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In search of socialization, with a side of masterful penmanship

It was around this time last year that I began thinking about where Aura might go to preschool. At get-togethers with my moms’ group, the conversation would inevitably turn to the Preschool Dilemma: where, how much, what kind. Despite a few differences in preferred preschool philosophy, we were all in consensus that we wanted to find schools where the kids could comfortably be and enjoy themselves.

“I just want her/him to play and have fun!” was a common refrain. “It’s all about socialization and forming new attachments!” was another.  I think I may have even offered up some load of crap along the lines of ”I want Aura to be able to exhibit the confidence she shows at home in other environments!” (Even I couldn’t stomach that one, though. I think I apologized for making the world’s most eye-rollingest statement shortly afterwards, then burned all my parenting magazines in a really huge bonfire. Or at least I hope I did.)

Look at her, exhibiting.

Yes, we were a thoughtful group. And we really did want to find schools that focused more on play than structured academics. But while we were all expressing what we kind of wanted, none of us said what we really wanted: NAPS. We wanted a school that offered so many opportunities for play, such thoroughly exhausting activities, that our kids would come home, throw back a lunchtime bowl of mac and cheese, then promptly march themselves straight to bed, where they would sleep for approximately four hours.

So far, the preschool we chose last fall has worked out well in all regards, naps included. Aura loves the place, has grown much more comfortable interacting with other children and being away from me, and shows a lot more confidence in physical activity. I feel great when I drop her off those two mornings each week, knowing that she is safe and cared for and entertained.

But. I’m starting to feel a little squirmy by just how much playing there is. Should preschool really be this fun? Shouldn’t it involve a bit more about numbers beyond 10? How many times does Aura have to hear about shapes and colors and sharingblahblahblah before she gets to take a stab at writing an actual letter? How about telling time? Identifying coins? TACKLING QUANTUM PHYSICS?!?

I’m not sure why I’m suddenly so fixated on the academic aspect of preschool. We already work with Aura at home on writing and phonics and all the other stuff that will soon lead her to book her own early-childhood, I-hate-my-parents therapy sessions. (Which I will have to drive her to, of course, making the entire thing so much more inconvenient.)

Honestly, it was last week’s mittens theme that really got me started on this academics tangent. The kids painted paper mittens, brought mittens for Show and Tell, read books about mittens. I suspect they would have had mittens for snack, too, if the teachers could have figured out that one.

I admit: I'd wear these.

All I could think of: Why mittens? Why not gloves? At least with gloves you can count up to five, or ten, or maybe learn about the names of each finger. I mean, seriously: Why have I sung along to ”Where is Thumbkin?” 650 times if not for Aura to be able to show off her knowledge of Ringman and Pointer and Pinky? With mittens, you get, what? A thumb? A bunch of other fingers mashed together? Unimpressive.

Yet I’m thinking this is one of many times when I need to back off and forget about it. Preschool is preschool is preschool. And for all I know, last week’s foray into the world of mittens led to profound Circle Time discussions on warmth and seasons and perhaps the utter frustration of global warming.

Plus Aura already knows the one word that counts the most:

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