’re getting close. If your child goes to touch a toy or picture that is hanging at his level, & the teacher says, “Of course you can touch that, honey,” then it’s a good sign. If your child spills the paint or knocks over his cup, & the teacher says, “Don‘t worry. We’ll clean that up together,” then it’s a really good sign.
Now, if you’re wanting your kid to be reciting times tables by the end of preschool, then these tidbits are not for you. If you’re wanting your kid to start off school by loving it, then consider these things. And stay tuned for my next installment on Picking Preschool!
PS All three of my kids have attended Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA. It’s a truly special place conceived & designed & grown with children in mind. The owner, Linda Shannon, has combined a variety of teaching methods such as Montessori, Reggio, & Waldorf with a humanist, constructivist, whole-brain, whole-child approach that focuses on how the preschool neurobiological system works & on developing empathy & self-awareness. More on this in another post! Thank you to the Northup, Quinn & Bottura families for their beautiful kiddos in the pictures I took & posted here.