It has always been my intention to send Gavin to school only when he is old enough to attend kindergarten – which meant he wouldn’t have started going to school until he was about 4 or 5 years old.
Then I got pregnant.
The general advice was that I would need help. After assessing all the options, I finally agreed to send Gavin to school ahead of my original timeline for him. The rationale behind this being:
- It would help to boost his social skills (the general consensus was that Gavin’s social skills were somewhat lacking).
- It would help him learn to be more independent of me (the general consensus was that he was far too clingy to me for a child of his age).
- It would give me more time to rest as the pregnancy progressed and I grew more and more tired.
- It would offer Gavin a more interactive day considering I would be too tired to play all the active games with him and arrange all the activities that I used to do before getting pregnant.
Another reason might be for Gavin’s development, but since I have never felt Gavin’s development to be lacking, it didn’t seem to be a pertinent reason. If anything, I felt Gavin’s development had been progressing quite well through “home-schooling”.
N.B. I would like to state that the general consensus was not necessarily something I agreed with though I confess that I succumbed to the opinions of others for fear that I might be wrong. Personally, I have never felt that there was a problem with Gavin’s social skills or his independence or so-called lack of. To me, his social skills and state of independence (or dependence) seemed quite appropriate for a child of his age.
It was only the latter two reasons for sending Gavin to school that seemed to make sense to me. Whilst I am sure I could have managed Gavin at home throughout the pregnancy, it would have taken a lot more from me. I can definitely see a difference between the days when Gavin is off at school for half a day versus the days when he is at home for the whole day. I usually feel more tired when he is home for the whole day.
I am digressing… I recently read an article about the myth that preschool helps toddlers develop their social skills. Though the idea may appear to be quite logical and sound, the evidence is proving the contrary to be true. Instead of developing people skills, toddlers are coming home with more behavioural problems – increased rudeness, or whining, or aggression.
I noticed the exact same thing when Gavin started going to school. Roughly about the same time, he started becoming more whiny and difficult to handle. I attributed it to the development of the “Terrible Twos” but at the back of my mind I had always feared it might have had something to do with the increased exposure to children his age and the bringing home of bad habits he had observed from the other children. Further, the week he was home from school for the holidays, his behaviour seemed to improve – albeit the improvement was marginal, but it was still perceptible to my eyes. Reading the article on “The Dark Side of Preschool” has confirmed my worst fears.
One event that happened recently that really alarmed me was when Gavin was over at his godparents’ house playing with his godsister, godbrother and a friend of theirs. The friend was an 18 month old boy – very well behaved and very competent for a toddler that young. Both Gavin and the boy were interested in the same toy. Admittedly, I wasn’t really watching Gavin closely because he’s always been fairly good at his godparents’ house, but I chanced to glance at Gavin and I saw something that made me very uneasy.
What caught my attention was the fact that Gavin was looking at the boy with an odd look on his face. It wasn’t a benign look but it wasn’t exactly belligerent either. Then he brought his hand up over the head of the boy and I felt my heart leap into my throat. I was almost ready to jump out of my chair but when Gavin brought his hand down, it was more like the action of “patting”. Seriously, for a moment there it felt as if he was going to hit the boy. This wasn’t the only incident, hubby also told me later that he caught Gavin bullying the boy and he told Gavin off for it.
It was a real shock to me to see my normally rather well-behaved boy behaving in such a manner. Although others have brushed this off as normal toddler behaviour and something that all children have to learn to go through, I still can’t help but feel alarmed by it. I can only think of one trigger for it and it is called “school”. Now I find myself wondering: have I done the right thing by sending my son to school or was it a mistake?
That said, I must admit that going to school has had some positive influences on Gavin. Over the past couple of months he has been attending school, I have noticed a certain maturity in him that had not been present before he started school. However, I still find myself questioning whether that beneficial effect was worth the compromise of having him develop the bad habits.
Below: Gavin generally plays well with other kids and is normally quite gentle.