Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To School or Not To school

With my son turning three end of November this year, a lot of people have been asking us and/or advising us to send him to school, if not a big one, then a small play school. I am not so sure about that though. I suppose it is a common practise now a days with parents sending their children as young as eighteen months to play schools. Last week I bumped in to my former manager at a local resturant here in Dubai. She has a daughter only fifteen days older than my son. And this little girl has been enrolled in to a nursery school. Not a play school mind you, but a proper pre-nursery curriculum. I was curious so I asked her what do they teach if it is not just free play? Apparently they train the children in making sandwhiches (for eg) , colours based on some themes, numbers and alphabets also based on themes and in play way method. Sounds good. But is that all I should be sending my child to school for? I think not.

I believe there is a lot to it than meets the eye and on different levels. I am a teacher by qualification and have taught some before I decided to stay home. It would be fair to assume that I sort of know about educatiing children in general. Now that I am a mother too, it becomes even more important that I give it great thought and planning. Firstly though, let me make it clear that I have nothing major against schooling system in general. I come from a country where education while greatly valued, also comes cheap if you are reasonably well off. Anybody who can, will take a higher degree from a university. India infact, is one of the countries which has the largest number of universities and colleges in the world! That should tell you something. But getting a degree is not what the intention should be. It is improtant to me personaly and I dont want to bring up my child thinking that a fancy degree will solve all his problems in life. It gets you only so far after all.

So why am I resisting sending Yohaan to any kind of establishment yet? It is my belief that I, as his mother, should be his primary teacher. I should be the biggest influence on him along with his father. I should be his chief care giver. I am most  certainly not comfortable thrusting this responsibility on to a stranger in an environment wherein, he has to adapt to twenty other unique personalities and conform to a regimented structure of activities. What can be more baffling? At this age when he is only just becoming his own person, why should I inflict more unfamiliarity on him? And what can be more better or important than lessons learnt from home through his own mother/father/siblings. I mean really, do I want to send him to school so that he learns to say hello to strangers, so that he learns to sit nicely in a corner and eat his lunch, so that he can learn how to use scissors??? Or know that a fire engine is red in colour or that he must name his body parts by a certain age? Who decides these milestones? Is it not enough that an average baby will anyway learn all this as time goes by. I am the kind of mother who does not fuss much especialy about reaching milestones. Everybody picks up. They all catch up and the one's who dont, there are doctors and therapists to handle those challenges. But what I do care about is his emotional and spiritual charactor. It matters a great deal to me that my child becomes a good human who loves his Creator, no matter what. That is something we as his parents are not willing to compromise on.

One of the major reasons we are hesitant to send him to any kind of school yet, is knowing the fact that he is under critical training before he can be let loose in the world, on his own, for a few hours. He reamins close to me throughout the day but he is constantly learning and absorbing like a sponge. Sure it gets tiring for mommy, but they never said mothering was going to be a cakewalk. It is exhausting  precisely because it is supremely important too. Bringing up your child your way, is your responsibility. Period. The teachers and care givers, grandparents and relatives, neighbours and friends are good to have around but parenting is my job. If I am able to trust anybody else to do it for me and not only that, I pay them for it, it doesn't make me think much of myself am afraid! The sense of security and a combination of learning, discipline and application of skills learnt at home is any day superior to a school. Yes my dear readers who might disagree, I do genuinely think so. Even if I was not a qualified teacher, I would still think that I am the best teacher for my child. Ofcourse, if the husband paid me for it, I would be a happy bunny and out in shot, shopping, but jokes apart, nothing compares to mommy being the teacher at home. As it is, I also happen to feel that for many, many women going to work and leaving their children behind is just a means of shirking off their responsibilities as a parent. It is as simple as that. I do not and will not accept any of the usual reasons working mothers give for leaving their kids at home. They 'think' they deserve the down time, well, I dont think so sister! You spawned them, you look after them. And so, dont stretch it by sending them off to school when clearly they are not ready. Have some compassion.

Do parents consider need for socialisation as one of the reasons for sending their kids to school? Sure they do. Homeschooling families get a lot of flak from families who dont . Let me tell you then, research has already established that children infact, dont need a classroom full of peers to grow, learn or even to enjoy friendships. It seems, no more than two or three children of the same age group is enough to develop their social skills. Add to the general chaos of having too much too soon, I dont want my child to develop a competitive spirit. It is not an acceptable quality either to me or my husband. It is enough for us to know that he tries his best. That is definitely enough. Some of those typical,  high achieveing friends of ours, have asked us whats wrong in being out there competing with the rest? Everything, I say! On every level if you will. Lets not even begin. Else I might just explode!

Then a cousin of my husband's says to us, send Yohaan to school so he develops immunity and wont fall sick often. His system will get used to the germs floating around. Thank you very much but really, my child is not a guinea pig, do you mind. Further he says your son will become independant. Allow me a few moments of utter and great pride dear brother-in law and readers alike. (Readers, brag alert ahead) My son who is not yet three- eats by himself and loves his food, goes to the toilet by himself, does not wet the bed at night, loves to talk and  listen to music and dance and read, he can wear all his clothes on his own, he enjoys playing with his imaginary friends when the actual friends are not around, he has a fabulous vocab, he loves to read whatever he can manage (aww my baby), he can climb high chairs, jump from heights, he can express himself if he is in pain, he has clear and precise interests and dislikes, he is outgoing, he looks you in the eye when making conversations, he can count some, scribble some, recite some poems albeit in his baby language, he knows his colours, he loves animals and gardening, he loves to swim, he loves to help around the house, has zero interest in watching that wretched TV or playing with his father's fancy gadgets and so relies on his own imagination to keep himself entertained, follows an easy going but familiar routine and above all knows the  enitity of  God the father and His Son Jesus. See? Your usual baby out there, going about achieving all the required milestones and then some! No pressure, no seperation anxiety, no distress at the unfamiliar. Why would I want to throw in some nasty germs and competition with the peers  in to the scene now? Tell me one good reason. As for gaining independance, I am not sure I want him to be completely independant of us, his parents, at such a young age. He seems to be enjoying the security we provide by constantly being available. There's no rush to register for that college dorm just yet anyway.

