Little Tom celebrated his fourth birthday just about a month ago but even before he was four, he was talking a mile a minute and trying his very best to catch up to everything his big brother and big sister do.
One of his birthday gifts (thanks, Aunt T) was a huge Preschool Workbook geared toward ages three to five. He opened it, shouted, "YES!" and just as quickly moved on to his next gift.
When I cleaned up after the party, I put the workbook on the little bookshelf that I have in our family room for the kids books and games and promptly forgot about it.
Tom, however, did not.
"Can we do my preschool book, Mommy? Please? Please? PLEASE!"
Within the few weeks since his birthday, he's gone through at least half of the book, patiently trying to write his letters (most of them legible), his numbers (also legible), and match letters and their sounds. It's actually been a blessing to have that jumbo workbook during homework time because Tom has something of his own to do at the kitchen table while his brother and sister race through their homework.
I've always taken a laid back approach to learning letters and numbers and colors with all three kids; mostly, we read books and talked. We played. We ran errands to all sorts of places. Sometimes, I got daring and trekked all of them to children's museums or local points of interest.
I didn't force learning on them. It just happened when they were ready. It happened in the midst of all the chaos that life threw our way - job changes, moves, new babies, new houses, new towns, elderly dogs, new puppies. It happened despite my laissez faire attitude, despite the advice of other moms, more experienced moms, who advised me to invest in flashcards or in early preschool, who raised their eyebrows politely when I offered my opinion of the true purpose of early two and three year old preschools (free time for stressed at-home moms).
I learned to let go and let them learn at their own pace precisely because Becky was my first, and most frustrated, learner. At the age of four, she was a terrible little perfectionist, one whose brain and intellect were moving faster than the muscles of her little fingers could keep up. After watching her go through more meltdowns than I care to remember about not writing her name perfectly or being unable to get the curves on the letter S just so, I deliberately decided not to push her or any of them.
And I'm glad I didn't.
I'm glad I didn't buckle to the trend of preschool at three.
I'm glad I didn't make naptime for the boys into school time for Becky.
I'm glad I simply trusted my instincts and trusted that my children were learning all along.
Little Tom isn't so little anymore; he's growing up. Turning four is a big deal these days; turning four means that the question, "Is he in preschool?" comes up more and more often from friends, family, and random strangers.
I'm glad I can answer without a bit of remorse or any pangs of mama-worry, "No, he's not."
And when September rolls around?