Doubting the benefits of pre-school ...(25 Posts)
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Am I the only one? My DS1 started Montessori nursery school last Sept shortly after turning three years old. Three afternoon sessions a week. I'm a SAHP but had a little separation from him when I managed to cobble together enough cash for a mother's help when DS2 arrived 15 months ago. Nearly every time i've dropped DS1 off at nursery he cries, screams, clings etc, and really doesn't want to be there, making me wonder if it's all worth it. Everyone I speak to says I should increase his sessions to get him used to it so that when he starts at reception this Sept he's ready. Surely reception is to get children ready for school? Why do we have to start them so early, when in a few months they will have a bit more maturity to deal with the separation. Does anyone else question the benefits of pre-school?
Well if your ds had settled you'd probably think differently.
He might do better with morning sessions - less tired so more chance of being happier at drop off? My ds can be very grumpy in the afternoon - he's a similar age.
Also maybe that preschool isn't for him?
I found that DS really wanted to play with other children as he got to 3, really liked interacting etc so he goes for morning sessions. He loves it - settled very quickly. For comparison, we tried a different setting (again mornings) when he was younger and he didn't get on well at all.
Thaks Iggly. I can't get DS in to the morning sessions but that is good advice, and yes I agree that if he was settled I may think differently about pre-school as a proposition, although I have noticed that a number of children seem unhappy at drop off. He enjoys playdates and seems to like other children but says he doesn't play with the children at school, so perhaps he's shy.
Yes a few were unhappy at DS's but they settle quickly.
I'd be speaking to the preschool about an action plan for settling.
Don't underestimate the morning vs afternoon thing though. Are there other options for you?
Thanks Iggly. I guess the only other option for me is to move him to another nursery but that feels a bit extreme and I'm don't believe it's this nursery that's the problem, just that fact that he has to go (another difficult drop-off today). Having said that, I do feel his teacher has given up on him a little as she seems less interested in helping him to settle. The new term has brought a new influx of children so naturally, the teachers are focussed on the new children. I can't imagine what the teachers would say if I pushed for an action plan for settling but I guess you're right, I should speak to them again. I am considering asking to swap to morning sessions but worry that he wouldn't then get to see any of the little friends he has made in the afternoon.
Not so much 'push for and action plan' but I would certainly look at what you can do to make drop-offs easier and then ask the staff if they can support you and how.
For example - try and make drop-off as brief as possible. Don't show any doubts to your DS that he is going to be happy and having fun. Chat about what fun things they are going to do. Leave something of yours with him - some parents have given little passport photos, scarfs, keyrings... - so that he knows you are coming back. Ask him to 'look after it' for you if he's the kind of child who would enjoy that, and particularly if it is something useful that you need after nursery (someone mentioned a trolley coin keyring thing as they always went home via supermarket).
Ask if a member of staff can usher him into his room (or whatever) firmly and quickly so that you don't need to hesitate in any way. For the first few days wait in reception and ask that a member of staff either pop out or ring through to let you know if/when he has calmed down.
I had this with both DS but I was absolutely confident of how much they were enjoying it/gaining from it once I was out of sight. I had to carry DS2 in sobbing some days and he would be fine within seconds of me leaving. I live very close to nursery so they could ring me if he was distressed.
You need to ask for a meeting with the manager to work out how best to manage this transition time.
Some settings (more and more as practice develops) ask parents to stay with their child until they are settled.
Others ask the parent to bring the child for the last part of the session so they are not left for long then the time is increased.
Others tell parents to just hand them over and go.
Finally some allow the parent to lead it totally because they are the ones who know the child best.
There are other approaches too. Many practitioners are set on theirs being the one and only 'right' way to do it.
You need to discuss some of the options with the manager and work out what is the best way to work together to make things feel better for your little boy.
Increasing the hours from three sessions a week doesn't sound like a particularly good idea. If he were only attending one I would agree but three should be enough.
Some children do settle and look fine after the parent leaves but it is beginning to be acknowledged that looking fine and being fine are not necessarily the same thing. A parent's gut feeling about whether something is right for their child is probably one of the best ways to make this judgement.
Pre-school can be a good way to get children used to the idea of group care. The ratios are kinder and do allow the staff to offer more support to the children. This means that they can have help to learn to do up their shoes/coat/find gloves/go to the toilet whereas school staff may not have time. It is a stepping stone which probably makes starting school easier.
However that eight months is a long time in your DS's development. My DD started school (after a year in pre-school) at 4.6 but I knew immediately that she wasn't ready and she attended mornings only for the first six months. By that time she was a lot more emotionally ready for the environment and coped far better with full days.
What are you instincts telling you?
I've read this with interest as I have the same experience dropping off my dd at pre school. She is 3 1/2 and started 5 days a week in September after always being at home with me.
She has always been confident and outgoing, running off at toddler groups and happy to go on play dates without me but after the 'honeymoon' period of the first few weeks at pre school she has been alternatively screaming or quietly whimpering clinging to me every morning. My dh thinks we should just take her out but I'm worried that it will send her the wrong message and she might think she will be able to 'give up' school-she's due to start in September.