I must again point out that I am not anti-establishment. Schools and colleges have their use ofcourse, but as a parent I will decide how much of an influence I am allowing on my child from these external sources. I am very uncomfortable doing something just because everyone else is swearing by it. No offence meant to nursery teachers (remember I was one), but really I know that they have 20 other kids to handle and all in the same way. There is mostly no scope of indivisualising methods of teaching and nursery care. In large groups, systems have to be tailored and regimented suiting the establishment, not the child. That is not the kind of 'forced' care I want to subject my precious child to. What about you other parents out there? Would you be willing to send your child to pre-nursery so he/she can learn how to make sandwhiches or use stickers or wear a red dress because the teacher declared it a red day in class? What is it that they can learn better which you cannot provide at home? Tell me because I am curious. No, I really am. What makes a parent take such a radical step as to send their child to school before the conventional ages of five or six? And how do you decide when is the right age anyway? For starters, I think mothers first need to stay home! Stay home and know your child. Dont base your decisions on feedback receieved from the nanny or grandma! Stay home and do it your way, you child deserves that much to begin with no? Nothing else can/should be more important. Nothing. Ever.


Shalini said...

Such an important issue these days. My daughter is 17 months and I've already been asked several times, why I'm not sending her to a play school. I just don't understand the rush either. Fine, I'm not qualified like you are, but one still knows the basics of it all, and anyhow, everything is play for a child, whether it's counting or alphabets or colors. Good to hear your point of view...I just couldn't express it as well.

Harshika said...

Shalini, one thing you must have got used to it is getting unsolicited advise from other parents on pparenting. It used to annoy me big time but now, i just tune out, come here on the blog and vent. You are the best judge of your child. She will do everything she is meant to, all in good time. There is enough and more kids have to handle these days, lets not add to their stress! Glad you are in no rush either. another thing is, i want yohaan to be one of the older ones in class and not the youngest, being nov born, deciding school timing can be a bit confusing. so for us, better late than a rushed affair.

SV said...

Your are right in saying that fancy degrees will not solve all the problems in life.I have observed children being brought to the park by baby sitters,the children will be playing on its own and they will be busy on the mobile phone.What if the childfalls or puts something into its mouth.I think such parents don't value their children.Its difficult to give birth to a child for many these days.Your son is definetly lucky to have you as his mother!I also belive that mother is the best teacher for a child.

jaya said...

lovely article. my views exactly, and well said. I have a november child, and i put her in early. she is the youngest in class, but loves going to school and is thriving.

p.s. exposing them to germs early will not increase immunity.. it will only ensure that the child is sick and at home every other week.. and obviously, with the thousands of types of flu around, why would you want your child exposed to them at an early age?

I do think that children this age need playmates, whether they are neighbors or siblings or other relatives.

I think you will like this site..

Anonymous said...

Well written article Harshika. And you have done a great job in bringing up Yohaan, the feat he can accomplish is truley awesome and commendable. Lately, a lot of conflict in going on in my mind whether to send my lil one (21 months) to play school or not. She is my only child and it's winters here in this part of the world and add to it, there is not much company. she is just about starting to talk,and can only say a few words. She is also a poor eater, doesn't take kindly to any new food i try. She hardly has any finger food. I do not know how to encourage her to eat, talk, as most of my tries till now has not shown much success. So shall putting her in playschool for once/twice a week programs help?I dont know, but i've a feeling may be it will help by watching other kids do similar activities may be she will pick up. My hubby is a relaxed person and he is not really worried, he feels she will do everything in her own time. Being a mother, worrying is in my blood i guess. The docs here already suggested speech therapy,but i'm not sure if she needs it? We have decided to wait till she turns 2. so what options do parents have in such cases. In india, there is not much stress about talking before 2, here in US, it's a big deal. I know she will pick up, but the world around her is competitive and rigid. There is a timeframe for every milestone, those who dont fall within it, will be branded. Isn't this the reality? i hate to think about it, for now, just giving my lil one all the time to just be herself and develop at her own pace,but silently tracking her progress. I didn't think about play school as confining lil kids to a schedule, shaping their personalities, what was apparent to me was just how happy she would be there. I know she loves company, she loves play, and she loves to dance and she might like all the fun activities in play school. It's definitely not replacing me as her primary teacher, but its just a fun place to enjoy with other kids. There is no right or wrong,it's just what suits each one. Some like it, some may not. Just my 2 cents on the topic :)

- Pavana

Neha@ papermagictwigs said...

Harshika, my thoughts exactly!!! We do have a lot in common afterall.. :)
Myra is 9 months and I can;'t even imagine putting her in any nursery playschool anytime soon.. I see ppl doing it at 15-18 months!! I actually even do hate the schooling system too, although, maybe and I'm sure and I hope it has improved, in my time I hated so many things about it.
If I could help it, I would homeschool! That probably won't happen though..
PS: you write very very well! :)

Harshika said...


Thanks so much. I hardly login to this blog anymore! I would totally homeschool Yohaan if I had the patience myself! And the discipline! your baby a favour, let her enjoy you and her home for as long as she can.