Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Basbusa got from Preschool

Homeschooling is going gloriously well, al7amdulillah! But before last year fades into a distant memory, I did want to write up my notes on what Basbusa got out of preschool. She attended a delightful, play-based preschool for two mornings a week last academic year, from age 3 1/4 to (almost) 4.

Basbusa enjoyed her mornings at school very much, and still thinks back on her time there fondly. Even now, almost a year since she was last there, what she mentions most frequently is how much she loved her two teachers. I know she liked playing with her friends, and exploring the manipulatives, but those weren't the things she focused on when telling us about her day at school. No, what Basbusa liked to describe was the fascinating rhythms and routines of their daily activities. She loved the way the teachers assigned people particular "jobs" for the day (with "line leader" and "room checker" being her favorites). She liked knowing how the day was going to unfold, both in terms of daily activities and in terms of little things like the exact words the teachers would use to call them in from recess. Preschool involved many new experiences for Basbusa, who is usually somewhat cautious when she's approaching something new. I think she came to feel that new experiences were nothing to be apprehensive about, as long as they were slotted into a framework built from nice, familiar, predictable routines!

Perhaps the most valuable part of the whole experience was getting to know her first "best friend." Oh, the cuteness of three-year-old friendships! I don't think of this as part of the past, though, because luckily we're still very close to this friend and her family, and see them at least once a week, al7amdulillah.

I, too, learned a lot from Basbusa's preschool experience. For example, I had already known that Basbusa's general style was on the more reserved end of the spectrum, and that was confirmed by the way she approached preschool. She never cried when I left her, but every single time, right through the very end of the year, she would spend the first five or ten minutes standing slightly separately from the other children, observing. She wanted to find out who was where, what was happening, what was new. She wasn't distressed or afraid, but she wanted to know exactly what was going on before deciding to participate in it.

This attitude was exactly on par with what I had seen before she started preschool, but previously, I had been worried that this was something that needed "fixing." I thought that it might be a sign that she hadn't had enough exposure to other children, or hadn't had enough independence, or that she was afraid or insecure, and that I must be failing to find a way to make her feel comfortable. I'm certain that if I hadn't sent her to preschool for a year, I always have wondered whether I had hampered her ability to build social skills by not putting her in a school environment. But now, I know it's just her style. Her extra-long warm-up period isn't a sign that she needs to become more comfortable in social settings; it *is* her way of becoming comfortable in social settings!

I also learned not to let myself say, "Oh, Basbusa doesn't like ____," and give up on that particular activity. Because it turned out that according to the teachers, Basbusa doesn't like art activities, and does like building with blocks! This from the girl who - as far as I've ever seen her - is never without a pen in her hand, and who wouldn't stack two legos if there were no other toy available in the universe. So, I must remind myself that the same activity in a different context can get a totally different response, and re-introduce things every so often even if they weren't big hits previously.

And finally, and very triumphantly, I learned that I can, in fact, bi ithn illah, get us out the door on time! In an entire school-year of days starting at 8:45am, at a school 20 minutes away, we were only late a couple of times. It's not impossible. Who knew? :)

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