Family Life,  motherhood,  Parenting,  school

Oops, we quit it again (preschool, that is)

I mean, I think we all saw this coming.

I’m pretty sure the director of our sweet little neighborhood preschool did, anyway, when I switched the boys from full day to half day to 2 half days per week to…nada. Poor kids. Poor little Caterpiller and Ladybug classrooms, both now down a blonde boy apiece.

Here’s the rub though; the kids cared not one single bit. And actually, the nail in the pre-k coffin was John Paul (3.25 years old) and his nightly freakout sessions (which I was attempting to negotiate with threats of “if you don’t get back in bed and stop screaming you’ll be too tired to go to school in the morning”) which promptly and mercifully extinguished the moment he heard “you won’t be able to go to school.”

“I don’t have to go to school, mommy?!”

Oh crap. He didn’t want to go?

“Is that why you’ve been, um, so … intense lately, honey?”

“Yeah.”

Crickets.

Wellllllll okay then. I called the preschool director later that afternoon and pulled the trigger. Announced time of death. Called the game. Whatever. Actually, first I checked with Joey, the freshly-minted 5 year old, to see if he was potentially devastated by such a turn of events. He wasn’t.

His exact reaction was something along the lines of “oh, can I stay home all day in my cozy pants with you?!”

So college should be absolutely thrilling for him.

(Also, I’m getting dressed a lot more frequently now. I’d say 95% of the time. Nothing like seeing your own shiny reflection in the impression you’re making on your filterless five year old for a little reality check.)

So how’s it going, having 4 kids 5 and under home all day while trying to work full-time ish from said home?

Pretty good, truth be told. Better than it was with 2 of them in school 3x’s per week, or even 2x’s per week.

Because no drop offs. No pick ups. No trudging into the school 5 minutes before dismissal with the double stroller and waiting outside two separate classrooms to sign two separate sign out sheets and then schlep all 4 back to the car to begin the lunchtime negotiations.

We have more peace and more chill in the mornings, for sure, and as long as I have a steady stack of library books available, I think they’re getting approximately the same socialization/academic instruction that one might desire for a pre-literate human needling.

I thought – no, I was utterly convinced – that I needed preschool in order to survive this season of life with a newborn and three other pretty young children, but it turned out to be less of a blessing and more of a hassle.

So what are we doing instead?

Well, aside from the aforementioned library books, there are three essential components that make life bearable slash occasionally enjoyable M-F.

1. Self care, beginning with the spiritual. I scored an October issue of Magnificat at the World Meeting of Families last month and I’ve been sitting down with it and a coffee first thing every morning. It has been nothing short of life-changing. I love (and use, when I’m on the go) Blessed is She for the same purpose, but there’s something about having a physical book in my hands that helps me slow down and focus on what I’m reading. I’ve made a rule that I can’t touch my phone or laptop until prayer time happens, which has finally helped morning prayer “stick” for me, since it’s tied not to a predictable recurrent wake time but to the order of events of the day.

I’ve also been more faithful to one night out per week with either my sisters or girlfriends, and involving either adoration or prayer or conversation or alcohol or all 4. I’ve also been hitting the gym 4 times per week whenever someone is available to watch Luke for 40 minutes or so, and the kid’s club is open.

2. Domestic help. I have a homeschooler who comes for 4-5 hours every Monday. She is delightful and her only flaw is that she can’t drive herself, but her parents drop her off and I drive her home, so it’s not the worst. She does dishes and mops the floors and takes the big kids to the park and has recently been designing her own preschool curriculum to tutor them in the afternoons when Evie and Luke are asleep, and no you can never have her number. Or even her name. Cackle. (God help me when she leaves for college.)

3. Taking little opportunities to do school-y things in our day-to-day lives. I’m about 90% convinced that I’m never going to homeschool, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still the primary educator. So we learn together. We stop at a construction site and watch the diggers and talk about how asphalt is made. We go on nature walks and bring the leaves home and arrange them in ROYGBIV order and talk about seasons and why leaves turn colors and photo-freaking-synthesis. We stop by church to say hi to Jesus and talk about the Real Presence and the red candle and the Eucharist. In sum? We just do life and it happens to include teachy stuff and it’s such a relief to read studies like this one that make me feel ril, ril good about my illiterate little preschoolers.

