Do Kids Really Need Preschool?
Mike and Helen are trying to decide whether to enroll their youngest daughter Tracy in the local preschool. Because Helen works only a few hours a week, Mike feels that she should look after Tracy, at least until her formal schooling begins. Helen, however, is still unsure.
Supposing that you had been offered a preschool place for your child. Would you accept?
If you are a working mother then the opportunity has obvious advantages. But what if you are at home most of the time? The important question to ask yourself is: "Would preschool benefit my child?" The mother who says: "Thank God she's off my hands" is putting herself first.
It is important to remember that five-year-olds have reached the stage of insatiable curiosity and are ready to learn to mix with their peers.
If yours is an only child you should seriously consider sending him or her to preschool. Similarly if you live in an area where there are few houses and even fewer children, then preschool has the clear advantage of additional playmates.
In refusing the offer of a preschool place one mother said: "He doesn't like other children. He only quarrels with them. When he's by himself, he plays quietly." She was really saying: "I don't like children to make a noise."
It is not natural for a child to be anti-social. True, some children object strongly (and loudly) to being placed in school. But they will have to go sooner or later. Very often, a child's objection is no more than a nervous reaction to totally strange surroundings.
Preschool is designed to fill many needs.
Just being there means that your child learns from a new environment and makes new friends. Children also learn to share equipment and educational toys and to "wait their turn." The range and availability of equipment and resources far exceeds that of the average home and the children also learn to relate to other adults, mostly trained teachers who can guide without pushing their development.
All children learn from personal involvement. In fact this is the best kind of learning experience. However, not all mothers are keen to have their children attend. As one young mother put it: "I have a lot of time on my hands and want to share it with Bobby while he's little."
A young child needs to develop both emotionally and mentally. If there is plenty of warmth, love, interest and involvement with parents, a child's emotional growth is assured. In this relaxed environment a child will be happy, self-assured and confident.
To foster their mental growth, children also need to experience new and intriguing situations. They need toys and play areas which contain many new challenges. Some educators say that play is a child's work.
Of course this sort of involvement makes great demands upon a parent's time. Nevertheless parents are and always will be the most important teachers. Much of a child's behavior is imitative and parents are the obvious models.
Many mothers are caught between the two alternatives. Although they have the time and the desire to be with their children, they feel uneasy in the role of parent educator. One mother wrote on her application at the local school: "I'd like to keep Pam at home for another few months, but I know she'll miss out on all the teaching that the other children will get."
Preschool is not formal school. It is a place where children are socialized rather than educated.
True, in their activities such as manipulating, balancing, singing, dancing they are developing mental and muscular co-ordination. The programs are carefully planned, the groups small and a lot of informal learning takes place.
Sending your child to preschool may not be an either/or decision. You may be lucky enough to be invited into the school with him, as a sort of parent/teacher aide. Many schools are now doing this. Not only does the mother learn skills and techniques from the teacher but she also gets a chance to see her own child from a more detached viewpoint.
It is only when a child can be seen absorbed in some group activity, lost in a world which only the other children can understand, that the importance of socialization can be seen.
The important question is: "What is best for your child?"
If your child has self-confidence, can mix happily with others, is willing to share his/her ideas, can concentrate on new tasks, accepts and is accepted by others, then you have given him/her the best of all possible starts regardless of whether they learned these things at home or school.