Over the next few days, I will be posting articles about how to choose a preschool.
But before that, I want to address a more fundamental question: do all children need preschool? I know that some parents can feel a lot of pressure when the other parents in their social group are all talking preschool all the time…
I recently heard of a story of a mom who wasn’t feeling ready to send her just-barely-three-year-old child to school yet, but felt like she needed to put him in preschool so that he could learn what he was “supposed to learn”. This mom didn’t feel like she had enough to offer her child, and feared she wouldn’t “do it right.” When she asked her friends for recommendations, all the programs they recommended were 5 days a week. She couldn’t imagine her child doing well with that much time away from her. She was struggling to decide what to so.
It’s important to realize that the learning needs of a preschool age child are really pretty simple and manageable for most adults to meet. Preschools don’t offer some magic formula for future success that the average parent can’t duplicate at home.
Studies show that for children from impoverished backgrounds, whose family members have less than high school educations, there is a very clear benefit to attending preschool in terms of basic skill development. (Learn more: http://tinyurl.com/bez9qra or anywhere that addresses the research-proven benefits of Early Head Start.)
However, middle class children of educated parents will typically receive in their home environment the stimulation and guidance they need in order to be ready for kindergarten when the time comes.
Parents can ensure this readiness by paying attention to the essential skills listed in my last post and helping their children build them. Thinking of everyday life as a learning opportunity helps you to keep an easy focus on skill-building.
Many of these skills can easily be learned from family members at home – set up a craft zone to practice with all the school supplies, read books together, practice independence in dressing, feeding, and so on.
Other skills build by family trips out in the community – there’s a lot of math to be learned by watching you cook, lots of science to learn in a trip to the pet store to pick up dog food, tons of vocabulary in every trip to the store, and lessons in patience and self-control at the sushi-go-round.
Social skills and conflict resolution get put into practice during a trip to the park or an indoor playground and sitting down in a group and paying attention to an adult is the heart and soul of library story time.
There are two elements that are easily found in preschool that non-preschooling parents may need to seek out options for:
- Times when your child is cared for and must obey an adult other than a family member. But this doesn’t have to be a preschool teacher. It could be a babysitter, or a Sunday school teacher, or gymnastics coach, or almost any other caring authority figure.
- A stable group of children to play with many times over a long period of time. Most drop-in community programs won’t have consistent kids each week. So you may want to seek out a more intentional community of playmates: maybe neighbor kids if you’re lucky, or cousins, or kids at church, or Daisy scouts, or…
So, if you think your child is ready for preschool and would enjoy it and benefit from it, great! If you’re ready to send your little one off to preschool, great! Over the next few days I’ll be posting information about how to choose the program that is the best possible fit for you and your child.
And you could still do all the things I describe above to support your child’s learning and they’ll benefit from that as well.
But, if you’re not ready to send your child to preschool, or you feel your child is not ready, hopefully this post relieves a little of the pressure you might be feeling about “needing” to put your child in preschool. Having more time with you, as their own personal, loving, one-on-one coach in life skills could be exactly what you both need for now.
Here are a couple blog posts where moms share their thoughts about why they’re not choosing preschool: http://playborhood.com/2011/01/is_preschool_important_for_all_kids/ and http://www.babble.com/kid/is-early-childhood-education-necessary/
photo credit: bzo via photopin cc
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