A Case Against Preschool

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We’ve talked a lot about school and Preschool here on SMB. What makes our team of writers so great is the diversity of experiences and perspectives. I realized that I hadn’t yet provided my perspective to the whole Preschool Discussion and that, of course doesn’t provide YOU with all the information about what Scottsdale Moms are actually doing. 🙂

Please note that this post reflects my personal perspective and it is not intended to make moms who’ve made a different choice from me feel badly. I am challenging the norm and asking you to consider a new perspective.

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IMG_3592As my daughter Reagan creeps into her Preschool years, I am faced with the pressure to find the Best Preschool in the Valley for Her. Preschool seems to simply be “the next milestone” that she is supposed to pass through. She will be four in August so, naturally, she should start Preschool this Fall.

But, she won’t.

I will be her teacher.

I don’t have a degree in Early Childhood Education or anything that would allow me to instruct classrooms full of students as a profession. I’m pretty “unqualified” if you look at my experience (I’ve never been around children much before having my own). As I look at the Preschool options, I’m struck by the messages that seem to imply  or boldly state that I don’t know what to teach her or what a child her age needs. I am reminded constantly that I didn’t get the right degree (I majored in Communication Studies). I’m not trained in how to educate a child. I am unqualified. Or am I?

I’ve actually taken the time to discover what is recommended for Preschoolers to learn. I have been both encouraged and overwhelmed by all of the information telling me what is best for my daughter and how I can help her succeed. There are online resources: PBS. Veritas. The US Government. Pinterest. They all have an opinion and can be helpful tools. But, the more I read, the more overwhelmed and lost I became. Then, I started feeling stupid, unqualified, bewildered at all the possibilities, the complexity of it all.

Then I realized that part of the problem was the sources themselves. Instead of helping me think for myself about what is best for MY FAMILY, MY CHILD, MY SITUATION, each of these resources are cramming my child into a one-size-fits-all-box. And that is when the light came on for me. I realized that if I were to help my children make it to adulthood, I need to know what the goal is. Where do I want my children to end up by the time they are 18? What skills do they need to have by the time they leave my home?

Once my husband and I discussed our answers to those questions, it was much easier to look the Preschool Problem in the face. I then asked the question: Why do we send children to Preschool anyhow?

Is it so that children can get an early start on education? Is the point to help children gain more interactions with children his or her own age? Is it to prepare children for Kindergarten? Is it reliable, organized babysitting? Does it align with my goals for their future? Here’s some food for thought:

Getting an “early start” on academics could actually hurt more than help children. Have you heard the phrase “better late than early” (here’s an article)? Delaying academic pressures in children until as old as the ages of 8-10 can actually help them. Especially when it comes to squirmy boys it’s great to remember that when a child is “playing” he is actually learning.

We (I) need not be so hasty to push our young ones into the structured world of lines, letters, numbers and worksheets. The goal is not to have a child who can say the ABCs, read early, recite colors, spell his or her name or count to 100. The goal is to have a child who loves learning and who can’t help but embrace the world with more wonder and awe than they ever would a textbook or worksheet. Play is work to a child. (And work is a part of life.)

Second, being in a healthy home is better for your child than being in an excellent school. And, in fact, a healthy home environment complete with chores, boredom and sibling squabbles is the best preparation for life’s challenges.

The best preschools actually duplicate a home environment complete with free/unstructured play (lots of time to be bored) that encourages learning about the world. So, why not give them the real thing? 

Experts agree that a vibrant, stable and healthy family life is invaluable to children’s future success and happiness. In fact, they all mention it above educational preference and academic performance in growing a child into a healthy adult.  The Home is the foundation of our communities and it is often overlooked as an area that needs to be cultivated. A healthy home is the best environment for children to learn about the world, relationships and themselves.

Finally, we, The Parents, get to take full and complete ownership of our children’s education and no longer be intimidated by BAs in Child Development or MAs in Education. We are The Parents. We get to determine the educational future of each child we have been blessed to steward.

So, I ask you to simply consider what your goals are for your children and WHY you are choosing a particular path. Perhaps you simply need a break or a safe place for your children to play a few days a week. Or maybe, you’ve just been looking for a reason to reject the norm and keep them home.

Whatever path you choose, know why you’ve chosen that path and stand behind it. Be confident Mama! You are The Parent!

So, tell me, if you’ve chosen to send your children to Preschool or if  you’ve decided to opt-out of Preschool, why did you make that choice? Did you do the same thing for each child or did each child require a different decision?

