I have been homeschooling my pre-k son. I say “accidentally” because it wasn’t in my plan to homeschool him. In fact, I was preparing to send him to a preschool. We live in the area where almost all preschool aged children especially at his age (as far as I know) go to a preschool. “Accidentally homeschooling” because if we didn’t move back to the D.C. metropolitan area in the last year of my son’s preschool, I probably would have not chosen this path. In expat life it’s not uncommon to fall into a situation accidentally.
Expat Life & Pre-School Overseas
My son attended a local Montessori preschool in Mumbai, India for a year and a half starting at the age of 3. After school, he often had a play date. Sometimes I took him to a play date and many other times, play dates were conducted by nannies.
In Mumbai I was active with many activities that didn’t involve my son. There were nights when I didn’t tuck him in bed because I had some evening functions to attend with my husband. The life as an expat wife and mom in India was liberating and wonderful. At the same time I definitely missed out on some precious times with my young children especially my youngest.
Reality I Faced in the U.S.
He was 4 and a half when we moved back to the U.S. The competition to get into preschools in the D.C. Metropolitan area is quite high for his age. Normally an application process starts in the spring in this area. By the time I started contacting preschools in the summer, all of the preschools that I was interested were full.
In September I put his name down on a wait list at one preschool that I really liked. Even though it was the most affordable option out there, it was still a big chunk of money that had to be put aside for it every month. I started to wonder if I could afford him to be at the school only for 3 hours. I could imagine that I would barely get things done in between dropping him off at 9:00 a.m. and picking him up at noon.
Selfishly it felt inconvenient.
Making A Decision
A couple of months passed. My son being the youngest of my 3 children, it was a breeze to have him around. I started to really enjoy one on one time with him whose personality seemed to have blossomed so much in the recent past. Came November, I received a phone call and learned that a spot just opened up for a 5-day a week class for him.
To my surprise, I vacillated.
After having spent many days searching for the right answer, I came to a conclusion that I wanted to keep him home and teach him myself. It wasn’t an easy decision. I had many doubts. Nevertheless, I trusted my guts and leaped into homeschooling my son until he starts kindergarten.
Reasons For Homeschooling
There are several reasons that I factored in when I made the decision.
1. I felt the need to spend more time with my son before he starts kindergarten in a year. I wanted to make up for the time I lost when I was living overseas with a household help.
2. As I mentioned above, 3 hours felt too short for me to leave him at school. Since I got so used to having him around for 3 months, it did not appeal to me that I had to change my routines based on his pick-up time.
3. It was the most economical option. It helped save money for a trip to Japan for my kids and myself to spend time with my family.
4. It also crossed my mind that I would be able to teach him more Japanese if he stayed home. He would lose his Japanese proficiency in no time once he gets showered with English at school at such a young age.
5. In terms of my son’s social life, I wasn’t worried. Since my son is our 3rd, we have been able to meet a handful of children of his age through our existing friends in the area, network, neighborhood and activities.
I don’t see myself a homeschool type of mom. I never fancied homeschooling. I’m neither organized (I’m better at spontaneous) nor disciplined (I bend rules…). My fuse can get short with my children. Despite my personality traits, it felt like homeschooling my preschool son was feasible. I am not very good at setting a routine, but I forced myself to create a routine of sitting with him at a table to study in the morning after we send off his sisters.
Having this routine made it much easier for me to manage homeschooling. He used to be glued to a TV in the morning, but it stopped as soon as we started studying together.
Pre-K seems to be a significant step stone prior to starting an elementary education. It looked to me that a foundation for a child’s academic success in the years to come can be formed at this stage. I wasn’t confident that I would be able to successfully pursue this responsibility. When I felt nervous, I told myself that pre-K is not compulsory education in the United States (or in Japan, either). This fact allowed me to relax. (Side notes: There are states that offer free pre-K programs at public schools for 4-year-olds such as Washington, D.C., but Virginia has not followed the trend.)
Learning Curve For Both
I learned about myself as well as my son through the experience of homeschooling him.
He can be restless. He can get distracted easily. When he is focused on solving a problem, though, he has the cutest look that I want to imprint in my memory forever.
I go through ups and downs. I get irritated with my son when he repeatedly makes the same mistakes or doesn’t remember something he heard many times or just a few minutes ago. I’m learning to be patient. I keep reminding myself that he’s only 5 and I am fortunate to witness my son grow up this way.
Activities For Pre-K Kids
I went to a book store several times and purchased workbooks. Everyday in the morning after we send off his sisters to school, we sit down at our table together and study workbooks together. Having this routine really helps me and my son.
2. Story Times
There are story times and music classes for free available at public libraries in the U.S. Sometimes there are activities offered in communities for little ones as well.
I take my son to a library to read and check out books. It’s a great place to hang out when studying at home gets dull for little ones.
As you probably know there are many amazing museums in Washington, D.C. I have been able to go to a special exhibition such as Yayoi Kusama Exhibit with my son.
To me at his age, the most important activity for my pre-k son is to play. When the weather is nice, I take my son out to a playground and let him run around.
6. Ice Skating
I take my son to ice skating on a regular basis. I taught him how to ice skate. It became an activity that he and I do together and I really enjoy it as well. It was an excellent activity especially when it was too cold to play outside.
8. Play Dates
I have been able to arrange regular play dates for my son with his friends in the afternoon so that he can interact with his friends.
Motherhood & Homeschooling My Youngest
My motherhood with under school age kids is about to end in several months. I have dedicated my time for my children for over 12 years. While I feel very excited, I do have mixed feelings. Having my son at home for the last year of pre-k was definitely the right decision that I made for myself as a mother. I hope that it will be the right and good decision for my son’s future as well. I cannot wait to find out about it when he’s a bit older.