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. (email@example.com)
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.
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!!!