21 November 2013

The Preschool Debate

I've been thinking a lot about school lately. Michigan's system of financing their Early On program is incredibly stupid, leaving each county constantly short of resources for all their kids. So the program directors try to get kids off to preschool - where they will continue to receive services paid for in a different manner - as soon as possible. I feel like I hear a dissertation on transitioning to preschool once a week.

I'm open to public school, private school, and homeschool. I've heard of really excellent public schools and really terrible private schools. I know of failed homeschool situations and ones that yielded intelligent, well-adjusted adults. So I'm totally open to taking everything on a child-by-child, year-by-year basis. But the thought of going through this every year is really draining.

I spoke earlier about Abigail's vulnerability in being sent away to school. Very recently I spoke with two of her therapists about those issues and they said that she'd actually be one of the least vulnerable students now and she's only going to get stronger and more confident between now and September. The program is only 2.5 hours a day and I get to decide how many days/week she'll go. Plus they just moved the preschool program to a different building and it's now less than 1 mile from our apartment. I could walk her to school every morning. She'll be eligible for preschool for two years before she could go to Kindergarden and if she does well in special ed preschool (which all her therapists expect), she'll be in a mainstream program for her second year.

It all sounds so incredible theoretically - I'm ready to sign her up. But then I look at her cute little pig-tailed self and my heart breaks. She's so tiny. 20 pounds at two and a half. She's still a new walker. She doesn't talk. She's so vulnerable.

But is that my over-protective mama bear instinct just kicking in? Do I just need to learn to let go?

I like the idea of public school:
-Abigail has special education needs and being with an experienced teacher will yield less time spent trying to figure things out and more time learning.
-She'll continue to get therapy on a regular basis.
-Abigail would get those quintessential memories of picking out a backpack, bringing cupcakes to share on her birthday, making a best friend - experiences that make you feel all grown up, confident, and self-sufficient.
-Sending my kids away for a few hours a day would give me more time at home with the younger ones, more time to get stuff done around the house, and more time to myself. Who wouldn't be a fan?

But I like the idea of homeschooling too:
-Homeschooling is more conducive to learning. I can spend more time on subjects with which she struggles and we can go more in-depth with the subjects in which she's a natural.
-We can appeal to different learning styles by doing things un-conventionally. We can go on field trips on Tuesday mornings to the museum. Have you ever been to a museum on a Tuesday morning? It's so deserted it's like being there when it's closed.
-We can skip the BS subjects and substitute ones that really matter.
-We are free to take beautiful spring days off, homeschool throughout the summer, and match up vacation days with Matt's schedule.

I'm not worried about socialization or ability to follow directions in a homeschool setting. In fact, socialization in public school is on the con list. Does anyone seriously emerge from high school feeling like they've learned healthy relationship skills?

Therapy while homeschooling is on the con list. Theoretically, she should be able to access therapy at a public school even if we homeschool. But that's in theory.

I'm so confused and I just keep going back and forth about what I want to do. Abigail is so young. So freakin' young. She doesn't even match colors or similar objects yet! Send her off to someone with experience to help pull out Abigail's potential? How big are the risks? What kind of rewards are lost by my attempting to teach her? I thought we'd be talking about this issue when she turned 4. She's only 2 and it's a regular discussion.

I don't know what to do or how to get to what to do!

I've been doing some brainstorming while writing this post (which actually originated as a draft last week that I've re-written a bit). I can identify three things I can do right now:

1. Tour the preschool. I need to know exactly what I need to make a decision about.
2. Get my hands on a homeschool preschool curriculum. I need to know if I'm capable enough to teach her the things she needs to learn next year.
3. Find out exactly how her therapy will be effected based on which decision I make.

Another to-do to the list of things to be done before this baby is born. Except this one is really important.

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