I’m realizing with each passing week that this season of all 4 kids home all day long is actually fleeting, so on the afternoons (read: most) when the fan is totally covered I’m still trying to kind of soak it up. Or at the very least, be glad that I can crack open a little happy hour at 4 pm and not be worried about pickup time. (And p.s., with the $$$$$$/month we’re saving in tuition, I can afford to drink the good stuff. Public school was not free, as it turns out.)

parkselfie

13 Comments

  • Mary Bacher

    My family moved in February when I was mid-preschool year, but my sweet mama decided to not find a new school for me. My parents still joke to this day that I am a “preschool dropout,” but I am 25, married, and I have my masters degree so I turned out just fine 😉 loved your post and insight! Your kiddos are surely blessed to spend their days with a mom who has their best interest at heart.

  • Micaela

    I 100% agree with the physical prayer book and the rules about phone/internet use. We get the Word Among Us (similar to Magnificat) but my hubby hogs it. Oh well, there are worse problems than having a husband who’s a daily Mass-goer. 🙂

    I’m glad you’ve found peace. Like a jerk, I *again* overscheduled my kids and I’m anxiously waiting for a couple classes to end so I can regain my weekday sanity. Come on, Advent.

  • Annelise

    It sounds like you would do well at homeschooling! What a blessing to have them with you all day, you know that they are learning far more about what really matters and you alone get to form those precious little souls.

  • Mary Wilkerson

    REALLY like the prayer before electronics rule.
    Been thinking a lot about the preschool thing because, honestly, Aaron is kind of a hot mess (um- the hole in the wall he kicked on Wednesday was probably the most telling)- I think the going everyday is really getting to a kid that’s never even left our house. I don’t think we are going to be drop outs this year (ha, my dave ramsey husband who has already paid tuition would have none of it)- but I’m really thinking about next year and how a whole day is just not gonna work for us. These are great tips because I am terrified of having all the kids home all day 😉 It’s very overwhelming to have so many littles.

    The self care going out once a week is something I just recently discovered. I don’t have a lot of great really close girlfriends or sisters near by, but I have noticed that never leaving my house or talking to adults is starting to effect me. The thing is, I REALLY like hanging out with my husband and I hate going out without him. BUT, it is completely impractical at this stage in life for us both to leave the house for anything other than nights that we already have to be out for one reason or another (um, babysitter prices, ‘nough said). Anyway, all that to say, I just decided this week I am going to do Thursday early evening bar nights at this dive bar at the end of my street. From 6-8 and our circle of friends, whoever can come can come. It might be 2 of us, or it might be a whole crew. It allows for real social time, and I am still home in time for bed on a school night, which is essential. I did it this week and it was really good for my soul (though I missed Aaron being out with us). The thing is, at the end of the weekday, Big Aaron is kind of spent intellectually from work, and I am spent physically from kids, so I found I wasn’t being stimulated by enough adult real life conversation (vs. the interwebs).

    anyway, that’s my new plan. We shall see how it works.

  • melissa

    Yes. I am so glad you wrote this post because I have been waiting for it ever since you mentioned pulling out of pre school. I have been so conflicted about this. The thing is, my 3.5 yr old loves it, and has a great time and is doing well, but the transitions between school and home are a bear. Also, its a financial strain. Also, I can’t seem to make myself believe that we will be able to get through baby #3s newborn stage without getting him out of the house for a little bit in a couple months, but then….pickup and drop off and ugh. I think I’m stressing because the moms I know who aren’t doing pre school are being v organized in the “homeschool preschool” department, and I’m just not. There I go comparing again. By the way-prayer before electronics, so good. Because heaven knows I won’t be waking up before the kids to squeeze in prayer time

