I never planned on doing preschool for my kids.
And I have always been against homeschool. Can I get an amen?
Joking aside, I just felt ill-equipped..
I remember the moment my pastor and a good friend advised me to try. I had a 7 week old baby, we were all adjusting to a time change of 10 hours and I hadn’t had a good night sleep in about 7 months. At the mere suggestion of preschool, I felt deflated — out of energy, out of faith.
I could barely survive a single day — I felt like my kids were out of control (they are all strong-willed). I had a hard time getting my oldest son to obey the simplest instructions. He didn’t want to eat, sleep, go on a walk, play inside, play outside. In short, he didn’t want to anything if it was my idea.
Everything was a war, and I was sure I didn’t want to start more wars than were absolutely necessary. I was just tired.
To make matters worse, my baby was colicky and my almost-two year old was learning to imitate his older brother.
And speaking of school, how was I going to find time to plan anything? I was mothering in the trenches. When you are dealing with basic needs such as food and sleep, who has time for art class?
Somehow, and more based on the faith of my pastor and good friend than my own, I started searching on the Internet for a curriculum, almost to prove my pastor wrong more than anything. Deep inside, I knew it wasn’t going to work out.
Pretty quickly I found ABC Jesus Loves Me, a free, online preschool curriculum, and there was a glimmer of hope. This mom had kids like mine — strong willed and stubborn. Somehow she had found a way to get through to them.
But still, I reasoned, these were my kids. And my kids were different than other kids. You know that mom with two kids crying and throwing themselves on the floor at the fast food place? That mom whose kids didn’t listen to her? The one you feel sorry for — and probably even annoyed with? Well, that was me.
I heard a mom say that she couldn’t go into a certain store anymore since her daughter had thrown a temper tantrum there. I realized that if I didn’t go anywhere my kids hadn’t had temper tantrums, well, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be going anywhere.
In the midst of all this, I planned some preschool activities for my kids. Singing, rhymes, paint, etc.
Those first lessons were terrible. My kids didn’t like having to obey their mom in yet another area (surprise, anyone?). They saw right through my M&M bribes. So when bribing didn’t work, we had to do discipline. It went against everything I believed — forcing kids to learn, making education something to fight about.
Here’s the miracle. After two or three days (I don’t remember exactly), it broke. The boys started asking for school, loving it, looking forward to it. I couldn’t plan things fast enough. They wanted it everyday, on weekends. Of course, I didn’t plan something every time they asked (better to keep them wanting more!), but I was amazed. Were these my kids?
My oldest son, in particular, who had spent a lot of time in a fantasy world of movies and cartoons, started talking to me about what he was learning. He started eating better and coming alive in ways I never imagined.
I found out that instead of gritting my teeth to get through the day, I was excited for the kids to do what I had planned. The open joy on their faces, especially during the crafts, was a reward that made the cooking, cleaning and sleepless nights more worth it. It helped provide structure when the freezing temperatures made it too cold to go outside.
I wrote my good friend a letter which she shared with my pastor. I ate humble pie, and said, yes, they had been right. I was never more glad to be wrong.
The temptation when you read a story like that is to think, “that’s great. I’m glad it worked for you. I just know there is no way it will work for me.” For all you desperate moms out there, and I know you are there (I was one, remember?), if you feel the Holy Spirit tugging at you to listen, I would encourage you to give this a try.
Will you be able to do something every day? No. Will your kids be perfectly behaved every single minute of every day as a result? No. However, with God’s help, this is one way to build a spiritual relationship with your kids — something closer, something new.
There is a Scripture that stood out to me yesterday, one that I’ve read many times before:
“Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
As a mom, I think I was on the brink of being overcome by evil, so to speak. My kids didn’t listen, I couldn’t get enough sleep, the screaming around the table made me dread eating. Planning preschool helped me start to overcome the evil with good. Instead of just relating to my kids through discipline, we were able to break through that and build positive connections.
This post is getting longer and longer, but if you are considering starting some preschool, here is some advice:
1. Don’t try to to school all day. Keep lessons 15-45 minutes.
2. Pick some sort of easy structure. I liked ABC Jesus Loves Me, but soon found that I was just focusing on the learning objectives (i.e. letter, number, shape and social skill of the week) and accomplishing those however I wanted. But it was good to have the learning objectives laid out for me, so I didn’t have to think too much!
3. Initial failure does not mean total failure. If you have a really strong-willed kid, you might have to be willing to discipline.