21 COMMENTS

  1. Joy, I think you and I are aligned on so many areas of educational thinking – and yet, I went the preschool route. We chose a Montessori approach because it is child-led (like home- or un-schooling) and focuses on creating an environment that encourages self-discovery and a natural, self-motivated love of learning. I think I have sort of the heart of a homeschooler without the desire to take it on. We learn 24/7 in our house, as a family, as led by the kids and their interests, so in that sense I totally get where you’re coming from. I love preschool outside the home for the time and flexibility it allows me to grow my own interests/business, and also for the experience of participating in a system or structure (social, academic, etc.) outside our home environment. Great post, and thanks for all the linked resources, too!

  2. What an awesome and encouraging post! Cruz (my oldest) actually IS in preschool right now and will be for one more year. He goes to Desert Springs Christian Preschool and I LOVE it. They encourage play, crafts, outside time, story time ETC. No worksheets. We decided to put him in preschool because we were curious about it and about how he’d do in a classroom environment, but I did my homework to make sure it was a great place. I have loved it SO much and plan to put all my kiddos there. BUT, my heart HAS been changing on the idea of school and what it should look like for each kid. I definitely agree with everything you said in this post and Jason and I are seriously considering homeschooling starting at kindergarten. I love the experience Cruz has received going to THIS preschool, as they have helped nurture him and encourage him to be less shy, make friends, and to have courage to try new things. All things I could have done, yes, but he has blossomed so much that I can’t complain. But we are still deciding what to do in the future, as all my values for education line up completely with what you’ve said here. Thank you for encouraging us moms that no matter what path we choose, we are not unqualified! Very empowering and encouraging! Thank you!! ~Jess xo

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Jess! I’m sure you guys will make the best decision for your family! The best part about it is that we have a choice when it comes to how we decide to educate our children!!! YAY for freedom!

    • Thanks Jess! It’s such a fun journey to decide what is best for your family and situation! It’s such a joy to have a CHOICE regarding our children’s education!

    • This is so great to hear Jess! I love that when my kids are under the authority of different adults, they are encouraged and even learn new things apart from me! It makes me feel helped – like someone is bearing the burden with me:-) It’s such a good thing to think through – as you look to figure out what works best for you and your kids!!! xoxo

  3. Great post! I also LOVE the above comments and so agree with everything said. We chose the preschool route for Colette, but that doesn’t mean that learning in our home, building sibling relationships etc doesn’t come first 🙂 like Jess, and Sara we spent time researching the best fit for for Colette and chose La Casa de Cristo preschool and have been thrilled with the extra confidence attending has given Colette. She has loved making new friends and has really benefitted from having to take directions and listen to adults other than Jim and I. They never do worksheets and the focus isnt at all on academics. They spend the mornings learning a new bible story,doing arts and crafts, pretend play, music, and physical education. It’s only two days a week for 2.5 hours, but Colette being the social butterfly that she is, LOVES and looks forward to every Tuesday and Thursday. I also love that while she is having fun in a safe and controlled environment, I am able to invest some extra quality time with her little brother. I agree with you that being home and learning from the home is best 🙂 I’ve even considered homeschooling, just think it really depends on each individual kids personality. We are still prayerfully considering what our kids educational path will look like, but in the meantime I’m thrilled that we have found a preschool and teachers that love our little Colette as much as we do.

  4. It is always nice to hear other’s opinions. I enjoyed reading your views and those of experts. We choose preschool first because I needed time to work without a toddler on top of me. Then it was because I had a new baby and the toddler loved being around other kids. Then we switched schools and had another baby. So two kids were in preschool and the baby with me. It was only 3 hours two days a week but I needed it for my sanity and the “wife” chores. Also, this time it was to get priority into the small elementary school with a Christian foundation. At the preschool, the kids have done yoga, music, Spanish, crafts, singing performances, learned to use the potty really fast through peer watching, learned to ride bikes, socialized, serve others, help others, celebrate other’s, and most importantly learned God’s truths outside our home and church, etc. I by no means disagree with anyone’s choice in schooling their child. I just wish that we as parents would stop feeling defensive or judgmental by the school choice other’s make for their kids. We just all need to be encouragers of others and our own choices.

