I made the decision a few months ago to keep Gabe at his toddler program for another year. He loves the program, adores the woman who runs it and she adores him (she hugs and kisses him and tells him she loves him), I think he is learning a ton from her, and he is doing it all in a wonderfully kind and caring environment. Plus, it is literally 3 blocks from my house, the timing is great (9-1pm), and she serves snack and a hot lunch. Right now he is going 2 days a week, but for May and June he'll switch to 3 days a week, and next year he is also going to go 3 days a week.
You would be shocked at the thinly veiled and/or outright criticism I have gotten over this decision. Every single other mother I know put their child in an "official" preschool for next year, and can't seem to understand why I wouldn't do the same. Gabe and all of his little friends are 2 years old, and will be 2 for the rest of this year (Gabe's birthday is in December and all his friends' birthdays are January or later). The school system in our town and neighboring towns requires a child to be 5 years old on September 1st, meaning that no matter what we choose for this upcoming September, it will be another 3 years before our children can go to school. This is the same whether they stay home for another year, do a toddler program for another year, or go to preschool for an extra year.
Certainly, I'll admit that having Gabe stay at his toddler program is convenient for us. It is very close, it is cheaper than preschool, and she FEEDS him. Do you know how much this child eats? Truthfully, though, I feel confident that this is the right decision for him. I believe Gabe is a very bright little boy and I also believe he is receiving a tremendous amount of nurturing in this program.
Gabe knows his numbers in English and Spanish, he knows his colors, he knows number correspondence (i.e. can connect numbers to objects, like counting how many cars are driving by or how many cookies are on his plate), knows most of his letters and tries to make words with those letters, he can cut well with scissors, holds a pencil correctly, shares nicely, chats up a storm in complete paragraphs, and is virtually potty trained (minus naps and nighttime) thanks to the insistence of the woman who runs the program. Most importantly, at least to me, he is happy. Happy when I drop him off, happy when I pick him up. Happy to learn new skills, happy to share what he knows. I write this not to brag about how awesome he is, although clearly I am biased on the topic, but rather to say I think he is doing just fine at this program.
Some of my friends, however, act like my decision is going to set him back for life. He may not get into an Ivy League university if he doesn't get 3 years of preschool! He won't learn to read! What about writing? Obviously, the new trend is preschool for 3 years is the Right Thing To Do. You are a Good Parent if you pay for the extra year of preschool.
Don't get me wrong, I really don't care whether people want to send their kids to preschool next year, but I do care that people seem to think what I am doing is out and out wrong or borderline neglectful. I am all about doing what is right for each kid, and I also feel strongly that we are over-educating children, over-committing them, and ending up with children who are stressed and burnt out at a young age. Those are my opinions. If you have a super fabulous preschool that is perfect for your kid, though, then of course that is what is right for you and your kid! I'm not walking around telling these moms that they're crazy.
It isn't just preschool, lots of toddlers we know are in 5 classes a week- art, music, gymnastics, etc. The parents we know are quizzing their kids over breakfast, buying educational videos that promise to teach your kid how to read, worrying when their child isn't leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.
I will be sending Gabe to preschool in another year, and the preschools I am looking at are relatively academically rigorous. I am not anti-education, and I'm not completely immune to the Must Have Super Smart Kid pressure. I just think there is this crazy trend of more is always better these days, and alternatives are not welcome. I know Chatty Cricket has encountered it in her neck of the woods, and My Wombinations has blogged about preschools that cost more than college too (both of whom has BRILLIANT children, by the way, and aren't obsessed with the more is better thing). What about you? Is this trend limited to the Massachusetts moms?