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Preschool for kids: Is early childhood education necessary?

Is early childhood education necessary?

By Krista Pfeiffer |

After being a stay-at-home mother for four years, I was surprised to one day discover my oldest child was the only kid her age at the playground. Or at the library. Or any of the other places we went. Seemingly overnight, all of the other four year-olds had vanished.

Where they all were was no mystery. For months leading up to that September day, almost every mother I encountered had asked me where my children were going to preschool. From the conversations that ensued, I had sensed my stay-at-home kids were going to be the minority. I just hadn’t realized to what extent. Seeing the tidal shift in available playmates for my daughter gave me pause. Was skipping out on preschool the best decision for my kids?

I used to be a teacher. I believe in education. But I don’t necessarily agree with the direction education in America is headed. With so much focus on testing and college acceptance (and even high school acceptance, where I live), getting ahead and staying ahead, school is intense – way more intense than it was when I attended. Kindergarten can be six-and-a-half hours long – before homework. And those days might include little or no recess. From kindergarten it only gets more intense as the kids get older.

My children have a solid thirteen years of full-time school ahead of them before college. I feel like once they start on that path, they close a door to a part of their childhood. I want to keep that door open for them as long as possible.

Quitting my job to become a stay-at-home mother meant there would be some major sacrifices. It has been difficult to make ends meet, but I think the flip side is that I try to make the most of every moment, knowing my time at home won’t last forever. I made a pact with myself that for my kids, I would do the work of their mother and their teacher. I conscientiously set up their days to ensure they enjoy brimming doses of both structured and unstructured play time, alone time, reading time, field trips, healthy meals and snacks, art activities, and science experiments, not to mention innumerable hugs. I also have my kids enrolled in some stand-alone classes, making sure they get used to following the authority of other people in charge. And for a few hours a week, my friend with a three year-old daughter and I get together, switching off being teacher in our “play school,” complete with lesson plans and thematic activities.

I am confident such activities help compensate for any academic advantage preschool could offer my kids. I have read some research that concludes preschool has important long-term benefits for students. But Chester E. Finn, Jr., former assistant secretary of education and author of Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, wrote in a 2009 Washington Post editorial, “The overwhelming majority of studies show that most pre-K programs have little to no educational impact (particularly on middle-class kids) and/or have effects that fade within the first few years of school.”

But with some statistics indicating as many as 85% of four year-olds are attending preschool, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Am I being utterly selfish? A huge part of my decision to stay home with my kids in the first place was due to how much I thoroughly enjoy being with them. I love the hugs and kisses we share, the games we play, the crafts we create, the thoughtful or idiosyncratic conversations we have. I watch them grow and I know the day will come when they won’t be my little kids anymore, when these precious times will be mere memories. I want to suck the nectar out of these few years and enjoy every moment I can possibly have with my kids.

Furthermore, and no less selfishly, I want to raise my kids the way I want to raise them. As my children fumble through toddlerhood into being full-fledged kids, I want myself and my husband and the people I know and love and trust the most to be the ones to help them learn how to resolve conflict, how to share, how to use manners and function on their own. I know sending my kids to pre-school wouldn’t undo the values with which we raise them but I feel like there’s still so much reinforcing to be done in order for them to be more confident and comfortable school-aged kids. Sending kids off to school involves a huge submission of control. It’s possible I’m not ready to relinquish that control. But it’s more that I believe that the more time my children spend with me, this person who loves them more than anyone, the better off they’ll deal with the world on their own later on.

But then there are those days. You know the ones. The ones where the children seemingly become possessed by demons and all we do is butt heads. Those days when I feel like a failure, when I can’t seem to get us back on track, when I become sure my flimsy parenting skills are doing irreparable damage to my impressionable children. Inevitably, when I am in the midst of one of those days, I send a text to my husband proclaiming, “We must investigate preschools TONIGHT!”

On those days especially I see the benefits of preschool. It would be a fun, educational, and social outlet for my children. It would be a chance for them to learn from other people – people who probably aren’t wondering if they’re doing the right thing. And, of course, it would be a way for my children and me to get a little bit of distance from each other.

But by the time night falls on those days, I am too tired to actually investigate preschools. And when I wake up the next morning, I am refreshed and feeling better about my choice. I may never know whether I’ve made the right decision. If my daughter gets bullied by a classmate in third grade, I may wonder how things might have been different. If my son gets a D in high-school chemistry, I may question his lack of preschool. But for now, this time I have with my kids is finite, and the clock is ticking. It may be selfish, but I don’t ever want to voice the regret, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.”

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About Krista Pfeiffer


Krista Pfeiffer

Krista Pfeiffer is a former middle school teacher who currently works, writes and raises two kids from her home in Philadelphia. She blogs about her parenting successes and failures at

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59 thoughts on “Preschool for kids: Is early childhood education necessary?