It is a very large pre school and she has no key worker, the staff are kind but there is no option of just 'dropping her off', we are supposed to enter the room, settle them into play and say good bye. I've tried to discuss it with the staff but they don't seem to think it's a big problem and that she'll 'snap out of it'. It was really interesting to read that 'it is beginning to be acknowledged that looking fine and being fine are not necessarily the same thing', Goldmandra. I think this could be my dd as she will start playing when I leave but spends most of her time at home saying she doesn't like it. There isn't an easy option of changing nurseries.
I'm really torn about what to do and would appreciate any opinions! It's becoming such a big stressful event for us both every day that it's very tempting to give up but I don't want to make it even worse for when she starts school in September.
Hope your ds settles soon too tobyandcharlie!
PS- my dd attends mornings, I don't think it makes a big difference, she is just tired and grumpy first thing instead-and then we all have to stay indoors in the afternoon because she's so exhausted from the morning!
It is a very large pre school and she has no key worker
This would concern me. Every child should have an identified adult with whom they build a relationship. This person should be around to be a source of comfort and familiarity, help the child settle if that is an issue, should know the child's interests and plan for them and should know the child well enough to spot progress and note it.
I have to wonder if the lack of a key relationship is what is throwing your DD. Are there lots of different staff swapping in and out of roles often? They should be working with you to solve this settling problem. You don't seem to be getting much support.
I don't think there is any reason to believe that taking child out of pre-school will give them the idea that school is optional 8 months later. It would, however be a shame to lose what progress she has made.
Have you considered reducing her days, perhaps down to three?
Sorry to hear you're having the same problem Conanchensee. I too was interested to ready Goldmandra's comment - 'it is beginning to be acknowledged that looking fine and being fine are not necessarily the same thing' and that a parent's instinct should be trusted. Mine's telling me not to put him through this stress so as not to put him off primary school. Plus, why would I want my little boy to be miserable? TandC (tobyandcharlie)
Thanks Goldmandra, that's really interesting. I think you are right in that she needs a key worker. It is the same staff most days but there are 5 or 6 of them moving around so it's overwhelming when she arrives.
Unfortunately it's a state nursery attached to a school and it's 5 days or nothing so I can't reduce her time. I think this is a major part of it because she gets so tired. I feel guilty for not researching nurseries more at the time, it had a good reputation and she seemed such a confident child I never thought we'd be in this situation.
I was told that it is now the national curriculum not to have a structured environment in nurseries, is this right? I really think it would help if she was given an activity to do at the start of every day instead of having to initiate play herself. I'm hoping it will be be more structured when she starts school...
Thank you so much for saying that it sounds like I should be getting more support from the staff, I like to be the kind of parent who doesn't make a fuss but I think I've been wrong in this case. I think it would be so much easier if the dropping off period wasn't so drawn out but there is no flexibility in this point as they don't have the staff. I'd love to just hand her over at the door! It seems that they disapprove of this approach, is this now not considered good practice?
Thanks for the support!
It is considered better now for the parent to come into the setting and settle the child into an activity before they leave. However this doesn't mean that the staff should just leave you to it.
IMO they should now be doing exactly what you suggested. A designated person should be available every morning with some sort of structured activity for your DD. This activity could be a game, a job or just part of the morning routine. It doesn't have to be for her alone. I'm sure there would be others who would benefit from this too. It just needs to be a regular person and a familiar activity.
This would mean she has a secure predictable structure to her handover routine but it doesn't mean you should drop and run. You could stay long enough to start the activity with her and leave her once she's engaged with this adult.
I am always a bit about settings that insist on 5 days attendance for children of this age. It blatantly disregards the individual needs of the children but nobody ever seems to challenge it.
Sorry for the thread hijack, OP
Thanks again, I think I'll give it till half term and have another go at talking to the staff.
Yes, really sorry for pinching your thread TandC, just really struck a cord with me! How is your ds getting on this week?
In my opinion, if they're not ready, they're not ready. Preschool is intended as a gentle introduction, but if he's really this distressed then it's not gentle at all really, is it?
I would take him out for now. You can always try again the term after he turns 4, or just leave it until he is of school age. Reception isn't all learning spellings and times tables it's very play-based and if you need to explain to the staff that he hasn't been to nursery, they will be able to help him settle in.
My son is still very unsettled when I drop him off at nursery (crying, screaming, clinging etc). Additionally he told me last week that the children don't let him play with them, then burst into tears. Naturally I felt very upset to hear this but tried to hide it from him (wanted to cry). I then spoke to one of the teachers about it who said that she doesn't understand that, and that he always has children around him. I'm more confused than ever now as it was almost as if she thought he may be manipulating me. I just don't think he would make that up, but from my response I do wonder if he's repeated it because he knows I will stop and listen whenever he mentions it (has mentioned it half a dozen times since). He also says there's nothing to do there. I don't believe this but wonder if the Montessori philosophy may not suit him as he needs directing and I wonder if allowing him to choose an activity means too much 'downtime'. Again I'm really confused because everyone I know raves about the nursery and says their children love the place so why should we have such a different experience? I'm very tempted to finish him their after the end of this term but DH is against it and thinks it sends the wrong message to our DS. I understand where DH's coming from but can't bear the thought of DS being miserable and feeling socially excluded. I wasn't expecting to deal with this kind of issue at such a young age.
