When Carver’s 2 older sisters were preschool age, I developed a sense of educational self-reliance and belief that teaching is most effective at home. My feelings about preschool are complicated, but the foundation that I always return to is simple: preschool is a helpful social experience that prepares children for a classroom environment. And that’s it. Neither of my girls learned anything in preschool that they didn’t already learn at home. As they progress into elementary school, they gradually begin to be introduced to new concepts and I’m the helper instead of the main teacher. It’s worked for them. It’s worked for me.
So Carver is not fitting this mold at all. I flounder to provide all the sensory input he’d like (which is roughly as much as is humanly possible to dish out) and he isn’t hungry at ALL for preschool “curriculum,” unlike his sisters who soaked it all up. Counting, letters and shapes have come and gone with his interest level. It is incredibly discouraging to see those regressions. And baffling, too.
I have the same motherly desire to do it all, be Carver’s primary teacher and therapist. At the same time, I feel so hopelessly ill-equipped for that role. It is a sticky place to be. I know that raising and teaching a child with special needs requires a team of specialists, with me to hold all the pieces together. Where do you find all the help necessary? That is the hardest part.
We found a fabulous speech therapist who has helped Carver tremendously. I’m impressed with how she pushes him each week, building on what he can do and stretching him just enough. I hear more articles, more complete sentences and more articulation all the time. He works SO hard for her! And when I try to get him to practice at home, I get “No, no, no – Jennifer’s office.” That is clearly the place he associates with that level of effort! And it is SO MUCH WORK for him. You can’t imagine how he watches my mouth, labors with his own to try to make the same sounds that come out so naturally for the rest of us. He just has to work for every sound.
Carver’s preschool is a disappointment. Last year he THRIVED. He came home happy and it was clear that he was learning routines and academics with adults who connected with him. It’s not happening this year. I don’t know what happened. All new teachers came in and it’s just not the same. In all fairness, we do have a few excellent therapists and assistants there. And I believe that everyone is trying hard. But it’s a government funded program, required by law to provide a minimum level of “services” and I feel like we get the minimum services required and nothing more. But what are my other choices? VERY expensive preschools with waiting lists in other cities. What’s a mom to do? I come back to my foundational belief that preschool is just a great social training opportunity… and yet somehow that’s not matching up with Carver’s needs. I have to admit that I need help teaching him colors and letters and all that good stuff. Either I need to find new team members to help me in his education (but WHERE?!) or I’m left to prepare him on my own for kindergarten. And that last option feels like a huge burden indeed.