Before I dive in, our past experiences and intuition inspired our preschool decision. As long as the preschool loves and cares for your child, at the end of the day there’s unlikely to be an insurmountable difference between balanced, academic, or play-based preschool. (Read about the differences here.) We chose a play-based preschool for our daughter, because it felt right for us and hit on my love of chaos.
During my pregnancy, we took a lax approach to preschool. My husband fervently believes things will work out and I wasn’t even sure I was going back to work. I toured three preschools. The first smelled like cleaning supplies (balanced), the second had a curriculum binder bigger than my belly (academic), and the third was full (preschool play). I initially went with binder school thinking they had a plan so that had to be good.
During maternity leave, I found myself enjoying my “lessons” with Henley. Nothing formal just a lot of singing, textile play, and tummy time reading. I wanted her to have more of that intimate, relaxed play, so on a whim, I withdrew from binder school.
And in an event that only adds to my husband’s belief that it will all work out, we got off the waitlist at the third school. Kismet! With that we joined a preschool that’s small, convenient, affordable, and play-based. I honestly didn’t even ask what the curriculum was; it had good vibes.
Flash forward, my daughter’s been moving through classes for years and I love seeing the world through her eyes. She’s insanely curious, imaginative, and has an eye for art. She learned her colors through many days of painting her arms while a teacher said, “What color is that?”.
That’s part of why play-based preschool works for us, I feel she’s getting the closest experience to what she would get at home with me. After all, I’m the one that taught her to paint her arms. I love that the teachers nurture her interest in art and patiently let her lead.
Henley’s current teacher has this saying on her wall, “You can’t learn it for them.” Her approach is to let them learn, play freely, socialize, use their words, and so on. She could help them color in the lines all day long, but what would they have learned?
Today, I see a girl that shares and listens to others. A girl that’s not afraid to sing in front of her peers. A girl that’s adaptable in chaos which comes in handy at say the grocery store. A girl that is cooperative and knows when she should apologize. A girl that feels emotion but also knows to take deep breaths. And lastly I see a girl that grabs the world in her hands and explores it.
I know I can’t take all or most of the credit for the person she’s becoming. Our play-based preschool has become part of our village, which makes it hard to imagine her at binder school. I’m sure she would have done great. However, my on the whim change gave us the opportunity to move forward with a play-based preschool that better fit our styles and hopes for our child.
What do you think? What worked for your child and family?