A mom wrote in recently to ask what to do about her daughter who is very anxious about starting kindergarten, even to the point of having anxiety attacks when she thinks about it. The mom did not send her daughter to preschool, and the two are very attached. What to do? Well, mama, I feel your pain and I'll try to help out as much as I can.
My own experience is just the opposite. I sent my daughter to preschool, and then kept her home for kindergarten. It happened one day when I was bringing her home from preschool and I questioned why I was sending her to school in the first place. So many times we fall into this cultural belief system without a second thought. School is like that--not that it is right or wrong, but it is a cultural pattern that we continue without really questioning why. If we really get down to the heart of the issue, we will find that many of our thoughts, habits and patterns are just handed down to us from our culture and our society.
My suggestion would be to question why she must attend school. Are you worried about meeting her educational needs? Does she need to branch out and foster more friendships? Do you need her to go to school so that you can go to work? Spend some time and write down the reasons she must attend school (all cultural and societal pressures aside). School must be something that will enrich your child, as well as your relationship with her. It should never be heartache and anxiety. There will be enough reasons to have anxiety attacks throughout life--school should not be one of them.
Personally, I have both. One of my children attends school (my oldest is in high school) and the rest of them are homeschooled. We decided to take the school issue one year at a time, and every year we have decided that homeschooling was such a fulfilling and enriching option that we have continued with it. Now my oldest will be going into high school, and I look at her today and know that she is not only mentally prepared, but emotionally as well. She was that child that stayed home from kindergarten, and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to share her school experience with her.
Take it one year at a time, and spend some time getting to the heart of the issue. School may not be the right option for her at this point. However, if you feel that it is, then try to soothe her anxiety by preparing her for the change. Visit the school with her, walk down the halls, get excited about the new opportunity, let her know that you will be very close while she is at school (perhaps even at a nearby coffee shop or shopping center for the first few days). I hope that helps and please let me know how she is coping (and you, too!).
Please, moms, if you have any advice to help a child make the transition into school, post it here and help this mom out. Thanks so much!