  1. LooLoosMommy says:

    I am in a similar situation. My daughters friends are all in preschool and she is home with me. I also used to teach so feel confident in my ability to support her academically, but I still feel she may be missing out. Now she has begun asking about school, so she will start preschool in the fall. It is only two half days a week mind you, but its something.

  2. CDub says:

    I go back and forth about this. I live in a super competitive / affluent area and I just don’t want my kids caught up in the rat race at 4. Even though my son is only 3, the decision has already pretty much been made for us because you need to apply for the schools 2 years in advance AND they are over $4000 for half day…. I just think it makes more sense to invest that in a college education and “home school” him until kindergarden. I do get a lot of grief from other parents though. You would think keeping them home was some form of neglect!

  3. Merrick says:

    It’s possible you are missing the main effect of preschool on Kindergarten success, which is that children learn the “language” of the school environment – the pattern of the day, how to sit and listen at story time, how to make decisions at free choice in a hectic environment. I don’t think your kids will be set back any by not attending; you sound very dedicated, but it is very, very important for children on the lower end of the economic spectrum. I’d hate that point to be missed. Also, many preschool programs are 2-3 hours three days a week. No one is missing out on their kid’s childhood by sending them. That, as they say in rhetoric class, is a false choice you have set up in your argument. BTW — my mom is on her deathbed and she has told me many times that she wishes she had not been a stay at home mom and had gotten to pursue some of her many gifts and talents. It’s just not the case that no one regrets spending all their time with their kids, although I’m sure since you sound like you did so very thoughtfully, that won’t be the case for you.

  4. MamaMD says:

    Krista, I never comment on essays but this one struck a chord with me because I could have written it myself, except for when it comes to all your self-doubt. I never regret or doubt my decision to keep my kids home. They get plenty of interaction with other kids, they squirrel around at home and play, they comes with me to the grocery store and ask the postmaster if they can ring the bell on the counter. They are learning a lot about social graces. They know their alphabet and numbers and all that jazz that some parents sweat over, though I’ve never worried about or given a second thought to their academic “kindergarten readiness.” Who cares what other parents in the neighborhood think? They’re not in charge of raising my kids. Frankly, I really just can’t figure out why people think preschool is so darn important, except that it gives mom a few hours to run errands in peace.

    Having said all that, I recognize that not all parents have the luxury of staying home with their kids. Pre-school isn’t going to harm them, so send them if you want to. Let’s just not pretend like your kid’s future rests solely on whether or not he goes or not. It’s not going to make them or break them.

  5. Community says:

    My youngest has just finished preschool and I found it important socially not just for my kids, but for our family. We made a lot of friends with other families. Before my oldest started preschool I needed to hire a babysitter any time I needed to be away with the kids. Now, I set up and trade off playdates with other families. Preschool doesn’t have to be a competitive academic rat race, it can be a great, community building activity, and as someone else noted 2 hours 2/3 days a week is hardly missing your kids’ childhood!

  6. Catherine says:

    Sort of similar situation here, as well. My son is almost four and is about to finish up his first year at Montessori preschool. We’re new to the area, so his attending this school has helped us, as a family, make some true friends, and I absolutely love and believe in the Montessori method. And, as it is only 3 hours a day, seems like a short enough time for him to be away. Sadly, once he (and my daughter who just turned two) are through the primary series, there seems to be no where for them to go. I, too, struggle with the country’s education system and my husband and I want something so much different than what is offered. Which is leading closer down the path to homeschooling… Good luck to you!

  7. Heidi M. Fanning says:

    Your child IS in preschool, a Mommy-led preschool! It sounds like you are working hard to enrich your children’s lives and that is basically the point of preschool. However, I do think that a formal preschool setting is important for a child to experience; esspecially because many of the fun classroom activites that used to happen in Kindergarten now ONLY happen in preschool. My two daughters LOVED going to preschool, they had fun, made friends, and formed great relationships with their teachers. Their schools were play-based and although there was an academic element they were not those ridiculous academic preschools that try to force all 3 year olds to learn to read. I think their preschools were perfect for them. The positive effects of preschool are much more than academic; preschool taught them to make friends, deal with group dynamics, clean up after themselves, and it created many fond memories! My almost 9 year old daughter still talks abotu her old preschool teacher Miss Becky and all that Miss Becky once taught her. My almost 6 year old said to me the other day that she wants to visit her old preschool teacher Miss Kathy beacause “Miss Kathy really loves me a lot, even though I am not in her class anymore.” Yeah, I have had a lot of fun playing with and learning with my kids myself, but I am areally glad to have other positive role models in their lives too, and they have had great teachers!

  8. Alex Moses says:

    As a preschool teacher, my two cents would be to consider is the social aspect. My 3-year-old is in her second year of preschool, and it’s hardly high pressure. Lots of art, some silly songs and lots of time to build skills in cooperation, sharing, etc. For my son in pre-k, it’s more structured, but it’s still fun, and the academic stuff is very covert. For both kids, they’ve built literacy and numeracy skills without even knowing it! I’m not saying your choice is wrong at all, but there’s definitely something to learning to get along with others by being in an environment that’s not parent-controlled. Heck, I’m 37, and I still remember preschool fondly!

