In my previous "pre-school dilemmas" post on May 18, 2007, Dana, a friend from high school who lives down in TX and has 4 children, commented on her own personal thoughts about motives for pre-school and she pointed out some cautions as well. I used that post to reflect more deeply into my own motives for thinking about putting Charley into pre-school, and came away even more certain that we are doing this for the right reasons. I wanted to describe my own thoughts and respond to what she wrote in another comment to her, but it got too long and so I am turning it into a post for everyone to read. If you want to read her original comment, the link is https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=31275887&postID=8322021595624444154 or just go to the comments link on my May 18, 2007 "pre-school dilemmas" post.
I hope this exchange provokes thought and understanding between all who have an opinion on this subject.
I'd like to go through the concerns you brought up and write out my thinking. That way, I can make sure I'm not avoiding any issues and have thought everything through honestly in my own mind, and it might be interesting to you to understand a different perspective.
It's so interesting to me how different people come to different conclusions based on different circumstances. For instance, I don't have the wonderful support system of friends here that are able and available to take the kids off my hands so any break I get, besides Will coming home early from work, I have to pay for. However, as nice as a few hours with just Ben and I would be for me, it isn't my motivation in putting him in pre-school.
Also, you mentioned several motives that you had narrowed down for yourself such as "grown-up" peer pressure and I was really glad you said that because it helped me to make sure that I wasn't doing the same thing. In fact, I have talked to only 2 stay-at-home moms who are about to put their kids into pre-school; so I definitely don't feel any pressure to "keep up with the Joneses".
As far as what my kids will remember about their childhood . . . I don't think 2 mornings a week away from me will even factor into their thinking. In fact, they already do it when you factor in Bible study on Tuesday morning and church on Sunday. Not to mention the weeks that we get a babysitter to go out. So, I definitely don't think this will cause them any concern about the time or energy I'm investing into their lives. It's a good consideration though, and good motive-check again.
Another motive you mentioned was that some people put their kids in pre-school to give them a better future or to have them "participate in the latest or most advanced programs." While I am interested in Charley getting a good education, I don't feel that pre-school is the key. I still believe that Will and I are educated enough to provide a perfectly good education for our kids and to that end I have not ruled out home-schooling. However, I also haven't ruled out public school, which some might say would certainly ruin his education. Instead, we are taking the decision of "schooling" and "type of schooling" literally one year at a time. One reason we are doing this is because we want to make the wisest decisions we can for our kids and listen to God's leading and direction for us all there. The other reason is because of the nature of the Navy, we have to be ready for the possibility of many moves, during the school or not; or to places with excellent or poor schools; to places where we can afford it or not. I believe that all of these things will ultimately factor in to our decision of where to place our kids year after year. For instance, if I know we have several moves coming up, I might homeschool that year. If we move to a place with excellent public schools such as Rockwall or Katy, TX (and many others) we might enroll them there. Or, if we move back to Norfolk where we can afford private school, we want to consider that. I feel that by keeping everything on the table, it helps to keep up open to what God wants us to do.
NOW :) my first thought while reading what I've just written is, "what a lack of stability we might be setting our sons up for, all the changes, and possibly different schools ... how will this engender security in my children?" And my first response to these concerns and possibly fears is: in a way, change is the nature of life, for everyone, but especially for a family in the Navy. Because I knew that we'd have children while we were still a Navy family, some of my first thoughts regarding having children dealt with, "how will I prepare my child to deal with this?" I have definitely seen the toll that being a military brat can take on some kids, and families.
Therefore, I must take a different approach to all of the instability they will encounter (and have already encountered - Charley has already experienced 2 moves and he's not even 3). I cannot look at it as a negative since it is the life God, in all His wisdom, has given us to live. I must embrace that we (including my children) were meant to go through all of the changes the Navy will bring us, and KNOW that God WILL give us the strength and resources to deal with it.
