Preschool – or Not

What activities, classmates, or teachers do you remember from your preschool adventures?

Preschool was a unknown entity when I was small! In fact, I did not even know that kindergarten existed until by brother was enrolled in a private kindergarten when I was in grade 2. Kindergarten as part of public school must have started perhaps during the 1970s; my sister, who was five years old in 1970 still had to attend private kindergarten as it was not yet part of public school. Nowadays, the provincial government is talking about making preschool part of the public school system, and kindergarten full-day.

Of course during the time of my childhood, the majority of moms (at least in our lower to middle middle-class world) stayed home with their little ones, or at most they worked only part-time. My mom resigned her teaching job when I was born, and thereafter, as long as she had pre-schoolers at home, rarely worked outside the home, unless there was a desperate need for substitute teachers, such as during a flu epidemic. There were no formal “play dates” either, but of course they really weren’t necessary as so many moms were home with their little ones, and consequently got to know their neighbors well. Family life generally was less busy, too, I think. There weren’t nearly as many clubs, lessons, and other activities for little ones, and even at home, with no computers and in many cases not even television, folks spent a lot more time outdoors. Moms would be working in the garden, hanging the laundry, and so on, and of course the children would be outside as well, playing with the neighbor kids while the moms visited over the back fence. There was also less divorce, less transience moving away for jobs, and generally neighborhoods were more stable. If mom did need to work, a neighbor mom would babysit, or perhaps a grandmother or aunt who lived close by. Everyday life was our playschool.

The only preschool I knew of was the “preschool” Sunday School class, with children of ages about 3 to 5. I do have vague memories of this, but mostly from pictures rather than actual personal memories. What I do remember clearly is a very neat child-sized blue table with lots of child-size chairs. It was a wide round table that took up most of the Sunday School room, and it had a kind of scoop in it, like the shape of a painter’s palette, in which the teacher sat so she could easily help any little Sunday School scholar with their weekly craft, which was usually a simple coloring sheet. I also remember being entranced by flannel board illustrated Bible stories. In those days, without videos, or puppet shows, or even very many colorfully illustrated books, oral story-telling was still a widely practiced art, and some of the best story-tellers were found in pre-school Sunday School, where they could quite easily keep the little scholars sitting entranced for a good 45 minutes. Flannel-board illustrations, usually homemade, were the icing on the cake. But I think that my favorite part of Sunday School was the “open-session” before our age-group classes, when we would sing wonderful action songs, and if it were our birthday or we brought a new-comer, we could choose a gift from the prize box, such as a pencil labeled with a Bible verse, or a colorful little pin. Things were simple in those days, and little rewards brought great happiness.

In my day, school was serious business, and so was Sunday School for the most part. Sunday School prepared us, while still small, for the up-coming long days of sitting quietly and obediently at school. Church prepared us as well, since there was no Children’s’ Church, and from birth we were expected to sit quietly with our parents for the whole church service. Coloring books, cheerios, and other distractions were not offered, although my grandpa would sometimes sneak us a peppermint, if Grandma wasn’t watching him too carefully. That was a great joy! We did not mind sitting quietly in church, or at least I did not mind; my brother who was naturally a lot more squiggly than I, often found sitting still to be quite a difficult trial. However, that was not considered an excuse, and being disruptive in church was sure to have repercussions! The world was not yet child-centered, and we were learning early on to be respectful and to become responsible adults one day.

Posted: Aug 23, 2008

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