  9. CuriousMum says:

    I wonder if you are keeping them at home so that you have material for your blog?

  10. Krista Pfeiffer says:

    Thanks so much for reading! And I really appreciate the feedback. I think making a choice about preschool depends primarily on every family’s circumstances and who our children are. In my case, I am grateful to have the options of sending my kids to preschool or keeping them home. For some kids–especially economically disadvantaged children, children with certain special needs and children whose domestic structure does not fully foster education–preschool has amazing benefits. On the other hand, knowing that some families home school their children all the way through high school reminds me that many children can be successful without setting foot inside a school building at all. I feel like our family has found a balance that works for us by allowing our kids some extra at-home time, but still signing them up for kindergarten where they will have the chance to gain all the benefits from a school setting–just a year or so later than some of their peers.

  11. Lilac says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog – It’s very honest, the way in which you carefully weigh your options and even express self-doubt. As a kindergarten teacher, I feel that this decision of whether or not it’s best for children to attend preschool depends on the stay-at-home parent as well as the children.
    It is important to establish curriculum – structured and unstructured play time, reading time, science experiments, fine motor activities, etc, which you are doing, and I think the stand-alone classes are also valuable. Because you enjoy this time so much (everyone has “those days”, especially pre-K teachers) I’d bet your children do as well, and you’re right, this time with someone who loves them as much as you do, so unconditionally, is precious and ephemeral. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, as other commenters have touched upon. I do feel that preschool could be a better decision for parents who don’t have the time, energy, financial means, or patience for homeschooling a 4-year old, and also for children who seem to struggle socially. I know many schools offer part-time programs, as well as services for children with special needs. Thanks for writing, I look forward to future articles.

  12. Improv Gal says:

    I have to echo what Heidi M. Fanning said: It sounds like your kids’ time with you is structured to have most of the elements of preschool, so they actually ARE in preschool. Your point seems to be more about whether parents who send their kids to preschool aren’t “suck[ing] the nectar” out of their time with their kids. This strikes me as one of those Babble posts that are ostensibly about questioning one’s own choice, but are really about touting what an awesome choice it is. I’m glad it has been a positive choice for you and your family. But I’d venture an opinion that preschool experiences in all parts of the country have not become “intense.” This certainly wasn’t the case with the 3 hours, 3 times a week that my kids spent in preschool. For those of us who can’t draw on training and experience as a professional educator to shape our kids’ days, thank goodness for preschool teachers!

  13. cara in exile says:

    I do co-op preschool (play-based education model) with my daughters. What they have gotten out of it is a love of school, a strong social skill set, and a network of friends and parents that they are taking with them when they go to Kindergarten and on (my oldest just finished 1st grade, my youngest is in her first year of preschool). Otherwise, it’s much like the mommy-preschool that you have set up: Lots of play, both individual and with other children, arts, science, reading, and outdoor activity.

  14. Montessori Mom says:

    To: Catherine Jun 2, 4:28 PM :”Sadly, once he (and my daughter who just turned two) are through the primary series, there seems to be no where for them to go.”

    There are Montessori Programs that go straight through to Middle School. Middle Schools may be tough to find, but there are lots of Montessori Elementary programs. Another option is to seek out a Public School that is an IBS Elementary School. Montessori kids tend to transition well into those environments.

    On the blog, my one comment I’ll share is that the author seems to have this notion that we send kids to pre-school for some sort of academic advantage. That’s certainly not the case for me. I’m not sure what pre-school programs she’s been exposed to, but most of the ones around me are 3 hours a day jammed packed with all sorts of activities. Some involve reading, play… and even planting flowers. Kudos to you for being able to keep your kids home and provide for all their developmental needs. But, we all have to make different compromises for our families. I’m glad to have great Montessori schools around me that support the values I hold important and want shared with my children.

  15. OHK says:

    While I’m sure you’re doing what’s right for you and your kids and your family (and obviously being very mindful about it), I have to echo the other sentiments that a good preschool is less about learning ABCs and 123s and more about giving kids social skills, non-parental nurturing role models, and the ability to be “away” from you.

  16. mamajj says:

    I am in a very similar situation to you. My oldest is 4. I don’t know of any other moms who have decided to keep their kids home until Kindergarten. Everyone is always asking where my kids go to school, but I am confident in my decision and love staying home with them.

