Behind the Screen: Do kids have to go to school?

Behind the Screen

I’m feeling so confused these days as I try to contemplate whether I should enroll my daughter in preschool.

She’s going to be 3 soon (I still can’t believe it!) and it seems as though I’m totally out of the loop when it comes to school stuff.

I used to feel that anything before the age of 5 was really just glorified daycare. But as I see my daughter getting really excited about the 2 hours a week we spend at a local park district playgroup, I realize she wants and craves instruction from a teacher and someone other than myself. I do spend time with her and pretend to do school work with her, but she talks on and on about the playgroup and the teacher and how she wants to go to school.

My dilemma is where to start.

I had no idea just how bad it is in the city in terms of competitiveness. Today I randomly called a few places and they all said the same thing, “We take applications a year in advance”.


School was the last thing on my mind last year when my daughter was just learning to speak clearly and figure out how to color. I mean I couldn’t think that far ahead. All the “good” places are full and some aren’t ever going to have space according to one admissions representative that I spoke to. Can you believe it? They have admissions and financial aid and stuff. Sounds like college to me. Oh and one of the places I looked at is charging at least $10,000 a year half day preschool. I guess if I had the money it wouldn’t be a big deal, but then it makes me think that if I don’t spend money am I not giving my child the best that’s out there?

I wonder if I keep her at home, will she miss out? Especially now that I’m preoccupied with the new baby.

The other issue is whether you go private school or public school, full-time or part-time. It just boggles my mind.

It also doesn’t help that I’m SO indecisive and we may be moving to another part of the city in a few months.

Do any of you have kids that are in preschool? Is it a good idea?

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This article has 9 comments

  1. Kelly

    Yes, if you need anyone to ask about MCC let me know, one of my best friends sends her kids there. I think they do have montessori.

    I would probably scope it out now in the area that you would most likely move into. Even here the public school prek is not all that easy to get into (limited spots). So, you can at least ask to have your name on a waiting list now, even if you didn’t accept a spot kwim?

  2. Mariam Sobh

    Wow thank you all for your comments and insight! πŸ™‚ I’m so grateful that you took the time to write out your opinions. It’s great to hear all different sides and look into things that I didn’t even think of. Maybe I’ll wait until we’ve finalized our moving situation and then I’ll go and visit the schools in the area and see how comfortable I feel.
    Elif you mentioned Muslim montessori.. I heard there is one I think but it’s out in the suburbs πŸ™
    Jazmine thanks for the tips and what worked for you.. I definitely want Sarah to have fun and not feel like she’s being overwhelmed.
    Lana awww.. are you planning to slow down his schedule or is he getting used to it now?
    Saleema I never thought about YMCA.. I’ll have to check it out.
    Safia thanks for the istikhara reminder πŸ™‚
    Kelly the CPS does have pre-K it’s just trying to navigate them because there are so many different types. magnet, charter, gifted, language school etc. Islamic schools are too far out.
    Caraboska I was actually homeschooled partially and I can see the benefits and drawbacks.

  3. caraboska

    I personally think that school is a waste of time. I learned nothing good about how to interact with other people at school. Would have been much better off and much better adjusted, in terms of living in the adult world, if I’d just skipped the kids basically altogether.

    AS it is, indeed, I think I became worse and worse adjusted, the more I attended school. It was a highly destructive influence. I really fail to see how interacting with non-adult persons is going to prepare one for living in an adult world. Seems to me that interacting with adults and leading as adult a life as possible as quickly as possible is the way to go.

    Given my age, I will probably never have children, but if I did, I absolutely would homeschool, and any children they spent time with would be very carefully chosen for their serious-minded attitude and ability to function in an adult world. And the goal in terms of academics would be to have them ready for a top-flight university by age 14.

    This all obviously assumes a very different relationship between parent and child than is normally the case. There are those who think that children just always believe everything Mommy says. I don’t know how it is with other people, but I was never that way even from early infancy – and I even remember specific incidents from back then.

    So that my inclination would be to believe that if a child does believe everything Mommy and Daddy tell them, just because it was they who said it – and not, for example, because Mommy and Daddy have by the sweat of their brow every minute of every day slaved away to earn their child’s trust, knowing that if they make even one mistake it can never be repaired – then it is a matter of brainwashing of the most pernicious kind.

