Photo by Anissa Thompson
My four-year-old daughter Kaylee is acting up at lot at preschool. She's crying hysterically over little things and refusing to participate in some activities.
Her teacher is suggesting different things to try to improve her behavior, but it's hard to tell whether this requires only a small adjustment or whether the school is no longer an appropriate fit for her.
There are many contributing factors:
- My son Zach is on summer vacation (he's entering second grade in the fall), but Kaylee attends a year-round preschool
- Kaylee stays up later on the days she naps, sometimes as late at 10:30 pm, then she's cranky the next day
- I was picking her up earlier one day per week because of a play date with friends
- Her best friend at school is on vacation for a few weeks
- We've been having an awful lot of fun on the days she hasn't gone to preschool
Kaylee does have some anxiety about not knowing things. She cried inconsolably one morning because she couldn't remember the words for weather. Now every day we review the terms "sunny," "windy," and "rainy."
Kaylee said she cried today because she didn't know how to draw a pirate ship for art time, but in asking her more questions about it, she never even made it to the table before she started balking. The art lesson is teacher-directed, where the teacher tells the students what to draw and guides them in how to draw the subject. This art lesson only happens once a week. The rest of their art time the kids get to draw whatever they want.
I suspect that Kaylee resents being told what to draw and how to draw it. I get the point that the teacher can teach specific art skills the kids can use when they draw on their own, and that it can build the kids' confidence to quickly make something recognizable. I also get that this can be too restrictive or boring for some kids.
The thing is, even if the preschool is too structured and no longer a good fit for Kaylee, I feel like I'm just going to be fighting these same battles when she's in kindergarten when it's even more structured. There are 27 kids per teacher in each kindergarten class in my son's school. Many kids fall behind even when they're trying their best, I can't imagine what happens to the kids who refuse to participate.
There is another choice program in the school district that focuses more on project-based and hands-on learning, but it's really hard to get into. Even if by some miracle she could get in, it would involve dropping off and picking up my kids at different schools at the same time, and it would require me to volunteer more in the classroom.
Kaylee's preschool is closed the last week of July, then the new school year starts in August. Kaylee will be in Pre-K, and will move from classroom to classroom during the day, with a different teacher in each classroom. One teacher will teach math and science, another will teach art, and another will teach language arts.
I've started picking Kaylee up from school at the same time every day, after lunch, even though I've already paid for the full day this month. I'm hoping that having a shorter day, a consistent pickup time, and no nap will help her feel more comfortable at school. I'm desperately hoping that she likes all three of her new teachers. Perhaps she's frustrated having to take orders from the same person all day long.
Hopefully Kaylee will feel less envious and less like school is optional when her brother starts school again in mid-August. Her teacher and the preschool administrators assure me Kaylee is just going through a phase of feeling her power, testing boundaries, and craving attention. I hope so. It still saddens me that even if she would do better in a less-structured learning environment, I can't provide that for her at the same school I send my son.
Did you kids ever suddenly start to hate preschool? How did you help them enjoy it again?