Trying Kindy Before Homeschooling

*originally published many, many moons ago. This post is always really hard for me to re-read, it speaks to one of the biggest regrets of my life. While we largely were able to remain respectful during this period, it was and never could be ideal. I wish I had had the courage back then that I do now and that is why I keep sharing this because maybe, maybe you have the same fears and maybe this can help you reframe them.

As soon as I began to research the option of homeschooling, my heart was there but my head couldn’t quite catch up and many of the voices surrounding me certainly had trepidation that fed into my own fears. So the year our eldest daughter turned four, she ended up spending 2 days a week in a small, homely kindy.

Whilst it was a lovely place where play filled the menu and children were encouraged to bring their interests from home to explore further which my daughter took full advantage of, it felt a little… redundant. I would drop my daughter off, with our youngest in tow and stay until she let me know she was comfortable for us to leave. I missed her, she missed me, my daughters missed each other but we were all “okay”, we survived.

At home and at kindy our days would follow similar rhythms of painting and dressing up and digging in dirt – just separately. Why did I feel the need to outsource something that had already been unfolding?

The truth is that I didn’t feel capable and introducing kindy to the mix hadn’t really helped. That year, I so often felt impatience knocking at my door, trying to squeeze its way in and it scared me – maybe I wouldn’t be able to cope with homeschooling. Trying to live by the schedule and expectations of others had brought about a myriad of conflict that didn’t feel easily resolvable.

Suddenly, we had somewhere to be at a specific time and that influenced how a morning was expected to play out, as well as the night before. There was less time for endless bedtime stories or to prepare requested pancakes – especially when cooking collaboratively, there was less time to tickle each tooth or for leisurely morning baths, there was less time to find out what bird we could hear or to read all the signs we passed by or to carefully inspect leaves and stones. The art room had to be off limits and the mud patch, there was no time to get dirty! Seeing our friends had to be more organised and less spur of the moment when it took our fancy. Rules grew upon rules all in an attempt to facilitate my daughter’s days at another location. And time seemed to shrink from all directions.

Not only did it shrink but it became filled with frustration as it became more and more necessary to speed through or bypass my daughters needs and desires so that we weren’t late or tired or unprepared for kindy. My head began to see “hurry up”, “not now”, “no no no” as required vocabulary at an alarming rate and of course my daughter was less than thrilled… I mean, I was less than thrilled too, when did this become our relationship? She was also really drained by the hours spent surrounded by people and noise and our time together was less about connecting which we were both wanting and needing to do after a day spent apart and more about recovering and recouping – and it was a bit of a downward spiral.

We had less time together, more to pack inside of it as well as this jarring interruption to the natural flow of our lives. My youngest didn’t escape the influence of kindy either, naps now had to fit in around drop off and pick up and she had all this time swallowed up by going to and from kindy without the space to explore along the way, it wasn’t exactly her favourite thing to do. And family time was not immune, my partner working unusual hours that generally had him home with only part of his family and leaving just as the missing piece was due to return.

But I was stuck seeing how disjointed our family and relationships were becoming as a personal fault rather than something circumstantial. I kept thinking I needed to make changes within myself first so that I might find the ability to homeschool rather than realising all these issues we were facing would become less and less relevant as we removed school from the equation.

I kept viewing homeschool, through the lens of what our life looked like with school – busy, stressful, frustrating and let’s be honest, a bit of a constant battle as I felt like I had to champion the needs kindy was creating rather than listen to what my daughter and I both actually wanted. We were meeting at odds more and more often… and who was wrong? Duh, the situation was, it wasn’t suiting us at all.

I didn’t want to be impatient but when my daughter wanted to sleep past 8am and we had somewhere to be before 9, I felt stuck. I didn’t want to be impatient but when I constantly hear my daughter needs energy to play and learn, eating before kindy feels necessary even when it didn’t to her. I didn’t want to be impatient but after a day of playing in the dirt and getting paint in her hair, I worried that not washing my daughter might be negligent even though she is too tired to feel up to it.

I didn’t want to be impatient but what choice did I have? When kindy offered us a second year there instead of sending her off to start school, we considered it. Maybe this was for the best? Maybe this was just a part of raising children. Maybe we did need the outside support.

With the doubts still lurking I realised this would be the final year before my daughter was compulsory schooling age (6 where we live). It felt like our chance to test the waters, school would always be there waiting if it flopped. We took a deep breathe and dived.

And we swam. Oh how we have swam. But there is space now to float too.

My impatience has all but vanished, doubts dissolved. We aren’t just surviving anymore, we are not facing each day as something to get through but with moments full of opportunity and potential and joy. It is an exciting place to be.