    So: no baby talk. Ever. Basically no childhood in any normal sense of the word. Ever. Yes, you make allowances. Children do think somewhat more concretely. So if you show your child two baby food jars that are the same color, but have different contents, you really do have to open the jars and let the kid taste the food. You really do have to give CONCRETE proof.

    Otherwise the child will think that you are trying to claim that the mere fact that the label is different means that the contents are different – and rightly be annoyed with you, since it is manifest nonsense to make such a claim.

    And since you failed to prove what you were saying… Your child will become turned off to your efforts to educate him/her and refuse to participate. And will waste precious years that could have been spent learning so many things…. And then will have to make it up by the sweat of their brow years later. And no doubt it will take a long time for them to get around to it – because it will take them decades to get past their anger at your failure to do for them what you should have done when they were young, decades to get past their anger that they are left to their own devices and forced to do things for themselves which you should have done.

    I am sorry to paint such a dire picture and scare people, but I have had the misfortune to find out all of this the hard way. There just really is no room for error in these matters.

  4. Kelly

    Wow! So many opinions!

    The statement I read that I agreed with the most is from Jazmine about the grouchy early educators. Yes, we’ve dealt with them, and I was in a pre-k classroom volunteering and the teacher’s aid yelled at the kids. She was a total grump, and the teacher who was a replacement in the middle of the year was a total doormat.

    We’ve done a total of 4 years of (public) preschool between two kids. The best years were the first and the last.

    As far as when is the right time totally depends on your child. I think all kids can benefit though from a part time preschool. Even if it is play based they do learn a lot still (and learning how to interact with peers is very important!).

    Now that my kids have been at their Islamic school for several years (this is our fifth year there) I do plan on sending my youngest full time when she is old enough. They have a montessori based prek program from 3 and kindy is also montessori based.

    As far as montessori being the best behaved children ahahahaha! I will not make any further comments than that. Oh, and I think parenting has a lot more to do with that too.

    Anyhow, not sure where you may be relocating to, but if you’re looking for Islamic schools you’ve got some good options. Does the Chicago public school system not have pre k?

  5. safia

    Here is my opinion as I was a teacher. It all depends on your involvement and how much work you can put in. If you want to home school them, then you have to make sure you get them involved in other activities with other kids. If you put them in islamic school, make sure you do some community volunteer work, so they can meet and know how to interact with non muslims. If you put them in public school, then make sure they go to weekend school to meet muslims, and spend an extra hour or two doing more advance work..

    You can’t always worry about making right decision, make it, pray istikhara and say bismillah! You will do just fine!

  6. Elif

    I’ve had my older daughter start a private school when she was 2.5, two days a week. Part time didn’t work for us, on the days she was supposed to go she wanted to stay home and on the days she wanted to go, she couldn’t go.

    My second one who is 4 now, started a montessori when she was 2. Eventhough we lived with my parents and she had cousins to play with, she was so unhappy. You could see she wanted to be around kids, and she wanted to learn, and she wanted to take on bigger challenges then coloring and playing with blocks. We had always heard good stuff about the montessori but couldn’t afford it with our older one, this time around we decided to give it a try. We loved it.

    I would advise everybody to send their kids to a good montessori. It is not a day care, it is a real school. It teaches kids to be independent, they gain confidence, manners, and the things they learn are amazing. My daughter can already do so many things, she can read certain words, and write her name and all of her friends names. She is so happy to be around kids and learns so much and comes home feeling like she conquered the world. She dresses herself, eats by herself, goes to the bathroom by herself. Anything that is in her reach she can do.

    I am against kids staying home. The toddler ages are so precious, they are so curious and eager to learn, why waste the opportunity. My best friend is a teacher, she and I conflict on this issue. She has a 3 year old and just had a baby. I keep telling her “your son needs to be around other kids. That’s why he can’t stop talking about his play friends, that’s why he wants to go hug every kid he sees and not let go”. “Kids need to be around kids, and in a learning environment”. But she says “I didn’t have kids so other people can raise my kids”, “I’m a teacher, I can teach him alot, I’m not working, I make the time to invest in my child” Which she truly does, she is no regular mama. She teaches her son how to cook, and they do so many things together. He knows alot of surahs. But at the end of the day, I still think parents can only give so much to their kids. A montessori teaches structure, discipline and how to get along with others, at an early age. It forces kids to think to learn to manipulate different items. It teaches them to make decisions. It teaches them to work like adults through work cycles. It gives them confidence.

