The Preschool Dilemma

Hello and welcome to another edition where you throw fastball parenting questions my way and I do my best to not strike out.  I suspect that today’s answer to the question will not be popular with some parents but it comes from the heart.  One of the best parts of writing these thoughts is  in knowing that it helps to get people thinking and, hopefully talking.   Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section.  Today’s parenting question comes from “Sara.”  She asks, “When is the right age to send my daughter to preschool?”

For those who don’t know, I used to be an elementary teacher.  I faced the same preschool dilemma many of you (or someone you know) are facing.

The right age to send any child to a preschool is determined by a number of factors.  Therefore, I’m not going to give Sara a direct answer because it’s determined based on the circumstances.  Here are some things I want Sara to think about.

1.  What’s the point of preschool? If Sara’s answer is to learn, then why wouldn’t she teach her child at home in a one to one environment?  I think some parents have the assumption schools can teach young children better than we can.  In most cases, that’s not true until kids are older and learn more in depth subjects.  When I was a child, kids could go to kindergarten at age 5.  Over time, 4 year old schools popped up and now that’s been extended to age 3.  Where does it end?  I believe kids should stay at home and learn in a one on one environment as long as possible.

Let me put this in another way.  My oldest child didn’t attend a preschool. Therefore, he must have entered school far behind his peers academically- right?  Well, not exactly.  The only reason he attended Kindergarten was because the school (which goes from k-12) was ranked in the top 1% in the United States and he only had to attend two days a week.  Even at this great school, my child was completely bored with the academics because they were too easy.  Why is that?  It’s because I worked with him.  If there are questions with what I did, leave a comment or shoot me an email.  (

2.    What if I want for my kid to go to school to learn socialization skills? I don’t have a problem with that logic but how much socialization is needed to achieve your end goal?  For example, I solve the socialization dilemma by working out at my neighborhood YMCA and placing my child in their child care.  I get a great workout for an hour 3 times a week. My children get to socialize with their friends at this time.  The “Y” is expensive in my case but child care doesn’t carry an additional charge.  Also, I doubt if I pay as much for a gym membership as a lot of people pay in preschool expenses.

Former logo of the YMCA in the United States u...

This has been a great place for socialization!

My kids, socially speaking, are on par with other children.  As a matter of fact, they are friendlier and more social than many kids I know.  All I am saying is there are many ways to achieve socialization.   Participating on sports teams and playing with neighborhood kids can also do the trick.

3.  What if I HAVE to work? This is a tricky issue but hear me out.  You’d better make a pretty good salary to justify enrolling a child in preschool.  The better preschools in most areas are a bit pricey.  When Sara breaks down her salary into taxes, preschool costs, gas, dry-cleaners, car maintenance, etc.  she may be surprised what her usable take home dollar figure turns out to be.

For example, when I left teaching, my annual salary was a little over $40,000.  Without going into detail, I can honestly say that the loss in pay didn’t feel like as big a deal as I thought it was going to. I know there are a lot of single parents (like my mom) who must work.  Obviously, this generality wouldn’t apply. For those who are married, crunch the numbers with an accountant and see what the numerical truth entails.

If Sara still determines she HAS to work, it doesn’t matter what age her daughter goes to preschool because she has to work anyway.  For the sake of the post, I’m assuming Sara has a choice.    In saying that, I would save the preschool money, invest in some learning materials, and find an alternative to preschool unless there is literally no choice.

In summary, I have worked with over 400 kids (including two of my own).  Not one of them would have been better served in a preschool versus one on one time with me.  Instead of answering what age is best for a child to go to preschool for Sara, I will ask this question instead.  How hard is Sara willing to work, learn, and sacrifice in order to have a daughter that preschools would drool over?

Thanks so much for reading and I’ll publish another post Tuesday.  If you know a parent who is debating preschool, please pass along this article.  Best wishes!!!