  5. Hi!

    I am a teacher, myself. I also do not have any ECE units, but did teach in a preschool for a couple of years (under the radar). There is a lot to agree with in your article. Children should NOT be pushed to reach academic standards set for kiddos much older than them. Preschoolers are adorable, sweet, loving, and a lot of the time, super ready to learn. Preschool helps them learn great social skills and can be all about learning through play. PLAY PLAY PLAY!! Children in the age range where most parents put them in a preschool learn best through experience, encouragement, and being given creative freedom. There are academic preschools who’s goals are way off the mark on what is important. I agree wholeheartedly that the focus should be on building the love of learning a child innately has-but believe me, there are incredible preschools whose mission statements read exactly as you put it above “The goal is to have a child who loves learning and who can’t help but embrace the world with more wonder.”

    Also, before working in this type of environment, I don’t think I realized how much it helps a child grow socially to be consistently around little ones of their own age range-and the same kids. It helps them build their social skills, grow and develop friendships, and it creates a super healthy attitude toward separating from their parents. They learn that even though momma leaves them to play, she always comes back.

    This is no way an argument to your stand. Just viewpoint from someone who shares your opinions on what’s best for a child’s learning, but knows from experience that there are preschools around that are child centered, developmental, loving, caring, and let kiddos be kiddos 🙂

  6. Thanks for this post Joy. I never realized that Preschool could be such a touchy thing, maybe as a first time parent I’m naive. I have been lucky enough to stay at home with our son and our days have been filled with outings, bonding and tons of play dates. I was really uncomfortable leaving Kellan with anyone else or putting him into any type of daycare/schooling. I felt he was best at home with me and I continued to feel that way until he started showing signs of that independence and being social. Kellan asks to go see friends or for me to take him to KidsPark and he cries when I take him away because he has so much fun with other kids. He tells me he is sad when there aren’t kids at the playground to play with and I started to feel bad for it, this is something he needs on a regular basis – it’s his personality. He is 2 now and we will be putting him into Creative Bridges next fall two days a week. I know he will thrive in that kind of environment and it will fulfill his needs in ways that I can’t. I love how social he is, how quickly he picks things up and how full of life he is and I want to foster that and I felt that was through a schooling environment. I agree that we can’t put our children into one size fits all categories for anything. Each one of them is unique 🙂

    • Diana, I have some friends at Creative Bridges who LOVE it, and I loved it when we toured. It was just a little too far of a drive, otherwise it may have been where we ended up. Hope it goes well for Kellan! 🙂

  7. Hello, I never realized how sensitive people are towards preschool until I had kids. I have a set of friends who all enrolled their kids into preschool at the age of 3 if not sooner. Then I have another set of friends who have preschool aged children who can start this fall but are choosing not to enroll.

    I myself am a strong believer in preschool. It does offend me when people think all kids do at preschool is PLAY. My son was enrolled into preschool right before his 3rd birthday. I put him in preschool early not because I felt that he needed to know his ABCs, number, colors etc. I am a stay at home mom that used to go playdates every other day or take my son to scheduled music, art and gym classes. As much social interaction my son was receiving why would he need school? He plays, he’s physical, he has friends. One problem he is not talking.

    I’ve been told time and time by friends, family and our “old” pediatrician that there is nothing wrong with Max he will eventually talk he’s just shy. Well, instead of being a naive parent I got my soon evaluated by early intervention – well, guess what?! He has developmental delay and sensory processing issues. As a first time parent I would never have known this is why Max wasn’t talking. Physically or socially you would not know he had any issues. Max has been in speech and occupational therapy since 18 months. And when he turned 3 he was turned over to the PUBLIC preschool (yes there are preschools in PUBLIC schools) in their developmental preschool program.

    Long story short. It’s so easy for a parent to think their kid is social, gets along well with others, communicates, shares etc. What do you expect? Why wouldn’t they be on their best behavior for YOU the parent. Preschool gives our children independence, life skills and learns how to take direction and criticism from others besides us the parent.

    Max has been in preschool since September and he now knows how to make friends on his own (not something I forced him to do by hanging out with people we already know), he’s talking in full sentences and he’s figured out how to deal with his sensory issues. He is no longer a year delayed from his peers. He’s thriving in all areas of development, if not excelling in most!

    My kid loves putting on his big boy backpack everyday and getting on his yellow bus. Seeing him smile and get super excited with that bus rolls up everyone is priceless.

    • Hi Noy! Thank you for sharing your perspective and decision! You obviously are looking for the best thing for your son and made the right decision for him and your family! There are so many things to consider, and it can be so overwhelming! It sounds like you’ve done a great job being an advocate for your son! xoxo

  8. Joy,

    I actually do have my Masters in Early Childhood Education and while I don’t claim to be an expert, my heart was racing while reading your post. I agree with so many of the things you said about not using work sheets, academic pressures, etc. You are clearly very involved with your children and an amazing mother and teacher! However, there are many, many children in our country that are not as fortunate.

