When our firstborn was 1 year old my Mum suggested that I start thinking about preschool options. At that time she worked in a preschool, and she knew many of them had a waiting list.
The thought of my little man being away from me, under the care of someone else, doing things I knew nothing about, filled me with sadness and emptiness.
Then I heard about home education.
Could it really work? It sounded so lovely? Surely there was a drawback? HOW could it work?
My mum knew someone who had taken her foster son out of school for a few years and home educated him - I rang her.
She gave me a few more names of ladies to ring, which I did, and the first question I had for them "Do I really have to send my son to preschool or kindergarten?" *
I hear the same question now from new mums starting out, and I know why they ask.
The reason preschools and kindergartens were started were not natural. Look it up yourself. They were trying to do the best they could for children who needed extra help.
Just recently I heard from a mum who had withdrawn her son from an in-home childcare situation where the little boy seemed very unhappy. Since being at home he'd managed to share with her some very sad things that had gone on.
Another mum commented that in looking at Early Childhood Education providers one is really choosing a "proxy parent".
The truth of this term hit me hard.
A "proxy parent" may be necessary if a parent, or family member is ill (mentally or physically) and the child needs love and guidance from someone other than a parent.
A "proxy parent" may be necessary if a parent is in such a dire financial situation that it is absolutely imperative that the parent work.
But a "proxy parent" is not necessary in the life of a healthy child from a healthy home.
Since when, then, did childcare or Early Childhood Education become VITAL to the life of a child?
Since when did a birth parent have to feel "less than" when it comes to raising their little ones?
And when did a parent feel that their child would be missing out on a CRUCIAL part of their life if they stayed home during their early years?
"Oh, but Debbie" I hear you say "You don't know my child - he drives me mad - always busy, rushing around, doing things, gets bored, picks on his little sister, I can't keep him busy - I'd go mad if I had to have him at home." Or you may say "I can't take my children shopping with me - they're too much to handle."
Well - I understand. I really do. Don't ask how I know - well you can if you like, but I was introduced to the world of "High Need Children" about 3 weeks into parenthood. And then followed lessons on "the child who throws a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket - even on a wonderful trip out with his grandparents ..." and now "the child with extreme sensory processing disorder who PULLS on the pushchair when he becomes overwhelmed in shops, YELLS for something to buy thinking that will fix the "not right" feeling inside him, and bounces, bangs and vocalises his way through the day ...
I really understand.
And even though, in the last four years I've contemplated preschool for one particular child of mine, I knew deep down it was not the right choice for us - it would not make things "better" or "easier" in the long run. And I am grateful that I haven't had any pressure from outside do put him into preschool.
So if you are receiving that pressure, and you'd like permission to have your little children home with you please read this:
You have permission to keep your children at home with you. They are YOUR children, you make the decisions for them according to what is best for all of you, and you will not let people make you feel like they are missing out, or that you are being a bad, lazy or non-caring parent by having them with you. If other people choose Early Childhood Education - either through an informed decision, or because they think that's just what you do, then that's their business and it should not put any pressure on you.
*The answer the mums gave me about whether it was ok to not be involved in a preschool or kindergarten was more or less "If you don't want that, or if you child is unhappy in those situations then DON'T DO IT! You can do everything a preschool would do, but even better. Your child will have a more settled, unrushed, natural life and you will have a more solid relationship with them if they stay home."
And that is the message that I'm PASSIONATE about sharing now!!