In a recent post on Babble, mom Lauren Hartmann writes about why she and her husband decided not to send their 4 year old daughter to preschool. Hartmann, a stay at home parent, pondered the pros and cons of preschool and ultimately decided that her daughter would be fine without the experience. One of Hartmann's biggest concerns about preschool is the way our country fast tracks young children. Preschool is the "new kindergarten", kindergarten is the new first grade, etc. Hartmann explains, “Just because kindergarten is the new first grade, doesn’t mean it’s right. I would much rather our daughter spend this time playing and being a kid because it won’t last forever. She will spend a good chunk of her life being away from home all day at school, sitting at desks and completing worksheets. This is a time for her to use her imagination and learn and be influenced by us and it’s a time that we won’t get back. She’s smart and she will adapt when kindergarten comes.”
Not surprisingly, the comments from readers were all over the place. Some staunchly defended a parent's right to keep children at home until kindergarten, while others were mortified that someone would even consider keeping their child from preschool. Some accused Hartmann of having a privileged mindset. After all, many parents don't have the luxury of staying home with their preschooler every day.
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, it is your right as a parent to make decisions about your child's schooling and care. If you are like Hartmann and trying to decide whether or not to send your child to preschool, here are some things to consider:
Preschool is a place to play. Worksheets are not good. In a preschool setting, instruction on higher academic skills like reading and math is not good. I know this is tricky if you have a precocious child (there are lots of smart kids out there - they still need to play). If your child is "bored and acting out" at preschool, that is likely the result of something other than lack of academics. Play is important! It helps kids learn so many skills. Does your child have adequate opportunities to play?
Preschool is a place to be away from parents. If you are thinking of skipping preschool, can you provide that autonomy to your child another way? Can your child spend time at a friend's house or even childcare at the gym each week? This will give your child the confidence to be independent. It is really important.
Preschool is a place to learn social skills. Can your child navigate playdates? Do you have to intervene the entire time? Does your child have ample opportunity to interact with same age peers? (Siblings don't count here, unless it's a twin, and even then, it is healthy to play with other friends). Can you trust your child's social skills enough to drop him off at a playdate without staying?
Preschool is a place to learn self-regulation. Sitting in a group and listening, following basic directions at a table time activity, and being able to control one's body are all expectations in kindergarten. Will your child have the opportunity to regularly practice these skills? Are there community resources that can be utilized, like a library story time or an art class?
Preschool is a place to learn basic pre-academic skills. Preschool should be play based, but there will also be pre-academic expectations for your kindergartener. These will include knowing most upper and lower case letters, knowing numbers 1-10, basic counting, beginning writing skills and ability to listen to a book, among other things.
Have you considered keeping your child home until kindergarten? How did you come to this decision? We would love to know - please comment!
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