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Lessons from preschool

I took the morning off today to take my kids to preschool. No, I didn’t go with them on their first day back this year, thanks to Hurricane Irene which delayed the start of school to a day on which I had a conflict.

But the nice thing about a two-and-a-half year old and a 4-year-old is that they don’t hold that against me. They were just happy I could take them today.

After they thought I had left, I sneaked back into the office to watch them through the mirrored window. They’re in a small Montessori preschool/kindergarten, so they get to go to school together and are in the same space the whole time.

It was adorable.

My daughter went to this preschool last year; this is my son’s first year. The first couple of days, my son went by himself to a session that was just for new kids while my daughter came later with the returning students.

While I’m sure my son would have adapted quickly, he missed his sister. They went together yesterday and today. And the difference was impressive. They both came home yesterday much happier. And today, I got to see why.

They looked after each other.

As much as my daughter engages in her lessons and loves to work independently, she seemed even more excited to have her little brother there to watch out for. She helped him get a mat out and unroll it on the floor next to hers. Then she focused on her own work.

And my son thoroughly engaged in the lessons, picked out his own work, and went to wash his hands before snack by himself. But he kept checking back in with his big sister, to watch what she was doing and to get verification of what he should do next.

Then they sat down and had snack together.

And that reminded me about a conversation I had with a friend yesterday. He said that he has reached the conclusion that, no matter what you do, there will be things about your life or your job that you enjoy and things that you don’t. The key is to identify a few things make you the happiest, make sure that those things are nonnegotiable, and don’t make a big deal about the other stuff.

For him, the ability to work remotely is key.

For me, I think it is what I saw at preschool today — an environment where both independence and collaboration across different ages and levels of experience are encouraged.