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Why We Turned Down Free Preschool

It is preschool selection season ‘round these parts. Parents of 4-(before September 1st) year olds are signing up for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK). The program is in such high demand that some schools boast waiting lists or hold lotteries to fill their slots. It is big business. My mom’s groups are all a buzz with comparative analyses of different schools. Enrollment starts early in the year for good reason. Slots fill up fast.

The program website states, “Pre-K prepares children to be ready for school. Children who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs develop better language skills, score higher in school-readiness tests and have better social skills and fewer behavioral problems once they enter school.”

I think that this is a great idea. I really do. I think it is important. I think every child should have access to high quality early education.

So why, you may ask, are we not touring preschools for our soon to be 4 year old?

To put it most simply: I am spoiled.

By spoiled I mean I am EXTREMELY accustomed to getting my way. It is, honestly, one of my favorite perks of homeschooling. Let me explain.

A close friend of mine kindly reminded me of the deadline for enrollment the other day. She talked about the wonderful schools she and her husband had toured in the previous weeks. We even talked about enrolling our children (they are besties ) in a school midway between our respective sides of town.

My husband and I considered enrolling our youngest because (1) its free and (B) it would give me an opportunity to spend more focused attention on our oldest who is entering a more challenging season in her schooling. Initially, I was intrigued by the idea but as my friend started sharing some of the rules, my spoiled homeschool mom started to internally pout. This is how my end of the conversation went:

“Wait, attendance is mandatory?!?”

“Wait, you mean all day?”

“There are drop off and pick up lines? Like, in the car? Like, I have to wait?”

Can you hear the overindulged homeschool mom in my voice?

I am so used to doing things on my own terms in regards to my children. We make our own schedule, set our own goals, and plan fieldtrips together. I never ask permission to take them out of school for a family event or medical appointment. We school year round and take breaks intermittently. The freedom to build our life this way is difficult to give up. Signing her up for VPK would mean that I have to give up some of our favorite liberties.

This is not to say that this program is wrong or ineffective. Quality, early childhood education leads tho better educational out comes over all. I understand the attendance requirements; they just don’t fit into our lives. I know there are wonderful teachers who would do a fantastic job teaching my little girl, but I just love my time with her. I know that, technically, our tax dollars pay for this program and I have every right to utilize it, but honestly, I don’t mind giving up our “spot” to someone else (who probably needs this more than I do.) I know that this program is free but I have counted the intangible costs to our way of life.

So this fall, our youngest will start Pre-K at home with me. And I will continue to be spoiled rotten by our time together.

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