Is it very Montessori? We tried it with ds2 when he was about 3 and it just wasn't him at all.
I also wouldn't recommend afternoon sessions. They're always more tired after lunch anyway.
If there is a morning pre-school he could try after Easter maybe that's the way forward.
I thought TandC made a good point at the top of the thread: - Reception is supposed to prepare children for school; why do they need Pre-school to prepare them for Reception? And should there be a Pre-pre-school to prepare them for Pre-school? Where does it end?!
And anyway, let's remember that most European countries don't start DCs in proper school til 6 or 7 y/o, and they end up with better academic standards than us.
So, unless you're desperate to get back to paid work, there's really no hurry.
I pulled my ds out of pre school, purely on the basis that he was not enjoying it at all anymore. He's articulate and sensitive and just asked to stay at home with me, as well as getting anxious when I mentioned it was time for nursery. I tried to settle him in (previously he had been ok there) but after a lot of crying and obvious distress I felt instinctively that I should take him out. He now enjoys play dates every now and then, baking and educational activities with me at home and seeing his extended family. Everything is just do much more relaxed now. Do what feels right for you OP. don't feel pressured into keeping him there, I've been under that from family and the nursery themselves that constantly put fear into you that they somehow will find school a 'shock' etc etc. In my mind as long as you talk to and prepare your child for school and chat to them daily about it in the run up, it will be fine. Wobbles and the occasional upset are normal, but right now I'm enjoying that quality time with my ds before he starts the 9-3 school day.
I can tell you that there is a tangible, quantifiable difference between Reception children who have experienced pre-school and those who haven't - in social, emotional and developmental terms. Those without any experience of pre-school do find it harder to settle, and of course the longer it takes them to settle to school the longer it's going to take them to gain any benefit from school.
The problem in your case may well be less the concept of preschool and more the actual preschool. Are there any alternatives?
Hassled that is a sweeping generalisation though. My dh is a teacher and would question your statement about there being differences. It completely and utterly depends on the child, their environment and upbringing. You cannot state that a child who doesn't attend pre school will automatically find it harder to settle. On the contrary some children who have play dates and see a lot of people/places in general, may jump straight into reception eagerly! Its really disheartening and ridiculous the and pre assumptions so many have towards children who don't attend pre school for whatever reason.
Go with your gut feeling. My dd1 is 3.8 and is not at pre-school, she will go straight into reception class in September. There are plenty of 0-5 groups around if they want to interact with other children, no need to put them into pre-school if they are not ready. They do staggered starts in reception anyway so they will get a chance to adjust to full days.
My ds is not yet 4 and knows his letters, numbers, shapes and another alphabet in a different language. He also has a very advanced vocabulary and can dress himself/clean teeth/use toilet/do buttons. Now developmentally (I'm a former HC professional who has also worked with small children of varying ages) he is right where he should be. His friend who is being HE reads fluently, is not yet 5, and has never attended pre school. I have personally known children who do attend pre school that enter reception without basic letter/number grasps and to be completely frank with you, despite all these one sided generalisations for both, most knuckle down and do well at more or less of the same pace. Parenting has a hell of a lot to do with it as well I'm sure you'll agree.
Scottydog, being school-ready is nothing to do with being able to recognise numbers or letters or shapes or read or speak a different language.
It's about being emotionally ready, being able to talk to other adults and children, being able to go in to school in the morning without screaming the place down, being able to talk about their feelings and the feelings of others, being able to be in a large group and not to demand all the adult attention, being able to listen and take turns in conversation.
That's what pre-school is all about.
Watching with interest. We have a 2.5 YO and our CM is keen on pre-school (nursery) but we have the choice of a) continuing with lovely, wonderful CM and b) 10 hours a day four days a week (4o hours a week) in a nursery. There is no other option for us as our commute is over an hour each way, our current CM doesnt drive and lives 3 miles away from us (on way to work) so she cant pick child up/drop off at our local nursery or indeed any of those we would get a free place at (unless I am missing something about their admissions policies). Our child currently attends playgroups twice a week and soft-play and gymnastics once a fortnight plus there are the CMs there are her own two older kids (primary school aged) before/after school plus two little ones with me child all day so she us getting social interaction with other children of various ages. She is a bright and active 2.5 YO who recognises letter and a few words already and can count to 6. I am really not for uprooting her from a wonderful CM where she has been happy since she was 9 months old just to go to local nursery for the free 15 hours a week (and we'd still have to pay for the other 25 hours a week we need, either at the nursery or at a different CMS closer to the nursery). I didn't go to nursery myself but loved school from day one (and could already read and write and do basic addition and subtraction before I started school) so I am also really not at all convinced about the benefits of nurseries, but our CM seems really keen even though it would mean we wouldn't be using her services any more.