  17. imperfectbird says:

    I am really shocked at the negative comments you’ve gotten on this article, Krista! I could have written this article myself. I have a 4 yr old and a 1 yr old and I’ve been questioned numerous times by others moms why I don’t send my child to preschool. For us, it’s partially an issue of cost…it is expensive in our area to send a child to preschool. Being a lower middle class family this isn’t an option for us. I chose to stay home to be with my children, and like you, I realize how swiftly these years go by and I want to be present while I can be.
    To insinuate that a mother is selfish for wanting to keep her children at home with her is ridiculous and only serves to show how backwards our society’s thinking is about raising children. If a child’s baby and toddler years are only a forerunner to their school years, instead of years to be savored and cherished by their parents, that’s a shame. We never get those first 4 or 5 years back, and I plan on making the most of them.
    With that said, I have my days where I doubt myself too…especially when I get so many questions from other parents. But I don’t buy the “my child needs to be socialized” excuse for sending a child to preschool. My child interacts with other children of all ages as well as adults, and is comfortable in almost any social setting he’s been put in. Obviously I can’t ignore the studied benefits of preschool, but I can’t agree that it’s a necessity for every child.
    Be confident in your decision, as I try to be in mine! Excellent article!

    And for the person who asked if she kept her kids home to have something to blog about….shame on you! What an ignorant comment.

  18. LogicalMama says:

    My son is almost nine now. I did not put him in preschool and he doesn’t suffer for it whatsoever. Never did. In fact, the first kid he met at kindergarten, who had been in preschool since the age of 2, including a pre-k the year before kindy (and he was red-shirted so almost a full year older than my son) had to be told how to respond to my son introducing himself and asking him to play! Funny thing is, people kept asking me what preschool he went to b/c he was so socially capable and they were curious if it was play-based or academic! I was definitely in the minority, but I don’t regret it and I am so thankful for the time we had together. He had lots of opportunity for social development between other friends, karate, playground and going to a home daycare once or twice a week.
    There is no definitive proof that preschool gives kids a leg up. It really depends on the kids and so many other factors. For some, it just burns them out sooner! Trust your instincts, you know what’s best for you and your kids.

  19. Dina Williams says:

    This really isn’t a black-and-white issue. It’s not “send your kids to school” OR “keep them at home;” it can be both. My 5 YO daughter goes to preschool but it’s only for a few hours a few days a week. I still have plenty of time to spend with her.

    In my experience of raising 2 kids, they need interaction with their peers from a young age. My son was really social so I started sending him to sitters and preschool at a young age, where he could play with other kids. My daughter is really shy, and I send her to school so that she can learn to socialize! She wasn’t ready at 3, and I didn’t force her. We did lots and lots of “Mommy and me” activities for a long time so that she got to be around other kids. At 3 and a half she was ready to consider the idea of preschool. We made the transition gently, picking a preschool based on her choice — one that encouraged parents to stay at first if the kids needed it, and requires a lot of parental involvement. It’s all good so far.

    My son attended a full-day Montessori preschool at ages 3 and 4 and he loved it. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for my daughter because I’m no longer working. She has said repeatedly that she doesn’t want to go full-time…not even to Kindergarten, which she’ll start in the fall. We’ll see how that goes. I feel better about the transition knowing that she has 2 years of preschool under her belt, and that she was eased into the school experience and not thrown in to sink or swim.

  20. AmyB says:

    I have a good friend that is a kindergarten teacher and she highly recommends preschool for 3 reasons:
    1) the germ factor: The first year in any school, kids get sick A LOT. In her experience, kids who went to preschool miss a lot less days of kindergarten
    2 The ego/attention factor: It’s hard for kids who are used to having mommy to themselves or sharing with 1-2 other kids to go to a classroom with a 15 or 20 to 1 ratio, preschool eases in this idea
    3) The routine factor: Kids who go to preschool get the school rhythm: circle time, sitting still for story time, and being separated from mommy for a few hours at a time.
    These are the factors that made me send my son to pre-school, far more than any academic reasons.

  21. JJ says:

    Considering the studies that show that kids learn more when they are not specifically taught, but are instead allowed to explore on their own, I have never once regretted not sending any of our three children to preschool.
    They perform well-above the academic averages compared to other kids in their grades both nationally and within our high-achieving school, they are socially well-adjusted, confident, not at all clingy. Not to mention that every teacher who has ever had them in a class asks me how I have managed to raise not just one, but three kids are so well-behaved and socially adept that they would take a classroom full of them in a heartbeat.
    Don’t worry about the naysayers, the ones telling you that your child needs “socialization”, that he needs “structure”, that he needs exposure to germs and basic skills (because kindergarten is really the new 1st grade); because parenting is like religion: The only way you don’t get arguments is if you are both sitting in the same pew.

  22. Lowkeyfan says:

    OK…I’ll admit it, preschool is just as much for me as it is for my kid. While I don’t think it’s great for babies and pre-school age children to be in daycare all day long, I do think a few hours a few times a week once they are 2.5 or 3 (depending on the kid) can be fine and can get them to trust other adults, learn to play with other kids, etc. This is important to me because, frankly, I need the break and while we do occasional playdates I’m not that big on them, so the child is able to get socialization and make friends from school. It’s not at all about academics. Also, I don’t know how on-board I am with the “playing school” and super-organized activities you have going on being really any less overdoing it on academics. When my kid’s home she just plays. Letters, numbers, sorting, counting, etc. all come out as part of the play.

