Friday, April 9, 2010
To Preschool Or Not?
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First, I don't think sending your little preschooler to preschool is necessary. My mom didn't send me, and I think my life turned out great. So as one who has not been there, I can say it is not a necessity. I think a mother can quite easily teach a child everything she needs to know to be ready for kindergarten academically. You can also prepare for the social aspect through various activities like small playgroups, large playgroups, playing with the neighbors, sports, and most especially church primary if you do that.
That is not to say nothing is gained from preschool. You child could and would learn a whole lot--and not just academically. Studies suggest all gains made in preschool, however, are lost by about second grade. By second grade, most students find themselves on a more even playing field.
But on the flip side, there is the whole idea of "first impressions." Your child only gets one shot at a first impression at school. On Becoming Preschoolwise talks about this in conjunction with being sure your child is ready for school. If not, it can set your child up for difficulty throughout her academic career. Does that sound dramatic? I can tell you it does not to me in the least. I have seen that happen. I believe preschool can set your child up at a better shot for success in kindergarten. I also think a preschool teacher can better help you to know if your child is ready for kindergarten or not, which is very valuable to those children with later birthdays.
With that out of the way, let me share a bit about our preschool experience here.
With Brayden, I was able to spend a lot of time one on one with him. Kaitlyn was an easy baby and a big sleeper. We had lots o time available to us, and really needed that structured learning time each day to get us both through with some sanity. Along came McKenna, who also was an easy baby and great sleeper. I continued being able to work with him.
Brayden also has fun neighbors and friends to play with, along with great learning opportunities in church for learning to sit quietly, raise his hand, walk, stand in line, etc. With all of his experiences, there was no real need for preschool on any level. Never-the-less, he goes to preschool.
We started him when he was 4--his last year before kindergarten. I really must say that I am amazed at how much he learns at school. He only goes three days a week for 2.5 hours at a time. But there is something about the environment that makes him learn so much more than he does at home. He pretty much has the best preschool teacher on the planet--I am sure that something to do with it :). I really only hoped to have him gain a better grasp on the social aspects of school, and he has gained so much more. At his kindergarten screening, he scored a perfect score. The teacher, who has been teaching there for about as long as I have been alive, was very shocked and impressed with him. After the test, she asked me about what else he already knows and was impressed.
Now, I don't just send Brayden off to preschool and ignore all academic learning at home. I take note of things he needs help with and we will work on them at home. One day I was talking to his teacher and she expressed that she hopes moms are happy with what their children are learning there. The funny thing is that struck me as an odd comment. It never really ocurred to me to expect her to teach him things. Like I said, my hopes for preschool were all on a social level. I also don't expect her to teach my child everything he needs to know in life--that is not her job in my eyes (even though she does it). So I kind of have a different view on what is to be gained from preschool than perhaps others do.
Kaitlyn and McKenna will also be attending this same preschool when they are four--their last year before kindergarten. I have loved the experience and loved the teacher.
So now you all know that I love preschool and will do it with future children. What about my caveats? Of course I have them :)
One is the age of my child. You may have noticed that my children are quite old when they go to their first year of preschool. In many parts of the United States, children to to "preschool" starting at age two. My opinion is that is too young.
The age is a pretty easy decision for me. Culturally, in my area, parents don't send their kids to preschools or any sort of organized sport until age three at the earliest (other than perhaps swimming lessons). Most don't until age four. There isn't some written rule we all follow, it is just what we do. When I ask moms about it, I get comments about moms wanting to keep their child home with them for as long as they can.
This isn't some inability to cut the apron strings. The moms around me are highly concerned with moral values. They want their children armed with the ability to make moral decisions correctly before sending them off unsupervised. Yes, a teacher is present, but you cannot expect a teacher to be able to control every word and conversation said in the classroom.
This ties into another caveat of mine, and that is the environment. If there were no preschools and teachers around where I could trust the environment, I wouldn't send my children at all. Yes, a teacher can't control everything, but she can try and she can pass on those same values you hold dear to your children. Most kids love their teachers. Hearing the teacher say, "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit" is another authority figure in your child's life teaching about accepting what you are given (don't you love that phrase? That is from Brayden's teacher).
I am able to trust Brayden's teacher and I also know that the kids in that class are taught values similar to ours at home. There have been times Brayden has come home and said something I didn't like. It hasn't been any profanity or anything, just whining words or calling Kaitlyn a "goose." Because of his years at home with our moral training and because of his age and ability to understand moral reasoning, I can tell him we don't say that word or call people names and that is the end of it.
This age of four is a great time to work on this with your child. Remember that moral comprehension really starts around the age of three. Up until three, you have been teaching correct actions without much explanation. Based on the maturity of your child, somewhere around three you start to add moral reasoning. Instead of just "we don't pick the flowers," we add in "we don't pick the flowers because they aren't ours" or "because other people want to be able to look at them, too." So you now have a year or more to apply the "why" behind your "hows" with your child.
So by age four, your child is ready to step out of the home without mom hovering over him for short periods of time. He can practice what he has learned. He can test the waters while the stakes are low and while he still cares about what mom has to say. At age four, mom is still cooler than classmate. Mom is still the smartest person around and still has the final word.
I would never send my child to "preschool" at age two unless I was sitting in the room with her the entire time to make sure she was behaving correctly. I don't hover around my children at all times; I do allow them to go to church nursery without me there :) But I don't even really let Kaitlyn go to the neighbors without me with her yet--and I trust my neighbors. I just feel like she still needs my guidance and isn't ready to be set out on her own.
With that in mind, I still don't want to send them at age three. Kaitlyn is ready and greatly desires to go to school just like Brayden. She could go at three; our teacher does a three year old class. She is very smart and very socially capable. I want to send her because she would love it. But I feel very strongly that I need to keep her with me that extra year to continue teaching her these morals. I want her to be one year stronger on her moral front when I send her out there. I think a three year old is still tender. A four year old is much stronger in that regard.
So there are my rambling thoughts on preschool. These are some things for you to think over in application with your own children. Always go with your "gut." You know your children best and you are able to physically visit the preschool and get the vibe there. There are always unseen and unknown factors, which is why you need to trust your instincts on what to do. One of my best friends (Kelli who has written a couple of guest posts on this blog) started preschool as a 2.5 year old and she is one of the most morally straight on people I know. I never went to preschool and I did very well in school. In the end, do what is right for your individual child and family.
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