When my son started school he was a wallflower. He would arrive at school and sit on the sidelines watching the other kids played. I am sure that once he warmed up, his sociability improved, but when I picked him up at the end of the day, he was often on the sidelines entertaining himself and rarely engaged with the other kids running around or in fantasy play. It has always stuck with me, my impression of his timidity.
Yesterday I had a parent-teacher conference with my son’s preschool teacher. Apart from his family, my son’s teacher is probably the person who knows my son the most. When it comes to school and his peer interactions, she knows him better than me. Contrary to my sense of his timidity, his teacher had a much different story to tell. Not only does she not find him to be timid, she shared with me that he has a strong group of friends (‘his posse’, LOL) and engages with them very well. He initiates games, participates when others initiate, and seems pretty well socialized. I of course learned a lot more about my son’s learning as well, but none of that was too much of a surprise.
Obviously my perceptions of my son have been flawed/outdated and/or he has made great leaps in his socialization skills. Probably all of the above.
This reminded me of an early struggle that I had in my school selection process that I put on the shelf for a while–how do I know what kinds of needs my kid has, what kind of environment he will thrive in? Generally, I have been at a loss in this regard. Thankfully, my son does not have any issues that would classify him as having ‘special needs,’ but I want to choose a school that will help him thrive. Do I want him to be in a private school where he will be in a more nurturing/protected environment with smaller classes and more personalized attention, or will being in larger classes allow him to learn more self-sufficiency*? I am considering schools where he would be a racial and/or religious minority where he has been used to being a part of the majority in preschool–how would he respond to that kind of change? My problem with these questions are that they are all predicated on a good understanding of my child and his developmental style. The problem is, he was three when I started asking these questions. A year has passed and some of my questions about him have been answered, more now thanks to this parent-teacher conference. Still, I wonder what my son will be like at 5, at 7, at 10, when he will be living with the school choice that my family makes.
So what’s my point? Just that I advise parents to speak to your own daycare/preschool provider or another source who is familiar with your child’s learning and social life to help you determine what kid of environment your child might thrive in. Don’t trust yourself as the sole evaluator.
*yes, this is a gross and wildly inaccurate oversimplification of the difference between public and private.