  23. Beth says:

    Just put them in 2 days a week for a few hours and then you don’t have to worry about it and you’ll still have tons of time with them. Seems like the best solution. Personally, I think they (and I) would get bored if no other kids are around all day.

  24. Dirty Diapers says:

    I just launched my blog and discuss this very issue. Here’s an inside look from someone who didn’t go to preschool!

  25. Catherine says:

    To Montessori Mom: Thanks for the reply, we have looked into it, but unfortunately the nearest Montessori elementary is a 45 minute drive from our house. And while this school is AH-MAZING, for many reasons it is not likely going to happen for us. We live in a very small beach community, so our options are slim, and many of my sons classmates parents and I commiserate on this regularly and are even considering forming a homeschool co-op. I love montessori, I do not love traditional schooling. As for IBS, we have an IBS high school as an option. Considering my oldest is 3, I’m not looking that far ahead yet! :)

  26. teach4az says:

    I think preschool is totally unnecessary in your case. I think it’s helpful for children whose parents plopped them in front of the TV for four years, who’ve never seen paint or scissors or participated in anything. If they had an enriching beginning and speak the dominant language of the school they’re entering, they should be fine at home!

  27. jwg says:

    I’m an early childhood educator and I am also displeased about the direction our schools are heading. I teach adults in the field and am spending a lot of time helping them stand strong against the work not play crowd. That being said, I think every child needs a few mornings a week away from Mom before starting kindergarten. The reasons have nothing to do with academics. It is all about separation, following a routine and learning how to function as part of a group. Sadly, most kindergarten teachers don’t have time to help kids with any of this these days. Kindergarten has become so pressured and academic that kids have to be able to jump right in. Most of the kindergarten teachers I know are frustrated beyond belief but have little flexibility to deal with kids as anything but test takers. My advice would be to find a nice little half day nursery school, one that stresses play and socialization. You might even enjoy a little time for yourself.

  28. lynn g says:

    I wish I were as lucky as you. We cannot afford to send our child to preschool or child care, let alone a Montessori program, and we cannot afford to have one of us NOT working full time. Those of you who can, count your blessings that you even have a choice. I used to be a preschool teacher and am craving to send him to school. I know what he’s missing out on. Yes, if I were able to stay home, I could provide a lot of those things for him like you are. Ideally, I would work part time so I could have adult interaction and not have my brain and masters degree go to waste, but still have time with my child who is now 3. At the same time that I am craving him to go to preschool (my mother in law watches him during the day), I am also craving to spend that time with him.

  29. Whitney Hollingsworth says:

    My Olivia went to an in-home babysitter. Being a stay at home mom was not an option (I’m glad of that too, really, since I was a feral child and possess very few domestic skills)and I was terrified of day care centers. I loved Jean (the sitter), but little Olivia spent a lot of time in front of the television. So, I decided to do the mother’s-day-out thing at a local preschool 3 days a week. They were 1/2 days, and while it did seem like she was learning something, I liked it because she had so much fun. She loved gluing and cutting and coloring. She learned songs and told me about her favorite stories, etc. When pre-K time came around it seemed like a no brainer. The sitter and the school charged about the same amount – why not send to her to a place where tv is not an option – where the environment is structured – where she can have fun. That said, I still agree with you. The decision is very personal and you should feel comfortable about the choice you make. It is the mother’s role to either feel bad innately, or be made to feel bad by others about decisions that keep us awake at night. I was criticized plenty for sending my Olivia to pre-school instead of staying home with her. In the end, there really is no right or wrong way. Your son will have his experience and Olivia will have hers, and certainly they don’t need to match. Maybe someday they will meet one another and share all the wonderful things that made them unique…:o)

  30. mamajan843 says:

    As a Pre-k teacher, I see the benefits of preschool every day.. But it is a personal decision, only you know your child and what is best for them.. Most preschool programs like ours, is only 3-3 1/2 hours per day.. I honestly think it can be the best of both worlds for a stay at home parent!

  31. kat says:

    Even though my kids are 2.5 (on the young side for preschool) and 10 months I have thought a lot about whether or not to put them in preschool and at what age. The opportunity came up to join a co-operative spanish speaking play-group and we decided to join. There are 6 families plus a “teacher” that comes everyday with her son; each family hosts the kids one day every other week and it’s tues wed thurs from 9-1. Pretty do-able and I have some time with just my little one and my son gets to learn fun songs and have fun creative play all while learning spanish. It’s also great to have the community of other parents and kids.

  32. Rose says:

    I’m studying to be an elementary school teacher, and have spent a lot of time in early elementary classes. In the kindergarten and sometimes the first grade classes, you do see a big difference in the students who did and didn’t go to preschool. However, in a non-scientific study of me and my peers, in high school and college it makes little to no difference. I went to preschool. I am smart, but I am still socially awkward – preschool didn’t seriously affect my “socialization.” Also, my friends are all “gifted” students and not all went to preschool. I think it’s a good choice if you have the funds or other resources, but in the long run it won’t ruin your child’s life if they don’t go to preschool.

