Recently I have been feeling pressure to enroll my 3 1/2 year old into some sort of preschool program. I talked with a lot of my neighbors about where they take their children and why. I came across three main reasons why they chose to put their kids in preschool.
1) Social interaction
2) Academic support
I was intrigued why some parents were enrolling their not-even-three children and why others were waiting. To put it short, I came home a little flustered thinking that maybe I was missing the boat with my 3.5 year old in not enrolling her in some sort of program. When speaking with my husband, he was supportive of whatever I wanted to do, but having not thought much on the subject, was little help. So, when making big choice involving my child, I do what I normally do: I read as much as I can and I talk to many different people who have differing views. Then I decide where I fit and what I think on my own.
Here are the results of my study of the topic of preschool.
I shall entitle it: “Why I choose NOT to enroll my child into Preschool”
First off: Social.
I have two thoughts on this. I believe that my child’s “social needs” can still be met in the home. I know she thrives off of Mom and Dad time (positive) and loves just being with us. Sure, she enjoys her play dates, but really when it comes down to it, I can see that her need is more Mama time. Not more Madi time. When my husband and I meet that need, she is more teachable, happier and generally open to learning. (She is not acting out to get our attention, because she gets it.) Also, we live in a very unique living arrangement where all we have to do is step out our front door and there is a plethora of children her age to play with. Seriously, its like an elementary school playground out there! It is when she is out playing with them that I can see she is learning to communicate, to share, to problem solve and cooperate. All of these things I know can be learned in an organized setting of preschool, but I guess it is included in our rent payment!
Also, she gets a structured learning environment while at church every week. With classmates and teachers!
Secondly, the concern of Academia. My question is this: what is the benefit a three year old learning the alphabet, numbers and writing in a classroom setting? I am all about teaching these things in the home, and my child can do all of these things, but I just wonder why I feel so much pressure to have her keep learning so much before she’s even four years old? I was talking to someone about this very thing. She is a First Grade school teacher and made the comment that by the third grade, most children are all on the same level (average) academically- regardless of whether they attended preschool or not. If that really is the case, then why the rush? I am NOT saying that parents shouldn’t teach these things to their children in preparation for Kindergarten, I just needed to ask myself the question, “Whats the rush?” in order to let some pressure off. Another point that this person brought up is that she could see a difference in the children who were “new” to school vs those who had been attending preschool (some two years in a row), before Kindergarten. She noticed that by the time they got to her First grade class those who were in preschool were already burned out!…and they still had another 11 years to go! Don’t get me wrong. Academia is important. Literacy is important. And it should be taught. I believe it can be taught easily in the home through everyday activities like reading books, talking about road signs (she called me out on running a Red Arrow just recently!), counting clouds and bugs, cooking together, playing and on and on and on. In my own home, I can see how doing the everyday activities together is exponentially more effective than sitting down to do a worksheet.
On the other hand, I know that having a teacher who is NOT mom or dad helps a child learn respect, and discipline among other things. I am not against my child ever being in an organized classroom setting. She has thrived in a few extracurricular classes in the past few years and I love to see her interact with other children and adults without me there. I know she learns and loves going to those classes. The reason I enrolled her into those classes (gymnastics, dance and swimming) is because they were things that I knew I could not teach her. I have no expertise in those subjects. Outsourcing those things was great and I feel they were worthy and worthwhile investments.
I can, however, be an expert on teaching my child how to tie her shoe. How to count beans. Recite her ABC’s. Differentiate between a square and a triangle. Sing nursery rhymes. Follow a bug. And so much more. Those are things that I choose not to outsource because I am capable, it costs me nothing (except maybe what it costs to buy glue and glitter for the never ending crafts we do) and for now, it is just what she needs. I feel it is my responsibility, and I like doing it.
3) Daycare (and/or “mama time”) Where this is not a need for my family, I have no ground to stand on. All I can say is that if you do have to enroll your child in daycare, then why not have it be a quality preschool? I once did some teaching for a Preschool/Daycare. And while it was sad to me to see so many children there all day, I was glad that the activities were educational, fun and structured.
I am happy to have have my daughter with me as long as I can. She’s still so young. I certainly don’t judge those who choose to enroll their children in a preschool program. Each family has different circumstances and needs.
I realize that this topic is not black and white. Honestly, I think if we did enroll my toddler into Preschool she would do very well and love it. I know there are many reasons why parents DO put their child in preschool, and I’d love to hear the reasoning and what you feel worked or didn’t with that choice.
For me and my children, I feel a strong sense that it is my responsibility to provide the preparatory education from our home in everyday, on purpose exploration and teaching. I am so blessed to be home to be able to invest my time in doing this for my children.