Diving in was the most terrifying part, actually making the choice. But I know how to swim. You know how to swim. And the water is beautiful. I wish we had stayed here all along.

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  1. I really appreciate this post! I was just thinking through whether or not to put my 4 year old in a preschool co-op, even though I intend to homeschool him. I did a lot of research, but it just didn’t feel right to outsource the adventures and learning and relationships we were creating quite well on our own. Thank you for the boost of confidence to continue “swimming!” 🙂

  2. This is so me. I put two kids 4&3 in a montessori this year despite strong desire to homeschool. Officially not doing it next year. A lovely school but the pull away from home, the rules, the rhythm just isn’t working. I’m nervous but excited to just dive into homeschooling this upcoming year (also a year before daughter is required compulsory schooling with testing etc) so I felt this is the time to try.

  3. Thank you thank you thank you – exactly the scenario I’m analysing at the mo, and the choice itself is indeed harder than what’s to come…i suppose I’m busy trying to unlearn all the self – doubt I was taught.

  4. A major day of our lives together was when I picked up my middle-one at preschool in a snowstorm in mid-December. I was late because we were new(ish) to town and I had gotten lost in the white out. The baby was crying, we got my eldest son first, because his building was closer. When we got to the preschool I was in tears, from worry and fear. The teacher yelled at me for being late, I’m sure she was also worried about how to get home. I got everyone in the car, we made it home ok and spent the rest of the day in PJ’s, drinking cocoa, watching the blizzard fall. When I told my middle one I didn’t think preschool was working for us, he beamed at me with a huge smile and said “Does this mean I don’t have to be in the Christmas play??” He had been terrified of this event. That was 13 years ago. We never went back to school.

  5. Wow. This is so exactly how I feel! My oldest went to preschool even though it was ridiculously inconvenient (half an hour’s drive away, always during the baby’s naps), and even though I’d always wanted to homeschool I wasn’t confident enough to pull him out. He is in school, which I am very ambivalent about and I have felt countless times the requirements of an imposed schedule are so stressful… I just thought it was me not handling it! With my youngest we just didn’t bother with preschool/ kindy and he’s none the worse for it and has had a wonderful year. I’m sad to send him of to school in September (weare in the northern hemisphere), but not sure we as a family are ready to make the homeschool jump -partly for financial reasons- even though it’s what I personally have wanted since long before having kids. Glad to read that someone else’s experience paralleled mine, and that jumping in turned out so well.

    1. I found this post again this morning after having to force my son to leave the house to be dropped at daycare. I did it as respectfully as one can, but it just feels so wrong. Some days he is happy to leave the house to do whatever we have planned, and other days, not so much. I’m so tired of the battle and feeling like it’s something we have to keep doing. I know too well that it is not something I HAVE to do. I have already made the decision to drop his daycare days but some people keep telling me that I’m going to regret it and miss my own time. Off to reread the post about ‘what about me-time’ again…

  6. This year, we enrolled my 4-year-old son in a 2-afternoon per week nature school. It’s a beautiful place with wonderful teachers who treat the children with respect and autonomy. However, our experiences are reflected exactly in your writing. To sum, my sons missed each other, my oldest wasn’t doing anything we weren’t already doing at home together, and our entire world was uprooted by drop-off/pick-up times, not being able to eat, sleep, and play when we wanted to.

    I can’t imagine going through all of that FIVE FULL DAYS per week. Not to mention that our deskwork, worksheet, 30+ children classes, standardized testing, reading level labeling, 20-minute recess kindergarten is nowhere near as beautiful as this preschool was.

  7. This is exactly how my son and I felt when he was in preschool! We made the decision to unschool during his final term. When he became more distressed at being left we decided (with the blessing of the preschool) to only take him if he wanted to go for the last half term. He never did. Diving in was definitely the hardest part but I’m already glad we made it, he was due to start full time school in September (age 4), this dynamic at home has completely altered since he’s realised his voice matters and he has choices. I’ve had people say to me “how can a 4 year old have a choice”, but it’s plain as day to me that they have a right to make most choices.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Our kindy experience was similar in that it was our daughter’s choice each time whether to attend and they were also supportive of us staying with her if she needed. Although they were supportive, it still felt so restrictive and arbitrary and I’m so glad we now live completely for us <3

  8. Thank you for your insight.
    Is there a way to ‘outsource’ homeschooong? Not full time, but to get a helping hand in so that Mama gets a little break yet children still have the natural flow of feeling the learning in everyday.
    The natural I’d imagine would be a relative but if that’s not an option..?

    I LOVEthe thought of homeschool but too feel like I need ‘help’ or to share this some how. I hope there are some suggestions.

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