    I a really lucky to live in a neighborhood and school district with free preschool for families who make less than a certain (fairly high) amount of money, and so I was able to enroll in preschool. Thankfully, so are most of the children in this area. I know that’s not the case everywhere, though, and I really hope parents don’t feel guilty if they can’t or don’t send their children to preschool.

  33. Amy says:

    Loved this piece. I also have chosen to delay pre-school for my son. Here, kids are going in at 3 years. Seems all too young to start the whole process of school that young. We also do playgroups and classes for social interaction, authority, etc. Good to see someone else out there does what we do!

  34. Heather McDuffy Tristan says:

    Maybe we’re viewing this from the wrong angle. The issue of whether or not the parent chooses for their child to attend preschool should be less important than the issue of whether or not the choice is available. I firmly believe that although parents should choose what they think is right for their family (and that includes home-schooling or private schooling, etc. as the child ages), the availability of educational resources such as preschool should not be limited to the economically or even geographically privileged. This mother is obviously taking pains to see that her children are receiving the preparation that will set them up for success when they attend school, but many parents do not have the training or the resources to give their children this same experience and it is those children especially who would most benefit from a high quality early childhood education. I would love to see our society come to a point where we recognize the lasting benefits of investing in our young children so that we make quality early childhood education accessible (not required) to EVERY child, regardless of family income or urban vs. rural residency.

  35. Chrissy Roig Mosley says:

    I had those feelings and they extended on. We’re homeschooling :) My older daughter is almost 6 (would be entering first grade this year). I do have days when I wonder if it would be better if we had more time apart (those bad days that you mentioned) or if I could work again sooner. However as I’ve read and critically thought about it, the information that sticks the best is the information learned in context and when the child takes an interest. I’m not sure I remember much from grade school and I was a good student! I also see how quickly my child has picked up on reading and math without all the formal education. I’m very worried about the pressures put on kids. I finished high school 11 years ago and even then, I remember being stressed out all the time, not sleeping or eating well, and severely overworked and depressed.

    I honestly value education very much. My husband and I are NPR junkies, we read studies and watch documentaries. We love the library and reading. We both see great value in formal education, I’m just not sure forcing in such high doses from such a young age is what needs to happen to produce adults who are both happy as well as independent and able to critically evaluate information. So our plans are to homeschool and let our kids get involved in lots of different activities as they choose, then have them start in college courses at the community college at maybe 15 or so. But that’s a long way off :D

    Now back to preschool… If you think of it as it’s own entity and not the beginning of a long hard road, it isn’t so bad as long as it’s a fun play-based preschool. I know plenty of people whose kids went to preschool and then they homeschool afterwards. It can be great for kids who are very social and just needing to get out of the house. I honestly wish they had “preschool” up to age 12 or so, so kids can get out a few hours a week and play and be social without all the academic pressure. We never did preschool because my daughter is very sensitive and wouldn’t have been ready to be away that much. I think this year she would be fine with it, but now she’s too old.

  36. Chrissy Roig Mosley says:

    Financial aspects… To those of you who can’t afford to be home, I totally feel for you. But I almost feel the opposite. The money In was bringing home pre-kids was barely enough to send ONE kid to day care, let alone two. I know another mom who has 2 kids and works full time. She says her check goes 100% to day care, she just gets insurance from working. Well the job I had didn’t even offer benefits, so that isn’t even an issue. And there are the other costs we save by having me at home. We don’t eat out as much, I don’t need a work wardrobe or to get my hair done, less gas used… All that stuff adds up I’m sure. And we live very modestly. I know some people who “need” to work and live in gigantic houses. It’s all relative. I work part time when family members will be available which I find to be a good balance :)

  37. Allison says:

    I feel like such a loser mom that I would have a really hard time having my preschoolers home 24/7. But, I am just not very good at being a preschool teacher, so off to Montessori they go.

  38. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Each to their own, and in tune with their childs needs. I wish all families could financially afford their first choice. Some parents need a break from their children, some dontno judgment, thats just the way people are. As a former family home child care provider and now preschool teacher at a parent-run preschool, I see that being around other families is a benefit for the parents. At a co-operative preschool you can see the variety in children and parenting styles, get support for any special needs your child might have, and learn some skills from the teachers. One size does not fit all.

  39. Lisa says:

    We have pre school(3) and then jr kindergarten(4) and sr kindergarten(5). I was able to stay at home with our kids, we didn’t get a head in life so I look forward to going back to work so that we can get ahead financially. Both my kids started in jr and I worried so much about my son. We never did play dates except at the park where he would play with other children. I can honestly tell parents who are so afraid that their child is shy wouldn’t be able to cope. Our children are so amazing and have the ability to just go with it. We aren’t doing them any favours by holding them back from “their adventure”. If they fall they learn to get back up. Pre school and kindergarten is suppose to teach children to learn through play. Not going to pre school is not a big deal, I don’t think I could have for either child, as I don’t ever want them to feel rushed. My daughter is in jr and my son now in grade 1 they love the interaction with their friends.