    Whenever you enter a room full of kids, you can ALWAYS hand pick the montessori educated kids. They are always the ones who are confident, leaders, and have the best manners.

    If you make an appointment to see one, they will let you tour it and you will see the difference between a regular day care where kids run wild without any structure, and a montessori where kids are happy, concentrated and actually work and enjoy it.

    And if you run into an Islamic Montessori, don’t even think, those are so rare and hard to find.

    I hope I didn’t bore anybody, but I’m passionate about 2 issues, hijab and montessori ! πŸ™‚

    Good luck,

  7. Saleema


    I’ve been facing the same dilemma and I agree completely with Jazmine. I would venture that at age 3, your daughter might just need part time preschool. We have Zara in preschool at the YMCA where she takes swim lessons. It’s two (or three) days a week for 3 hours each day. It’s just enough for her to get the social interaction, stimulation and structure she needs. And it’s cheap. And it doesn’t cut too much into my time with her.


  8. Lana

    i have a 3 year old that goes to private Quran and Arabic school in the morning for 2.5 hours then is off for one hour then goes to public school for another 3 hours. And I HATE IT. I have a baby at home and it’s such a hassle dropping him off and then picking him up from 2 different places. I recommend you focus on one thing that you can AFFORD or else it’ll be a drag. My kid gets two different teachers and 2 different programs but he’s not exceling in either one cuz I don’t have time to go over his homework or go over his alphabet and he misses a lot of days of school because he’s too tired some days to wake up on time or he falls asleep right before his second school. so really, think hard about what can you PERFECT. THAT’S THE KEY. If he only had one school, I would have focused more on it and it wouldn’t be too much. And sometimes I wonder WHAT WAS I THINKING? enrolling him in 2 schools??? but I know it’s because I want THE BEST and the best will never be what money can buy but it’s how much effort I can put into it…..hope this helps so you’re not suffering next year with Sarah

  9. Jazmine

    Yes Mariam, I’ve been there… a few times. I have 3 kiddos; my eldest is now 8 and the “baby” turned 3 last September. The thing is, it won’t stop once you choose a preschool. It continues as a nagging feeling of “did I make the best choice,” and comes back especially strong if your child says the least bit negative thing about their school/teachers/peers.

    What I have found is that the right fit is different depending on the child. What worked for my eldest was not right for my middle child. They had different temperaments, interests, and ways of expressing themselves. My eldest loved school and the “structured” environment it gave, even at a very early age, so full-time was great. My middle son needs more “quiet play” time to be creative, and can get stressed by too rigorous of a schedule (although he will keep up, but we see the damage at home while he decompresses)so full time was not the best for him. I had him in a full time KG program at the local Islamic School, but pulled him out and into the 3hr a day public KG program, and it has been great. We do major enrichment at home with extra math and reading and Quran, but at a more fun pace.

    My daughter will hopefully benefit from all the experimentation of her elder brothers. Alhamdulillah, my kids do very well academically. That is not at all a concern. I made the mistake of thinking the more I push academically from the beginning, and because my kids could handle it at an early age, the further it would carry them. Now I see that I should have placed a much higher importance on the social/emotional part of early childhood education.

    I guess my main advice would be, 1. Don’t feel like if your kid’s program is not the most expensive or exclusive that it will in anyway hinder their future. That high tuition price pays for really good advertising firms that know how to make a mom feel guilty. Quality is not at all based on price. 2. ALWAYS go and observe the potential teacher in action, preferably without her/him knowing! hehehe… Preschool and all of early education should be a safe, happy, positive place to learn. I do NOT have patience for grouchy early-educators. My philosophy is if you don’t have the patience and love for little people, then don’t be their teacher! 3. Read your kid’s cues and ask EVERYDAY how their day went. And if there are issues, act on them (either by addressing teachers, volunteering to cover gaps, helping the school find suitable solutions, or pulling out and finding an alternative!) Now this is the one that causes me to be an overly anxious Mama, but I’d rather be there than have my children hurt/miserable! 4. Pray, that God guides you(us) to make the best choices for these little people He has trusted us with and that He protects them and raises them to serve Him.

    And that’s my 2cents… (or maybe more like 200 cents, got kinda long! Sorry!)

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