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Is Preschool Necessary?
Q: I'm a stay at home mom with two preschoolers ages four and two and a half, both boys. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with the decision to send our older son and, the next year the younger, to preschool.
I've been looking at some places, and have been trying to think of pros and cons of schooling. We are also in the wonderful position of being able to afford and choose any place we like.
So-what's the problem? There are too many options and I don't have any evidence that preschool is necessary. Are we just shipping the kids off for somebody else to take care of them? I think that kids do benefit from interactions outside the home and I try to provide lots of fun, exploring, and learning opportunities everyday and every week.
I was a teacher for 12 years before having my kids, and I really enjoy being with my kids, other kids and their moms and our family. We go to the library, MOPS, gymnastics, the parks, picnics, swimming, playgrounds, have kids over and do lots of coloring, cutting, play-doh and projects for the fun of it around our house.
The main reason I can see sending the kids to preschool is to be around more children their own ages and to learn the routines of school, but isn't that what kindergarten teaches also? Thanks for any response. I'm looking forward to any information or opinion you can help me with.
A: Dear Allison,
Can I come live at your house? Seriously, your home environment sounds like such a warm, loving, supportive, stimulating, socially engaging place for children that I wish every kid could be embraced by it and by you.
I do understand your dilemma since virtually all our nation's parents have been persuaded to at least momentarily feel some guilt and/or anxiety about choosing not to send their children to preschool. Unfortunately this guilt/anxiety comes from buying into the belief that sending your children to preschool is a prerequisite for them "doing well" in kindergarten, which of course means they will "have a necessary "leg up" on the "competition" in first grade and on and on ... .One might be persuaded to think that if you don't enroll your child in preschool (and the BEST one at that) you are not providing them with the necessary background to succeed in school.
I could go on a rant about how your dilemma was caused by the tragedy of the "hurried child" syndrome in this country but I will spare you. Developmentally and childcaring wise, you are providing your little ones with a wondrous, enriching life. Yes you are fortunate economically to do this but you should NEVER, I repeat NEVER, feel guilty about loving and caring for your kids in this manner. Preschool can be a great experience for children to have social experiences with their peers and to be positively influenced by other caring adults. It is NOT a place where you SHOULD send children to become academically advanced before they enter "real school".
It appears to me that you are providing your kids everything they need to thrive. You may discover that some of your kids playmates will begin attending preschool and that may interfere with their former accessibility as playmates, although I doubt different social times together cannot be arranged. If your children express a burning desire to go "where the other kids are going", i.e. preschool, and you believe this environment would enrich your kids, then there is certainly no harm in giving it a try.
Your heart and your mind are certainly joined in your being a wonderful parent. Keep giving those kids of yours the love and care they clearly are receiving and they will be among the lucky ones. And next time you need an extra adult to go to the playground...
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.