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  1. Theresa says:

    To be honest, part of why I sent my daughter to preschool was my own selfish need for sanity. I have been at home with my girls for over 5 years now. Last year I started taking my oldest to preschool and my youngest went to the childminding at the local gym while I worked out, swam, did something, anything, by myself. My kids have loved it, its only a few hours a week, and everybody is happy.

    Great article!

  2. None of my boys went to an actual preschool. Only one had a preschool/kindergarten type experience while his older brothers had a homeschool co-op. None of them have been worse for wear by not having it.

    That being said, we did things at home and programs via church and the local library systems that allowed them to pick up many of the same things. And, until our move to Alaska last year, I had a gym membership with child care provided to allow for a little break from the boys.

    I'm a new follower from the Finding New Friends blog hop and hope you'll stop by my blog sometime soon. I have a feeling I'll be reading a LOT of your old posts as my boys challenge my parenting on a daily basis.

    Laura O in AK

  3. Before I had any children I taught preschool at an academic preschool. Ironically, I could never understand why these well educated stay at home moms didn't just teach their kids at home. Now that I have an almost 4 year old of my own I understand to some degree. Up to this point I have taught my son at home, his academic skills are above that of his peers, but he is lacking in other areas like physical coordination, including fine motor skills. He is VERY high energy and his favorite thing is to play pretend. He does this ALL day (in almost every pic on my blog his is dressed up in some costume pretending to be some character) and has very little motivation to do anything else…unless he is with his peers. Oh and did I mention that he wont play by himself. These are the reasons why I feel it is a good idea to send him to preschool next year. That said, it is a non-academic preschool and only a couple hours, 3 days a week.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that in most situations parents are equipped to teach their children & that they will receive a better education one-on-one than in a school setting.

    Good on ya! :-)

  5. Following back from the blog hop! My daughter is still young so we have yet to go thru the tantrums and the choice of preschool but I'm certainly going to keep up with your blog for when the day does come :)


  6. Jen says:

    Coming by from the blog hop. I am taking my son home this year to homeschool after attending pre-k. He was in a daycare before our move because i had to work. When we moved he has stayed home and we made ways to socialize. His best friend is someone we met before they were even in school. I understand some feel they should but if you can keep them home. They will be much more successful! :) thanks for sharing!

  7. Jessica says:

    Love your blog! Found you on the hop! I am your newest follower!

  8. Deanna says:

    Stopping by (and following) from the blog hop. Great thoughts…I just made the choice to keep my 3-year old home instead of sending him to preschool this coming year. After visiting schools, I determined that I could do the same thing at home for a lot let money! :)

  9. Liz says:

    Thanks for the follow!
    I now follow back on twitter too!

  10. I am a Mothers Day Out fan – a 2 day a week program. Mine were in an awesome program that did amazing art projects, learned to recite the books of the bible (2 year olds and up achieved that), learn their letters – and learn to make friends. I taught part-time while my boys were in MDO. I'm not a fan of a 5 day a week pre-school program for children – unless the parents work full-time. I think what they gain by being home with mome (or dad) is immeasurable!

  11. Carla says:

    I completely agree with you. I'm "homeschooling" my preschooler this year and next year, and we love it. I also have a teaching background, but I think that anyone who really wants to can provide an educational experience for their child. We also have several solutions to the "socialization" issue. Great post! I'm a new follower…I saw you on MeloMomma.

  12. I totally agree with you. I plan on keeping my son home as long as possible and teaching him in a one-on-one environment. He's only 21 months old and he can already identify words.

    However, it may not be the best option for everyone based on their individual situations. So, I don't fault people for doing what they need to do to raise their kids in the best way possible for them.

  13. Ashley says:

    Thank you so much for following me and for your nice comment! Your blog is GREAT! I'm following you now too. :)

  14. Shannon says:

    Whether I send my kids to preschool or not I still have the responsibility to teach my kids at home. My kids started off in a Parent's Day out program 2 days a week when they were both three. Those 2 days allowed me to plan our time together, run errands or to simply have some alone time. The other 3 days we were at the library, museum, playground, etc.