    The benefits of starting a child, regardless of background, in an NAEYC approved preschool are truly unbelievable. The amount of social interaction that goes on while learning to truly play well with other children is so beneficial. Our society is very different from when we were raised in the sense that there are so many ways for children to be entertained (television, internet, iPads, iPods, LeapFrogs- you name it) and just being in a room where there is nothing for them to do but play, draw, create, talk, is truly amazing. Yes, there are some really crummy “preschools” out there that focus on academics and very developmentally inappropriate things, but there are many great preschools that truly focus on developing creativity, social skills, and independence.

    Also, it is absolutely heart breaking to me that today Congress officially cut off funding for preschool for 70,000 children. These are children of parents that are working their butts off and truly want for their kids to be in a good place.

    While your child is fortunate enough to have a mommy that can provide the important things needed for her development, there are many children that are not given this opportunity, so I don’t think it’s fair nor necessary to provide a “Case Against Preschool”.

    • Thank you for your thoughts Lindsay! While I agree that there are many children who don’t have the advantage of having a full time mother at home, due to single parenting and poverty, my case is simply to think through the reasons we are sending our children out of the home.
      I actually have family members who have greatly benefited from government subsidized preschool. It has been a true life-saver for them. They were able to thrive because of it! But these children should be more of the exeception rather than the rule.

      Thank you again for weighing in! Your thoughts and perspected are valued!

      • This article does not address working moms, where childcare is not a choice, but rather a necessity. I think this article is written from a place of privilege and lacks understanding of not only single moms, or those in poverty, but working moms. Pre-school is a necessity. I appreciate your decision for your family, but it certainly is not one available to most moms that I know.

  9. Hi, Joy –
    You’re so brave! It’s difficult to broach an emotionally-charged topic in a written forum. We are missing all our non-verbals (inflection, facial expressions, tears!) which account for the majority of normal communication. If we were having this conversation “live”, you may have said to Lindsay that “A Case Against Preschool” is in essence, “Permission To Skip Preschool.”

    I well remember the year my son’s peers were beginning preschool…and I dared to opt out. Though I believed mine was a valid choice, it still felt risky. Would he fall behind socially? Would he be less happy than the others? Would I be able to handle life without that “break” in my week? 25 years ago, those of us who chose to do preschool at home felt the need to defend that decision which few were making. It seems to be less shocking now, though this post reveals that every generation must struggle with these issues of educational choice.

    May I simply say that my three children (who were homeschooled through Jr. High) are now well into their 20s, college graduates, and doing very well in life. Not going to preschool did not hold them back in any way. They each say they had a happy childhood. I loved having years of focused time with them. I had some days that made me want to put them all on the bus (LOL) but that’s just life – welcome to it!

    Perhaps the question you need to ask yourself is whether you are sending your child to preschool for your benefit or for theirs. It’s okay if it’s for you – just be honest with yourself about it and don’t rationalize your decision by insisting that preschool is necessary. It’s an option that may meet certain needs. But there are other ways for many of those needs to be met. For families that need to save some money or who simply enjoy staying together to learn, I hope this is a comfort to hear.

  10. Excellent post on a very sensitive subject. It is important to put your child in a setting that is best for you and the child. Preschool age children should be encouraged to learn but also to play and use their imaginations. Because I wanted my kids to get the benefits of social interaction with their peers I enrolled them in Preschool the year before they started public school. They loved going there ever day. The environment gave them the right balance of learning time and play time. They always enjoyed being with their teachers and their friends. It allowed me a break to work part time and it gave my kids a break from me which I truly felt they needed.

  11. Joy

    My daughter is 3 1/2 and my son is 1/2. Neither will go to preschool. My husband and I both teach full time. I teach junior high and he teaches high school. My kids go to a wonderful daycare provider while we work with approx 10 kids, where they learn great values and morals. They also do some learning each day where they do some typical preschool like things during a half hour circle time, where they work on colors, shapes, numbers,etc. She also tends to do one organized activity a day of some sort. More than that, though, she teaches them how to share, take turns, listen and be a good person. This is way more valuable to me than whether at 3, my daughter can recognize her letters. She loves her daycare provider and I feel like she gets plenty of opportunities to play freely and learn. I feel like we focus so much on growing up and pushing kids farther and farther, that I want her to stay little as long as possible. The education system, while in many ways great, is getting way too bogged down by state and federal laws, made by people, who frankly, have no idea what education is really about. Thank-you for a wonderful article.

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