My baby boys start kindergarten in just 2 short weeks… Time has flown by, and I can’t believe that we’re already here. Although I have trouble remembering what my life was like before kids, I can remember being overwhelmed with feedings and diaper changes like it was just yesterday. It all happens so quickly.
A year ago, my husband and I made the decision to not send the boys to preschool. We struggled with the decision, weighing the pros and cons, making lists, reading everything I could find on the real benefits of putting them in school at age 4 rather than at age 5. Plus, the cost of sending two kids to preschool at the same time is nothing to scoff at. When we finally decided to keep them home, the plan was for me to “teach” them the things they would have learned in preschool. At first, the kids and I did a pretty good job. We worked on our numbers and our ABCs… I planned lessons and printed out worksheets, put together craft activities and thought of creative ways for them to learn all the basics.
But after a while, I got frustrated with trying to keep my then 19 month old occupied long enough for us to make it through just one letter. A couple days would go by without me “teaching” them anything (it seemed), and I would feel guilty about it, and we’d try again to get through the letters and numbers we missed so we’d be back on track. It was a vicious cycle of frustration and guilt. Our daily lessons became more of a chore than anything else, but my friends whose kids were in preschool were already learning how to read, and my Facebook Newsfeed was full of posts about friends’ preschoolers who were academically doing so much more than my kids. Mom guilt can be unbearable.
Then I read this amazing blog post about what a 4 year old should know:
So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.
* She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
* He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
* She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
* He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
* She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.
I remember feeling the guilt and stress and pressure of parenting lifting off my shoulders. All of the things I wanted for my children–right here–put into words and published by another mom. I wasn’t alone in all this!
So I stopped spending my evenings after putting the kids to bed planning out lessons and scouring the internet for teaching resources, and we stopped trying to force ABC and counting lessons while trying to prevent my daughter from eating paper and crayons and scribbling on the walls. Instead, we visited parks and playgrounds, went to museums and play parks with friends, took swim lessons and started martial arts classes. Over the past year, the boys have gone fishing and digging for clams. They’ve fed animals at petting zoos and ran around like lunatics at playgrounds. They’ve practiced riding their big boy bicycles and created masterpieces with play-dough. Their vocabulary (both Korean and English) has improved dramatically. They’ve spent time with friends and relatives and had regular lunch dates with Daddy. We attended story time at our local library and became involved in a weekly playgroup. The boys both hosted and attended their very first sleepovers. We caught tadpoles and found newly hatched baby birds inside an old mailbox. We baked cupcakes for our neighbors, took homemade cookies to Daddy’s office. They learned how to wash dishes and make their own beds (sort of), and we built forts and dressed up in full costume for epic lightsaber battles in the living room. It’s been a year of making memories with my too-quickly-growing children.
When we registered the boys for kindergarten, we were given a list of things kindergarteners SHOULD know before starting school. I scanned the list and realized that my boys are apparently completely unprepared for kindergarten because The List didn’t care that my boys learned about gravity at the Rolling Ball Museum or that they visited a working farm on the Korean countryside and saw how vegetables are harvested and prepared for sale. The List didn’t ask whether or not they understood how coal was made and used to heat homes in Korea or how clay is glazed and fired before it can be used. The List didn’t mention anything about how much they know about the lives of people like Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart and Henri Matisse from books read to them before bedtime. The List didn’t know my children at all.
Our children’s experiences and memories and all the things they’ve learned along the way don’t fit on any single list. And amazingly–somehow–over the past year as we adventured through Seoul, this Type-A, always over-prepared, plan-ahead-obsessed mama has learned to let go. I tossed The List in the trash can. My boys are HAPPY. And that’s enough for now.