The Joys & Struggles of Finding the Right Preschool For Your Sensitive Child

We had never planned to send our son to school.  Well, any kind of formal or traditional school, that is.

There are many many reasons for this.  A couple of those reasons are based on a phenomenon that seems to happen when people just know too much about a particular industry.

You know, like those labor & delivery nurses & doctors who opt for home births.  They clearly know too much about the system and business of birth to feel comfortable.

I just knew too much about the system that is "public education" to be comfortable with it.
- Stephanie Aberlich

Same idea.

I just knew too much about the system that is "public education" to be comfortable with it.

As a former public school teacher who left the profession because my role as a creative, encouraging guide to students was being scripted and tested away, I wasn’t particularly fond or trustworthy of the public school system.

As a former day care worker who cared deeply for the little ones in my care but constantly witnessed others in child care distracting, manipulating, invalidating & even neglecting children, I wasn’t exactly itching to get my kid into a daycare setting.

And as a mother very in tune with her inner wisdom and very educated about the importance of attachment, there was no way I was going to send my son somewhere consistently without me, especially in the first 3 years of his life.

This was out of the question for me, it went against every fiber of my biological knowing.

And I would learn out of the question for my son too, as I realized his High Sensitivity.

So I kinda thought we’d skip school all together.  Skip day care for sure, but also skip any preschool or school setting.

 

The World of Home School

 

I live in a state with MANY homeschooling and unschooling families.

Many are religious based homeschoolers, which I don’t resonate with.  But there are also several secular homeschool and unschool groups.

We certainly picked the right state to homeschool in!

I had found several amazing groups to be a part of, form relationships with, and for my son to learn and grow with.

And I loved being a part of so many different groups with differing age ranges.

At first I judged myself for this, worrying I was giving into the "mainstream" ideas of education.  But then I took a step back and realized it didn't have to be so all or nothing.
- Stephanie Aberlich

But something just wasn’t working for us.

We needed more routine.

We needed more consistency.

And I needed more alone time.

At first I judged myself for this, worrying I was giving into the "mainstream" ideas of education.

But then I took a step back and realized it didn't have to be so all or nothing.

We could find a part time preschool that allowed our family a reason to have a more consistent (and for us, a much healthier) routine, and a way for me to have more time for the deep nourishing and healing self care I needed, while also meeting up with our unschooling friends and doing homeschool type activities at home.

Maybe we could have our cake & eat it too!?

 

The Search Was On

 

Being a sensitive and raising a sensitive in a mostly non-sensitive (85% statistically speaking) world is very difficult.

Often our needs aren’t anywhere near the “normal” needs of the masses, so it can be particularly difficult to figure out what to do.

We had limited options.

Without a consistent caregiver I trusted, we didn’t have someone to help out around the house or with childcare.  But since my son loves interacting with other children, we wanted him to be in an environment with other kids.

We spent years randomly interviewing nannies and babysitters, some with children, some without, but we always either couldn’t afford it or they fell through.

Since consistency for children, and especially Highly Sensitive Children, is so incredibly important, I just wasn't ok with a revolving door of caregivers.

Often our needs aren’t anywhere near the “normal” needs of the masses, so it can be particularly difficult to figure out what to do.
- Stephanie Aberlich

So some type of school setting seemed like the most obvious next avenue.

Did I want to send my son to a typical preschool?  Absolutely not.

We looked at some Montessori schools and Waldorf schools, many were either all day programs, 5 day programs, or just out of our price range.

Plus I knew a full day or 5 day program was waaaay too much time away from home for my son to thrive.

Also many schools were too “schooly” for me.  They were more into cramming numbers and letters and reading down the children’s throats in “preparation for Kindergarten”, then focusing on play and exploration… the REAL work of childhood.

Nope.

Next.

Not going to do it.

Then we came across co-ops and nature based preschools.

(Cue angelic choir!)

This was the stuff.

We still had to go through some “bad first dates” and rejections to find The One.   (Yes, it is as dramatic as dating in your 20’s.)

But once we did, oh my goodness, what a relief!

Such a wonderful fit!

 

Waiting for The Right Fit

 

I honestly am so grateful for this school, I can’t even tell you.

It's still new, but my son absolutely loves it!

They are nature based, and our son spends most of his time there in the woods playing in mud kitchens, building with wood, and running around looking for frogs and bugs.

While inside, they have free play, snack, and he has a tiny class of 6.

While it's not technically a co-op, I can come and visit as much as I want, and they have many school events for the families.

It's essentially exactly what he'd get at home, but with more children to play with, a built in community, and I get some time to take better care of myself (something I really needed for my health)!

This is the most amazing place for a Highly Sensitive Child.

Small numbers, lots of outdoor time, consistent friends to play with, unbelievably caring and kind teachers, and only 3 mornings a week.

It was a long search but we are so grateful we waited for the right one.

This morning, the power went out at school.

This is the text message I received from my son’s teacher:

Hygee Day Preschool | Stephanie Aberlich

Pinch me please!

I was in awe of the creativity and grateful for their willingness to turn something that could have been treated as a reason to close school, into such a fun adventure!

So for any of you out there still searching for the right fit for your child, have faith!  There is likely a school or program or community out there that is exactly what your family needs.  Keep looking and keep searching until you find what resonates with your inner wisdom.

Awareness Over Perfection

If you're feeling stuck in limbo between putting your child into a school environment or keeping them home, give yourself some grace and time.  Take some space and tap into your inner knowing.  Instead of focusing on your fears and anxieties, really focus on what your child's behaviors and actions are telling you they need to thrive.  Don't look at it as an all or nothing decision.  There are many options out there for both school environments and home schooling options.  Take your time researching until you stumble upon the right combination for your family.

Tell Your Story

What has your experience with finding a preschool been like?  If you have a Highly Sensitive Child, how were you able to find a school that was ideal for your child's needs?  What are your thoughts and questions about public school, homeschool & unschooling?  Share your story and wisdom in the comments.

With Harmony,

Stevie