5 Reasons to Build Your Own Preschool
When my first daughter turned four I started looking around for a preschool to meet her needs and mine—something that fit her nap schedule, was close to home, and (most importantly) offered a caring, creative environment. I didn't expect the school to teach her how to read—we were doing that together at home—but I knew she was ready for a more formal educational experience. I started asking friends for suggestions. The more we talked, the more we thought about what we would include in a preschool if we were running the program. Finally, we decided we could be the ones in charge if we operated our own co-op of moms taking turns teaching preschool in our homes.
Since that first group, each of my three children has participated in a homemade preschool. That's not to say I didn't sign them up for regular preschool programs, too. But just like I wanted to be there when my child took her first steps and had her first bowl of rice cereal, I wanted to see her practice her first letters and craft her first Popsicle stick picture frame.
Our homemade preschools gave me a chance to participate in my daughters' educations before I turned much of that work over to their teachers. And while coordinating and teaching preschool in your home isn't always easy, it is undoubtedly rewarding.
Time, patience, and resources aside, here's what might tempt you about homemade preschools:
The "Ah-ha!" Moment: "What I look forward to most about homemade preschool is the same as what I love most about all education," explains Rebecca Winder, a Michigan mother of three. "I love the, 'Ah ha!' moment! I love to see a concept click, and to see a child gain ownership of whatever principle, concept, or idea that is being taught. Seeing that moment reflected in your own child's face is one of the best feelings in the world." Many of the moms I worked with decided on homemade preschool for this exact reason—they wanted to be there to see their child's love of learning develop firsthand.
Strong Personal Commitment: Coordinating homemade preschool is not for the faint-hearted. Your group will need to make several key decisions together—how often your preschool will meet, how long the preschool will meet, and most importantly what you'll be teaching. "The key is to find people who are going to be committed," advises Jennifer Jensen, a Utah mother who has homemade-preschooled all five of her children.
Winder points out that she felt more comfortable having her son involved with homemade preschool because she knew the mothers involved were as committed to their child's education as she was. "Because each mother is a friend, there is a greater level of accountability for the care of each other's child," she says.
Flexibility: Winder points out that flexibility was a big plus when it came to homemade preschool. "We could decide on days, times, and subject matter," she says. Her group decided on meeting once a week for two hours. Jensen's group opted for twice a week for two and one-half hours.
Hands-on Experience: Jensen looked forward to seeing how her child reacted in a group education setting. She also relished doing activities with her child that she wouldn't normally do, such as paper-maché eggs and other messy craft projects that are doable with a small group of children, but may seem overwhelming to undertake for just one child.
Broadening Horizons: Both Jensen and Winder have backgrounds in education, but even those moms without child education training contributed based on their own interests and strengths. In the past, my daughters have learned a few words in Japanese, tried yoga poses, and studied Picasso along with their ABCs because a mom in the group had a background in that area.