Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Preschool problems

My daughter is very clever. I know most parents say that about their children but DD taught herself to read shortly after turning 3, has the vocabulary of a much older child and can do basic sums and times tables. She has an utterly insatiable curiosity about everything, like most children her age, and sometimes it’s hard working out how to explain a concept she’s interested in to her in a way that she will understand (“Mummy, what’s a universe?”). She’s also very empathetic and caring.

When she started going to preschool last September she really enjoyed it, and that continued for a few months. But as this year has worn on she has become more and more averse to going. There’s been a minor upset with a couple of the other children (they don’t want to play with her, and DD doesn’t understand why not) but otherwise there haven’t been any hiccups. The reason she’s reluctant to go is simple – she’s bored. The sessions are 3 hours each weekday morning and are almost entirely play-focused. And that’s good, it’s great for DD to play with her peers, do singing and painting and all that stuff. But for her it’s not enough.

In the half-term that the children turn 4 they are allowed to join a special group that starts slowly introducing them to phonics and letters. DD won’t be 4 until next month so hasn’t been allowed to join this group yet, despite my pleas to the manager. When she does finally join the group this week she’ll be given a picture book to look at and a notebook with the letter S in, so that she can learn to recognise it. This is in spite of the fact that the staff have told me they regularly find DD sitting in the book corner reading to the other children.

Over the last couple of months it has become increasingly hard to persuade DD to go to preschool. She’s told the teachers that she’s bored (apparently her exact words were “Playing here is boring, I’ve got better toys at home and I can do reading there”). I’ve told the teachers that she’s bored. We’ve dropped her attendance to 4 mornings a week instead of 5 but I still have to leave her sobbing most mornings. Occasionally one of the staff will pull me aside at hometime to tell me that DD has been crying during the morning but usually I hear it from a friend whose son is DD’s best friend.

I appreciate that children of 3 and 4 are prone to tears and that the staff can’t always report every incident to parents. I understand that the manager didn’t want to change their policy about the special group just for one child. But my daughter has spent most of today either quiet and withdrawn or in floods of tears because she has to go back to preschool tomorrow and that’s not right. Quite apart from anything else I don’t want her to think that primary school will be like this, I don’t want her to be discouraged before she even starts.

I would love to remove DD from the preschool altogether but DH and I both think it’s important that she continues the social interaction. We also don’t want her to think that you can stay home from school just because you don’t want to go, because that can’t happen when she starts primary school in September. There are only 6 weeks left before the summer holidays and if this week goes badly we’ll drop another session so that DD goes just 3 mornings a week.

That’s what my head says is sensible. But my heart is torn in two seeing my sunny, cheerful girl so miserable. I hate making her go and I hate contributing to her unhappiness when it’s within my power to alleviate it.


Comments on: "Preschool problems" (21)

  1. Classic reaction of a gifted child. Try Mensa.

  2. Have you posted on the gifted & talented section on MN? Someone there may have an idea for you.

  3. Personally I’d pull her out of preschool. Social interaction is important, but back in the “old days” as my kids call it we didn’t have the luxury, we just went to school aged 5 and got on with it. None of my classmates had been to preschool, and some of us had more interaction than others. I think it would be more damaging to leave her in an environment where the staff are doing it all “by the book” and don’t seem bothered she’s unhappy.

    Have you spoken to the school about their policy for G&T children? If they are going to insist on her “reading” every single one word book in order you might be wise to think about challenging them too. In Scotland children are supposed to be taught to ability regardless of age, and it seems a lot more flexible than the school we previously had for our dd1 in England. I’m being over-cautious possibly but there is nothing worse than a bored and unhappy child.

    • The school has a good reputation for helping G&T/SEN children. It also helps that my mum and sister are both primary school teachers so I can pick their brains for how best to tackle it if I think the school aren’t doing enough!

  4. I agree with the above. I think the pre-school should be recognising this more and working with her. She does need to stay in some kind of pre-school like you say so she engages with and plays with other kids, as well as getting used to such an environment for school. However I would push them to react to her needs more x

    • I’ve been pushing them all term, they just say they can’t give one child special treatment and that it’s all about play. It’s so frustrating.

