Saturday, August 14, 2010

True Mom Confessions: I Sent My Daughter to Kindergarten Because She Watches Too Much TV

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

Is it really possible that many St. Louis students are headed back to school next week?  In the midst of this heat wave?  Isn't this one of those, oh, I don't know, really good reasons why school didn't used to start until after Labor Day?  And am I actually at a point where I'm old enough to start remembering back in the day? 

Just kill me now . . .

My own daughter isn't currently a part of the back-to-school fanfare and won't be headed to school next week -- because we're still finalizing details of where we'll be moving to for this school year, and because I'm still wrestling with my eternally conflicted feelings about home school vs. public school vs. the private schools that we can't afford. 

So I've decided to share a post that I wrote last year, about my decision to send my daughter to kindergarten in Florida.  It was a tough one, and not one that was reached lightly.  But, in the end, it was also a good one.  A really good one.  So I'm hoping that, by revisiting my thinking back then, I'll be inspired to give myself a much-needed kick in the rear, and will be able to make a decision one way or the other about what to do this year.  And then, you know, move on.

Or maybe not.  I guess we'll see . . .


I sent my daughter to kindergarten because she watches too much TV.

Okay, that's not entirely true . . .

But it's a little more true than I would like it to be . . .

I know that, for most people, you send your child to kindergarten because he or she has turned five by whatever randomly designated "cutoff date" your home state has decreed. 

Or you have your child "tested," determine that you have a genius on your hands, and send little Johnny off a year early, despite the fact that, no matter how smart he is, he is in no way developmentally ready for the unavoidable emotional stresses of school.

Yes, that is an unnecessary smart-ass remark.

I, unfortunately, am not one of those people who is content to do something just because someone else said I should. 

Especially Florida's Department of Education. 

Do you remember the 2000 election and the stellar role that the state of Florida played in that disaster?  That tends to make me even more squeamish about the idea of the state government having any sort of a say in my child's education.

I have serious qualms with the public school system in general, and Florida's full-day kindergarten program in particular.  And yet, last month, I turned my precious 5 year-old daughter over to that very kindergarten program.

Why, you might ask?

It wasn't because she just happened to turn 5 before September 1.  It wasn't because I thought she needed social interaction.  It wasn't because I expected her to learn a lot, or thought they might actually teach her something worthwhile.  It wasn't even because I needed a break and wanted to have some time away from her.

It was mostly because of the Disney channel.

We love the Disney channel in our house:  Hannah Montana, The Suite Life (at the Tipton or On Deck), Sonny With A Chance, Wizards of Waverly Place . . . you get the picture.

Photo credit alacoolk

And except for the morning (when there is Playhouse Disney, as some of you may know) the shows are on ALL DAY LONG!!!

Now, letting my daughter sit on the couch and watch the Disney channel all day long is in no way my idea of good mothering.  And I can honestly -- and I'm breathing a sigh of relief here -- say that there has never been a day when this has happened.

But recently, we've come way too close.  I can slowly feel myself morphing into the kind of mom who would let her kids watch TV all day, every day if it meant that I could get even a moment of peace.

So I decided that school just might be a better alternative right now. 

For both of us.

She can get out of the house and away from her grouchy, overly-stressed mother, and interact with adults who aren't, well, me.

And I can have six hours a day free from her constant chatter.  I wouldn't call it a break, since I'm still chasing a wildly energetic 15 month-old, but at least he doesn't talk yet, and there are moments when I can actually hear myself think.

They're fleeting, but they are there.

Yes, I feel guilty.  I feel like she's going to school for the wrong reasons.  I worry that I'm killing her creativity and ruining her life.  I think about homeschooling, which was (and still is) attractive to me in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that I wouldn't have to drag my tired self out of bed at the crack of dawn every morning -- okay, okay, neither would she -- I'm supposed to be thinking about what's best for her, not me, I know.

And there's this awesome thing called unschooling where you as a parent don't really have to do anything except trust that they'll learn what they need to know when they need to know it.

This ALL appeals to me.

But, at the moment, she loves kindergarten.  She loves her teacher and her classmates and all the daily drama and excitement that comes with a room full of 5 year-olds. 

Kindergarten, as it turns out, is a lot more entertaining than I am.   

And even though I like to think that, if she were home during the day, I would do all sorts of fun, enriching activities, I know that it would never happen.  When you're at a point in your life where you're asking yourself what on earth made you decide that you had it together enough to actually try and raise other people, it just doesn't feel like the best time to take on more responsibility.

So, at least for the time being, I chose kindergarten over the Disney channel.  Was it the right choice?  I don't know. My hope is that the public school system will teach my daughter something more valuable than what she might learn from Miley Cyrus.

My fear is that it won't.


In case you were wondering, I'm at a much better place in my life now than I was when I wrote this a year ago . . .   

And, yes, my daughter did, in fact, learn more in kindergarten than she would have from Miley Cyrus -- and, given the year that Miley has had, I'm glad that I chose to separate them :)

But I still maintain my overall concerns with our public school system, whether in Florida or Missouri or any other state.  One positive experience, with one particular teacher, in one particular school, can't negate what is, overall, a very flawed system.

So now what?  

Now, I have some serious thinking to do.

1 comment:

FertileFem said...

My daughter is going to school from 9-3 starting in September and I, like you, will be relieved. Here in the UK it's CBeebies instead of Disney but I identified with this post so much. I do let her watch too much TV but it's either that or a cranky, stressed-out, yelling mother so I opt for the TV and a more serene mum.

I too find homeschooling appealing but feel waves of panic even thinking about it. Unschooling I could do, I suppose, but am not sure I'm 'brave' enough to even seriously contemplate it. My husband would be very anti the unschooling and very doubtful of the homeschooling anyway. There is a limit to his crunchiness threshold. ;-)