I have a four year old daughter. This fall, she will be old enough to go to Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK). A program, which I’ve discovered, is free to me in the state of Florida.
I’m so excited to begin my daughter’s school age years. I’m excited for the friends she’ll make. I’m excited for the things she’ll learn. I’m excited that she’ll get to learn that the world is bigger than our family and our taekwondo school. I’m excited that she’ll meet other adults that she can admire and trust. I’m excited that there will be other people who can fill in the gaps in my parenting – because I’m certain that there are things I’m missing.
I began calling around to programs a few months ago (thinking I was way ahead of the curve), I realized that VPK is very popular and that all the “good” parents enrolled their kids in Fall VPK in January of last year.
So. We’re on a couple of waiting lists. I’ve visited a few classrooms full of toys, puzzles, and educational games. I’ve heard about “thinking chairs,” reinforcements, educational strategies, and apps that teachers can use to keep in touch with parents.
And it all sounds great, but it doesn’t answer my burning question about these programs:
Will you treat my daughter with respect? Will you honor her feelings? Will you let her know that you value you her no matter how she performs on whatever evaluation system you use? Will you help her learn to value herself as a human being and to value her little classmates as human beings, too?
I may be a terrible parent for admitting this, but I’m not worried about whether or not my daughter will learn to count to 10, identify capital and lowercase letters, or name the continents before she’s 5. I feel completely confident that in the long arc of her life, she will learn the facts and skills she needs to function in her life. And, if push comes to shove, I know I can help her with these things.
But, I’m worried about the things that are harder to unlearn. Can I ask her teacher to avoid words like bossy and try words like leader? Can I ask how they stop kids from teasing and teach them to be kind to those who are smaller and weaker than themselves? Can I ask them to encourage her when she wants to read comic books? Can they let her know that it’s okay to have ninja turtles and barbies playing together? Can they make it safe for her to be friends with a boy without calling him a boyfriend?
I know I can’t shield my daughter from the parts of the world, the parts of our society, the parts of childhood, or the parts of girlhood that I don’t like. But I wish I could. I wish we lived in a world where we were more focused on nurturing our children’s souls than filling their minds.
I don’t know where I’ll ultimately send my daughter to school next year. But…I hope that she takes the values she’s learned in our home with her. I hope our values are strong enough to protect her sweet spirit