  5. SweetToothNim said:

    It’s so hard to get the right balance. Our 5yo has suspected aspergers. He’s diagnosed but has strong traits. Part of this is he is very very bright. He can read anything, write, recognise any number, add, subtract, multiply and has the vocab of an adult. He could read before he went to school and only just got a reading book last term!
    We wanted him pushed. He is working well out of the foundation stage early Learing goals and almost out of ks1 levels. However his teacher reminded that he was only 5. Let him be 5. There is plenty of time for studying and pushing him later on.
    Luckily he hasn’t shown signs of being bored. He loves his own company and the social/play aspect of reception has been good for him.
    3yo however reacted similar to your dd. He started nursery after Christmas and he was fine for a few weeks. He then lost it. Tears and tantrums before we went, while he was there and when i picked him up! It was a tough time. By Feb half term he’d been moved into the middle group. He was a bit happier. The tantrums stopped but he was still unhappy. Now he knows all his phonics, numbers way past 100, can write his name and is starting to recognise words. A long way in front of his peers. A couple of weeks before this half term he started working with the children about to start school. He was a different child.
    I would push the pre school to let dd work in this higher group. It makes sense and they must realise it’s better for her? Or i know you said you don’t want to take her out. However you could and explain to her that she still has school work to do. Home school her for 6weeks?
    I have rambled a bit sorry. But you are not alone in this. I have been lucky with my boys needs being met. It’s so tough when they’re upset and it’s out of your hands. I hope you can find a compromise and your happy little girl again. X

    • SweetToothNim said:

      **undiagnosed aspergers!!!

    • Thanks. 🙂 It’s a hard line to walk – I don’t want to be a pushy parent, I don’t want to hothouse her or anything like that. I want her to enjoy learning. But at the same time I want to encourage her interests and right now being at preschool isn’t helping that.

      DD starts in the group this week but having talked to other parents about what the children in the group do I don’t have much faith in it changing matters. You never know though!

  6. Megan-Beth Millar said:

    I know I am not a mummy but perhaps you can give her more through withdrawing her a couple of days and trying to find something more interesting (to her to do) are you far from a library? Or is there a local group for gifted children? Maybe even speak to her school and see if she can go in a couple of mornings towards the end of term. Approaching her new school might be a good idea they might have inside knowledge as it were as they will be used to supporting outstanding children. She is probably already at the same level as the majority of those finishing year r this year. One of the other comments mentioned home schooling – her new school should be able to support you in this. She will be happy sweety DD is amazing xxx

    • She has 3 taster afternoons at her new school soon, hopefully she’ll have fun at those. The school has a good reputation for supporting children with different needs and abilities so hopefully that will make a difference.

  7. I must admit I am concerned about the total inflexibility of the preschool. My dd was moved up instantly at hers as soon as staff realised she was already doing all that the older children were – it wasn’t a case of hothousing, just acknowledging the child’s needs. The school sounds more promising, and it sounds like you have great family backup 🙂

  8. lucysg said:

    The teacher can, should & must adapt to the needs of every child. It’s her job. It’s not ‘special treatment’. It’s good teaching. Have you exhausted all lines of communication with the school – teacher, key stage leader, SEN co-ordinator, headteacher? She doesn’t lefally have to be in school at this age, so I’d consider pulling her out. You can either find a better pre-school or home school her. It’s outrageous that they are willing to ignore a clearly unhappy child for the sake of policy.

    We’ve had similar issues with our eldest daughter. We moved into the area 2 years ago. She was a G&T high achiever at her old school. This has gone completely ignored at her new school & she has since dropped to average for her age. I feel like we’ve wasted 2 years of her education on a school that doesn’t care. They’ve just failed their Ofsted too. We’ve had her on a waiting list for a better school for over a year & I’m now on the verge of pulling her out for home schooling. Keep plugging away but don’t leave it so long that she is put off school permanently!

    • It’s a preschool so there are the staff and the manager, there’s no SEN co-ordinator or headteacher. Sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience, that must be frustrating for you both.

  9. The Secret Father said:

    What a dilemma. I am sorry that your child is clearly unhappy. Are there any other reasons, aside from the fact that the pre-school is boring, that may be troubling your child – you touched on the social side of things and I was wondering if there is anything else going on there? I had a meeting with my 3yo’s key worker this morning and she was saying that it is around this age that kids form impenetrable bonds and it can be really hard for new kids to break into the circle.

    Just another thought, the BBC have an interesting page which sets out what to do with G&T children you will see this echoes a previous posters comment that a school is obliged to cater to all needs. I don’t know however if this extends to pre-school. The other thing is that there is a link within the article to a specialist website for talented kids. Apparently The National Association for Gifted and Talented Children runs a support network to help parents –

    Good luck!

    • That’s really helpful, thanks. I’m as sure as I can be that there aren’t any social problems – I’ve talked to DD and the staff and no-one’s mentioned anything.

  10. Is there a Montessori near you (they run during the holidays too). They’ll place her by ability rather than age.

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