  40. Emily B says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! I have been torn about whether or not my 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 year old boys ought to be in preschool. I too live in an area where so much emphasis is put on preschool and where your preschoolers “get accepted.” I chose to work part-time so I could be with my boys more (and my husband does the same). It’s a big financial sacrifice and has hindered my ability to enroll them in preschool. I keep wondering if I am doing them a disservice. Your article has reinforced that our current situation is exactly how we want it. You are right – they will get 13 years of schooling soon enough – a year or two more at home won’t cripple their chance at educational success. Thank again for the reinforcement I’ve been looking for!

  41. terram says:

    I felt the same way, but we found a local Waldorf school that offers part time care. I enrolled my son 2 days a week so I get a break and some precious time alone with his baby sister while he gets a chance to play with lots of kids, make some new friends and learn to follow directions from 2 very sweet teachers. The Waldorf approach is play-centered and heavy on nature and outdoors time, so there are no formal lessons. The kids play outside for hours every day it’s not storming (yes, even in the winter), ensuring that he gets lots even time to run around outside than I could reasonably give him while also taking care of an infant. For us it’s been a great compromise and gives us the best of both worlds.

  42. CB says:

    In our area people are pushing to put 2 year olds into “preschool”. Like the author I was a full-time teacher before becoming a stay at home mom and I think kids benefit being able to be toddlers while they are toddlers-lots of flexibility. There are some great preschools out there and I’ll consider it when our little one gets to 4 years. But at 2 years? NO! I don’t agree it’s needed and around here that makes me a minority. Thanks for the article. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  43. Amadea R Potts says:

    thank tyou for this post! it was much needed for me! i just quit my job at a popular retail store to stay home with my kids who are 2 and 4. and we were disappointed that our oldest wasnt allowed to start headstart because we make too much money for that program, and that she couldnt go to preschool because i do not plan on driving her an hour to and from the school because they wont provide bus transportation. i thought she would be missing out on social time and everything else and was wondering myself, if i was being selfish! but i too quit my job to stay home with my kids and to get as much time with them as possible before this time becomes distant memories!! so thank you soooo much for helping clear that up!!

  44. Danielle Spaeth says:

    I feel as though I wrote this article in my head not too long ago

  45. gml4 says:

    Stupid title. Of course early childhood is necessary. The question is whether it’s received at home, a childcare, or preschool.

  46. Symona says:

    This is extcaly what I was looking for. Thanks for writing!

  47. KiddieAcademyMom says:

    This is a great article. I am an early childhood educator myself, and a huge proponent of the benefits offered by a high-quality preschool program. I’m proud that there are wonderful early childhood programs out there. What strikes me about this article is that you were able to choose whether or not your child will attend and early childhood program. In making that choice, you were acknowledging the benefits of early learning (socialization, exposure to early learning concepts). Actively seeking opportunities for you and your child to engage in the types of learning experiences that your child would have in a preschool program will offer the same wonderful benefits.

  48. bflora says:

    And this is the key to your post:

    “I conscientiously set up their days to ensure they enjoy brimming doses of both structured and unstructured play time, alone time, reading time, field trips, healthy meals and snacks, art activities, and science experiments, not to mention innumerable hugs. I also have my kids enrolled in some stand-alone classes, making sure they get used to following the authority of other people in charge. And for a few hours a week, my friend with a three year-old daughter and I get together, switching off being teacher in our play school, complete with lesson plans and thematic activities.”

    I don’t do that. I don’t research activities and I don’t buy supplies for new theme-related crafts every week (expensive! and then where would I store the extra crap in my apartment after that?). I don’t have the patience for setting up “science experiments”. I am truly taxed by the efforts of just showing my daughter how to live life daily–she says “May I please…” and “No thank you”, she can brush her own teeth with toothpaste, spit and all, we go to museums, the library, playgrounds, concerts, movies, we experience life outside the home as much as possible as well as she is potty training, she is extremely social, gives children toys when they cry for them, gives out plenty of hugs, loves to sing, reads books to herself in bed after I’ve already read 6 before bed… WHEW. I can’t keep up with the school aspect at home, too!! Preschool for a 2-1/2, 3, or 4 year old is GREAT for moms like me who just want to give their child what I am not so apt to do at home, but you seem to do very well. Not all moms are able to do all the stuff you or I do, but it doesn’t mean they are depriving them, either. I have to admit that I love picking up my daughter from preschool (2 mornings a week) after getting some work done at home and seeing the crafts she’s made, shapes she’s colored and identified correctly. I like that she is learning independently from me. I like that it is something she does separate from mommy and daddy–just as daddy goes to work and comes home and shares his day with us at dinner, we talk about her projects and crafts and praise her. It’s a nice way to round out their overall education.

