When my kid didn't get into the local super-secret school district preschool program (thanks for the phrase, Christina) for kids with special needs (because significantly delayed in adaptive and motor + average everywhere else = admitted, but significantly delayed in adaptive and motor + advanced in verbal = DENIED, according to their math), I just kept him home again this year, because the KinderTotKidzKeeperAcademies in my neighborhood scare me, and I didn't want to deal with this sort of crap trying to get him into the local fancy private preschools after the application deadlines had already passed.
So, right now, at least theoretically, he's in home preschool, run by me.
Home preschool run by an introverted, bookish, dreamy sort of intellectual, equally prone to fits of whimsy and fits of melancholy. A sometime-workaholic who worked to pay her own way through college, who worked 50 hours a week right into the seventh month of her pregnancy. A mother who quit work gladly to stay home, and is proud of her decision to stay home. A professional who still misses regular work outside the home terribly, goes through phases of feeling completely unmoored even three years later, and often acts childishly cranky because of it. A girl who helped raise her own brother, and was once a nearly excellent nanny. A woman with an obscure college degree who speaks educated English, passable Spanish and a little bit of Hindi, and twitches when she encounters a comma splice in the newspaper, and likes to read science journals, just for fun.
I really haven't the foggiest whether any of that means I'm qualified, or even currently sane enough, to do this.*
We haven't devised an official curriculum. I am not sure if I believe in devising a curriculum for a three-year-old. But of course there are plenty of days when I feel like an idiot and a bad mother for not having yet devised a curriculum, because surely, the other three-year-olds these days all have an Official Curriculum, and a List of Educational Goals, and a Program Mission Statement, and a College Admissions Strategy, and, hell, probably a CV AND a resume. Don't they?
We do have a sort of a schedule. He has music class with other kids his age every Monday, so on Mondays, before class, we make crafts for music class and sing songs from music class and dance to the music class CD. He has occupational therapy every Tuesday (so Tuesdays are largely devoted to crying in frustration, laughing in triumph, and trying not to cry some more in frustration) and every Wednesday morning without fail we go to the library for storytime, and then stay for a couple of hours while I have him read a few books to me, and then I read him books in English and Spanish. And about once a week, we bake something; I make him repeat the ingredients from the recipe back to me, and have him help measure and count.
I've taught him the days of the week in English and Spanish, and numbers in English, Spanish and Hindi. Sometimes read him sonnets by Shakespeare, or excerpts from the Odyssey, just for kicks. The other day, when he asked me, "Where's the sun today, Mommy," instead of saying, "Behind those clouds," I said, "The sun, dear boy, is approximately 93 million miles from the earth. That is also known as one Astronomical Unit. However, please remember that 93 million miles is really only an average, as the earth makes an elliptical orbit around the sun. Oh, and the reason you can't see it today is because the sky is cloudy, and the clouds are blocking the sun's light from view."** (I already knew he knew what "orbit" meant-- he'll show me the difference between a planet's revolution and a planet's orbit by either spinning in place or running in a circle around the coffee table, the same way I showed him when we were playing with his astronomy flash cards.)
I feel pretty smug when I do things like that.
But then, there are the days when I let him play on the computer or just sit him in front of PBS for two or three or even four hours, sometimes so I can clean the house or work but more frequently lately just so I can have a couple of hours to myself, in my own head, maybe reading something that has more than ten words to a page and isn't about kittens, and it's those days that I feel horribly guilty-- even while I continue to let a glowing screen babysit him-- and feel that I am failing. Why am I not doing more, for instance, to teach him math? Why don't I practice his occupational therapy exercises with him every single day, like I should? Why don't I draw with him more? Why don't I play with him more? Why don't I spend more time with him outside? I am unmotivated. I could do much better at this than I am.
At a preschool outside the home, he would get regular math lessons, and drawing time, and playing time, and time outside. He probably wouldn't get Shakespeare, or explanations of the sun's orbit, but, does he really need those things, right now? Or do I?
I do know that, at the very least, here at home with me, he has someone who will make sure he eats balanced meals every day even though he is an unbelievably picky eater. I know he is with someone who won't freak out when HE freaks out over an extra-sticky batch of playdough or a weird noise or a sudden draft-- someone who tries her honest damnedest not to hold his sensory issues against him. I know he is with someone who will not hit him in frustration, or fail to notice he has a fever until he passes out***, or forget him in a van.
I hope I am also doing most of the other stuff right.
*Of course, that also applies to mothering in general.
**My husband, overhearing, hinted I was setting our child up to get his butt kicked on the playground someday when he starts prattling on about astronomical units. Which is probably true. But what else am I supposed to do with all this hard-earned college knowledge swirling around in my head, when I'm not working outside the home, besides impart it to someone else? I tell myself I'll just get him karate lessons, too, so he can be a nerd AND a hard ass. As long as he doesn't actually hit anyone.
*** This happened today to a little girl who was at the library with her daycare group. She couldn't stop coughing, and her cheeks were flushed bright red, and there were two daycare workers there, but they wouldn't take her out of Storytime until she actually passed out. I wanted to kidnap her and take her to the doctor. I thought about it seriously. But I don't think they let kidnappers off for good intentions.