My first goal is to teach him how to rely on God and the strength within himself that God gives us as people struggling to live on this earth...if I can teach him to turn to God first, whenever he's frustrated, afraid, lonely, hurt, or happy too, then I think that will go a long way towards helping him through the tumult of Navy life and eventually...life on his own.
My second goal is to do my part in building a strong family unit for us all as we lean on each other through each move, deployment, and change...to build a secure "environment of love and support" like you said. However, I may differ from you in that I don't believe that putting Charley in pre-school for 2 or even 3 days a week, will challenge that at this point. I may feel differently next year, depending on our move in May and where we go. Hence, my need to keep ALL options open.
My third goal is to teach my children about attitude and how when you encounter struggle and hardship, you can use it to grow or to wilt. I want them to know that it is a mere fact of life that this will happen and I want them to be ready to deal with it...whether it brings them pain or joy. We were made to experience both and to embrace, learn, and grow through both. Granted, I don't want them to learn about things they're not prepared to handle at an appropriate age. I think that any negative things that he might encounter at a pre-school of my choosing (I'm currently visiting them during the day to observe for myself the atmosphere, teachers and lessons), will be good for us to talk through and deal with and will be a good introduction into this fallen world he will have to live in on his own someday.
After all of this, I can say with 95% certainty that the main motivator for me in considering pre-school for Charley is simply that it would benefit him on many levels (encourage his independent spirit, give him the chance to act properly apart from me and the chance to understand what's not appropriate around others, structured social interaction, a better chance for his creativity to grow, to be challenged and learn so much intellectually to name a few) as a child and enhance his growth in many different ways. I simply believe he's ready for it and he definitely wants it. He asks to go to school constantly, which my Mom said reminded her of me! In short, I think it would be so good for him, not every child, maybe not even Ben when it's time. It's not because I believe pre-school is the key in making sure he has the best, most advanced education. It's not because I want a break from him during the day. It's not because it's the "thing" to do or because "people" are worried about how much kids are learning these days. I believe the reasons we are considering it are positive and I think I pretty much covered those in my previous post, "pre-school dilemmas". (I had been talking a lot about things that weren't influencing our decision, I just wanted to mention some things that were.)
I agree with you that this is an important decision that should be made with discernment. I can tell that I'm probably quite a bit more comfortable with my kids coming into contact with negative outside influences than you are though, and that's ok with me. Maybe it's because you struggle with that particular issue for personal reasons more than I do. Or maybe it's because I feel like I was too sheltered as a child. I wish that my parents had told me or shown me more of the world so that I could have prepared for it in advance in the "safe" environment of my own home, or so they could have taught me how to deal with it. Who knows. We are the way we are and we do the things we do because of so many things including our pasts, and our own current, particular situations in life; and those differences lend themselves to different decisions. I like what the Jeub father of 13 said, it was something like, "you can always try to do everything right for your children, but you will still always make a mistake." I'm sure many wise people have said this and while it may seem negative, it is also freeing. It frees us to realize that we need to trust God more than our own abilities in child raising. It frees us from some of the guilt of making inevitable mistakes. It frees us to be very much IN the world and not OF it. And finally, it frees us to allow our children to be children and make mistakes along the way knowing that God is still in control. I know that I'm not always good at living all of these things, but I think their truth remains in tact regardless.
I believe that as long as I'm seeking God in the decisions I make regarding my children, they will be safe in His care. Calamity will come regardless of the job I do as a parent and I need not fear it, but in the vein of Paul, embrace it and learn how God wants me to grow through it.
I know that I'm seeking God's guidance in the best way to raise my children and I know that you're doing that as well. And as long as we're both doing that, then even when we come to different conclusions on what the best for our children, we're still doing what God wants and we can both be at peace about that.
I appreciate your perspective and words of caution and advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to express your personal thoughts and feelings to me. Reading through them helped me to be sure I wasn't making this decision for the wrong reasons, but more importantly, reminded me to be in prayer about this a lot more than I already am.