  49. beth says:

    I think this is the first article I’ve ever seen that was ok with skipping pre-school. I say, Good for you! As a former “gifted” child (read: exceptionally bored in public school and several grade levels ahead of my peers :/ ) I’ve thanked my mother a million times for pulling me out of pre-school (she said it was too expensive to keep up when I was THAT bored and miserable). I stayed at home with my grandparents who taught me to read, do basic math, count money, paint etc. When they passed away I was…so grateful for that time with them and those memories. Missing pre-school NEVER once hurt me (or my siblings’) achievement in school (I have 3 college degrees and am working on number 4). As for the social stuff, I’m just not a “people person.” No amount of pre-school could have altered that, it’s who I am.

  50. kate says:

    Once, in preschool… it had just started and we were given a picture of two circles overlapping. At the top there was a space for you name and then the directions: color in one circle blue and the other yellow. I was confused as to why the teacher had to read aloud the directions- and kind of surprised when I found out that some of the kids there couldn’t read. I’d just turned four years old and was on the younger side.
    Pre school is just glorified babysitting. Completely useless, and somewhat of a hindrance, if your child is of average or greater intelligence.

  51. Marge Miller says:

    A lot of parents don’t have the chance to keep their young children at home.They are single moms who need to work. Even if there are two parents in the home, they both have to work to make ends meet. As parents, they need someplace for their children. And If they go to preschool they might as well have a good background in learning.

  52. Louise Marie says:

    Been there, done that, loved it! I stayed home with my children until they entered kindergarten. It was the most rewarding time of my life. I did not want to expose my children to people (children and adults) I did not know in settings I was not always comfortable with. This was a financial sacrifice but worth it. We lived in a simple 3 bedroom/1 bath house. We had one car (hubby took it to work), but we had the bus, a stroller, a wagon, and sometimes grandma and grandpa’s second car. The children were not isolated. We had play-dates, story hours, Sunday School, and lots of neighborhood kids. I am now 60, both of my children have advanced professional degrees and are wonderful young adults. If you can stay home with your young ones, even if it is a struggle financially, I really think you should do it. I do not regret setting my career aside for those years. You can do.

  53. redhaircutie2000 says:

    It’s at the point now where if you don’t send your child to pre-school you are looked at as an evil parent. Where did this idea come from? It’s ridiculous. I know there’s lots of people out there saying they “have to work” to make ends meet, but pre-school can be very expensive, so they “have to work” to afford it! That doesn’t make sense. If you can’t financially handle having a child, then you probably should have planned better! Also, I think the main issue is that being a parent really is the hardest job in the world, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to just be able to drop your kid off somewhere and let someone else do it! You shouldn’t have a child if you don’t want to or can’t be the one to raise it. That’s just irresponsible, and a big reason why so children, and society, and so many problems. Look at socialist countries, where you don’t have a choice to stay at home with your child. You are forced to go to work and the government raises your child. This is where our country is headed, and it’s just sad.

  54. Desiree says:

    I am trying to find a preschool for my 4 year old daughter and it is very difficult because it is expensive, but I know that I can’t do the things that you mentioned you do with your children. I have to work and so does their father. With the economy right now i cant quit just until my youngest who is 2 starts school. That would kill us! I did not attend preschool as a child because of this same situation my parents couldnt afford it. I am so frustrated because she is such a smart little girl and I just want the best for her but what are you supposed to do when you cant pay for them to go to preschool?

  55. lisette says:

    so if you are committed to being a full time housewife anyway, and you want you kids to learn your values and spend most of their time with you, obviously you should homeschool them and eliminate the whole preparation-for-school problem. Assuming your daughters will also absorb your values and be housewives also, they won’t need more than high school and you can homeschool them through that. Your sons can get technical training after high school or go to college; many colleges now do accept homeschool kids. Then too you won’t have to schlep your kids to activities. They’ll be with you at home and it will save a lot of driving and hassle.

  56. SuccessfulDad says:

    check out this thing called “The Internet” it’s pretty amazing. On it you will find countless studies that all prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that children who have good preschool experience do better in school and socialy. My son was bored, moody and grumpy being at home. Daycare, preschool (Montesorri) and school have always been his favorite times of the day because he loves to learn and he is with lots of other kids. He is still being raised according to our values and we spend lots of time together as a family.
    The end result is; yes, you are being selfish and putting your “needs” as a person ahead of the developmental needs of your children.

  57. kate6874us says:

    Listen Mother’s—-Pre-school’s are NOT what they claim and they hire pretty ignorant people because they do not pay well. I have a degree in Social Work. But at the end of my career I worked in 4 pre-school’s because I love kids. I got fired from all 4 because I didn’t play the game. I didn’t lie and give phony information to parents. I didn’t gossip about others, namely the kids themselves and their parents. They do not educate nor follow their own policies and if your a teacher who does….they get rid of you. They do next to nothing because they get next to nothing in return. RAISE YOUR KIDS YOURSELF…NO ONE WILL DO IT BETTER.

  58. Zarya says:

    To think, I was confuesd a minute ago.

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