  • Jean

    I didn’t go to kindergarten much less preschool because my parents didn’t have the money for it, but I did manage to get my regular education and some post secondary. Both my kids, neither of whom went to pre-school, have university degrees, the second child has more than one, in fact. We had access to a travelling library, a van converted to a mini-library called “the bookmobile” and I read to them a lot. Hours of playing with homemade playdoh, toys, outdoor time, nature walks. Though I had only two of my own I looked after neighbour’s kids to the tune of five children in all, my own included. One was a baby handed to me at the age of five weeks. So, yes, I was plenty busy and can relate. Walking to the local mall was an event in itself. I, too, remember early morning prayer time as being my only private space, and eventually had a subscription to The Word Among Us, still do in fact, more leisurely read these days. I think it takes time and patience to sort out what best fits a busy woman’s needs & lifestyle, and the key to finding what works lies in being patient with oneself and considering what nurtures as opposed to what one assumes others think she should be doing. We’re familiar with the “Do unto others…” but often forget to be considerate of ourselves.

  • Jeanette

    Being a mom at home can be socially isolating, but to be honest, it sounds pretty tough when your solution is to go to a bar for a rest from life as a mom as was mentioned in one comment. That seems to be an easy go-to for a meeting space, but you can likely get a more appropriate space at your parish for a 2 hour fellowship slot for moms. Ask your pastor to advertise in the bulletin and connect with like minded moms who just desire an informal social outlet. If you want something more formal, look up ENDOW. It is a Catholic women’s group that can be started at any parish or may already be active in your area. The cost is about $20 for materials. You meet weekly and the discussions are good. No prep is needed (which is the nice thing), since you read the materials together and then discuss as you go along.

    As for containing babysitting costs, share babysitting duty with another couple. It could be a couple that has kids, and you take turns, or maybe a newlywed or even an engaged couple who would appreciate the experience of being around children. Or try an empty-nest couple that misses having kids around. Again, ask around at your parish (talk to whoever handles marriage prep). Get to know each other first. Meet informally at your home. This is a possible ministry a parish could form to help married couples in living out their vocation as parents.

    • Mary Wilkerson

      Ha- this was funny. Um- we aren’t planning on going to a bar weekly to get wasted. We enjoy a drink or two and good positive conversation about our lives with our children/our faith/our peer-shared experience. People are weird.

      • Jeanette

        I didn’t think you were getting wasted, I was referring more to the location. The bar, described as a dive, didn’t sound like a very inviting place for women to gather. I was just suggesting an inexpensive alternative. I guess I didn’t make it clear what I meant. Sorry about that!

  • Judith

    So, this is totally NOT to criticize anyone’s decision NOT to send their children to preschool. Just my thoughts as I was thinking about preschool scheduling for my own kids. I don’t know about your areas, but where I live, there seem to be fewer options every year for half-day or other partial Kindergarten schedules–in Catholic or public schools. So if you’re not planning to homeschool, that means that most Kindergarteners are looking at 35 hours a week away from home. By that point, NO days to sleep in, NO days to follow mom’s schedule, NO days to do whatever they feel like doing all day. I know for my children, if they didn’t have some opportunity to transition into that schedule, it would have been a big shock to their system–quite the rude awakening. Maybe most people’s kids are better at adapting than mine are, but I knew mine wouldn’t handle it well–zero to 35 in one week flat! (Couple that with the current academic expectations on American Kindergarteners these days, as the Atlantic article discussed, and there’s double trouble! I think our Catholic school’s kindergarten incorporates a good bit of play, two recesses every day, rest time, “specials classes,” etc. But there’s still a lot of desk work–learning to write the alphabet and numbers–and just the basic fact that they’re mostly following someone else’s rules & routine for 7 hours a day. Also, in our area/demographic, I think there’s the assumption that most kids will have attended preschool nowadays before they arrive at Kindergarten, so the teachers expect certain emotional/social/academic competencies coming in.) Anyway, that’s mostly what led me to decide it might be better to start earlier rather than later with preschool, but to work them up slowly in terms of time spent at school. They did one year of preschool at 5-6 hrs a week (three different kids, slightly different schedules), the next year at 6-10 hours a week, and the third year at 15 hours a week. Of course it’s hard to say exactly how they would have fared in Kindergarten if they hadn’t done this schedule, and obviously it’s just my own anecdotal experience, but I feel like it was good preparation/transition time for them.

  • Jennifer

    Good post. I too gave up the drop-off/pick-up race when the kids were little. And six years later…still homeschooling. 😉

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