Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pre-School or not Pre-School?

One of my dear mommy friends wrote to ask my thoughts on preschool. I thought I'd share them here in the hopes that perhaps some other veteran moms could offer their take on the pros and cons of preschool.

Let me first say, that although I have muddled several children through preschool and have even taught preschool in a variety of settings, I am by no means an expert. My thoughts are simply reflections on our family and the way preschool has happened on the Ark.

With my first child, preschool came at the exact time his new sibling did. Needless to say he was less than thrilled about leaving the comfort of home to join the ranks of the other Toy Story backpack-toting almost-four-year-olds. Rumor has it (I wasn't there for the first drop-offs and pick-ups due to the aforementioned new baby) that he was so upset on his first day, the teacher sat with him in a separate classroom to calm him down so that he didn't scare the other children.
His teacher was a wonderful, kind and wise older woman and his year turned out fine and I don't think we scarred him too much from the experience. But would I do it again? I'm not so sure.

When that new baby sister turned four herself, we thought about preschool. We thought about it so long that we missed pretty much every single four year old preschool option around. Fortunately, God provided for us. That summer I volunteered at our parish's VBS and discovered that the VBS organizers were--lo and behold--preschool teachers...who had openings in their class...but it was for three year olds. Thinking back, we realized that due to his birthdate--and another corporate PCS, The Boy started Kindergarten a year later than his peers. Being confident that this extra time at home was a good fit for his personality, we decided to let our four year old start preschool, but in the two morning a week three year old class. It was a perfect fit for her and by the time she started Kindergarten, which was half-day by the way, she was feeling a little more sure of herself.

As the preschool questioned loomed over us again for our third and fourth children, we decided to stick to the status quo. Candace was already four when she started a two morning a week preschool program. Little Naomi, was only three when she started, but she wanted so much to be like her big sister, we decided to break with tradition and sign her up for the same two mornings. Needless to say, after the first day, she became a preschool dropout. As exciting as it sounded, she simply wasn't ready to go and I, now a bit older and (hopefully) more wiser wasn't going to force her. If she wasn't ready to go, then I wasn't ready to let her. Candace's year was fine, but if there were days where she just "wanted to stay home with Mommy", who was I to complain?

This coming fall, my two little girls will be together in the same preschool class, two mornings a week again. In theory, they will both complete the year, but if the winds of preschool blow us a bit of course, we'll take it in stride. I've yet to find a Kindergarten program that demands proof of a child's preschool dissertation. Unless my poor, un-edumacated children are attending The School for the Academically Inferior, which is possible, I suppose.

More likely, though, their preschool experiences will have been just that--a host of experiences BEFORE school begins. Our preschool won't involve sitting for long periods of time at a desk. It won't involve repetitive, kill-and-drill worksheets completed ad nauseaum. But it will be a place where they will have been given opportunities to play, to get messy, be creative, sing songs, read stories, discover the wonder of God's creation, play some more, and maybe even make a friend.

So, have my children been to preschool before going to Kindergarten? To answer my friend's question simply, "Yes, they have." But, was it necessary? Is it necessary? Definitely not! There is no preschool that can take the place of a loving, caring, faith-filled, nurturing home. Preschool isn't bad, but home, your home, is just as good.


Barb, sfo said...

2 of my 3 kids went to Formal Preschool. Little Brother went to "Child Learning Lab" at the public high school, which was 1 hour per day of story, craft and free play. I was warned against this option by Middle Sister's former kindergarten teacher--she said that he would be "behind" in kindergarten because he hadn't been in a formal preschool.

Trust me, it didn't stand in his way. He did JUST FINE in kindergarten.

Anonymous said...

An opinion from the flip side. I'm definitely pro pre-school. My oldest did not attend pre-school, the next two did. (and one to go!) We ended up re-doing kindergarten with the eldest. It was just too much for her right out of the block. I do concede that many factors should be weighed though. For example, her kindergarten was full day and 99% were reading right away; and each child is different! I didn't choose "an academic orientated" or full day pre-school, but warm, friendly Holy Trinity 2 (at 3) and then 3 (at 4) mornings. I truly feel like it was a wonderful transition from home with mom to "big" school. A great beginner's lesson in commitment and socializing sans the safety net. Well, the net wasn't ever gone, every teacher we encountered was a mom-sub secretly holding that net for everyone of those little ones! And in the 4 year old year, I was pleased to find children that cried/begged because they wanted to do the "lunch bunch" entended day! (it was only offered to the "big kid 4's) I won't say there wasn't any nervousness when they started, but there always is when they start anything new. (I still have a 14 year old that needs his "hand held" on the first day of summer lacrosse league!) But their entry into kindergarten was seemless, unlike the rollercoaster our non preschooler experienced. Above all, always remember there is no rule book - (oh, how I wish there were sometimes, right?!) - it's your personal choice!