I honestly hadn’t given preschool much thought until friends and family started asking me around the holidays what our plans for our four-year-old were. In my mind, preschool was so far away. But apparently it’s not, and apparently you have to sign your kid up for preschool for the next year in JANUARY — so my husband and I needed to make a decision pretty much immediately.
But I couldn’t help but wonder, is preschool really necessary?
I decided to do a little bit of crowdsourcing, asking friends and family for their thoughts. The vast majority of people I know with kids the same age as mine chose to send their kids to preschool. The few that didn’t were mostly parents who had decided to homeschool indefinitely.
But I kept running into random parents at parks and grocery stores who would ask when my child would be going to preschool and then talk about how rigorous kindergarten is. The consensus seemed to be that if my daughter didn’t go to preschool, she was going to be left behind and would later struggle to catch up. I was beginning to feel like I was the odd man out for even considering preschool to be optional.
That evening my husband and I had a sit-down conversation about it. His first response was, “Why does she need preschool? You’re home with her every day and you were a preschool teacher.” Fair point.
My college degree was in human development and family sciences with an emphasis in child development, and before having children I spent three years as a preschool teacher. That said, there are plenty of reasons why I may not be the best fit to teach my own daughter. With working from home, taking care of two kids (with a third on the way) my daily routine is pretty far from leisurely. I told him as much, but he remained unconvinced that it was necessary. I told him my concerns about her being “left behind” and explained that apparently preschool is the new kindergarten and kindergarten is the new first grade. My friends with kinder-kids were already dealing with nightly homework and I was truly concerned that if we didn’t put her in preschool, the jump to kindergarten would be too much for her.
My husband still wasn’t on board — especially when he heard how much it costs. Let’s just say, preschool is not cheap. And with him starting a new job and me being a freelancer with unreliable income, I could understand his concern.
I knew it was the smart decision, but I was still pretty upset about the whole thing because of the immense pressure I was feeling by all of my friends and peers. My husband said that he understood, but that sending our child to preschool simply because it’s what everyone else does was not a very good reason. And as much as I hated to admit it, I realized that he was right. The truth is, a good chunk of my motivation to put our daughter in preschool was because everyone else is doing it.
My husband then said something that I believe to be true in my heart, but had lost sight of.
“Just because kindergarten is the new first grade, doesn’t mean it’s right. I would much rather our daughter spend this time playing and being a kid because it won’t last forever. She will spend a good chunk of her life being away from home all day at school, sitting at desks and completing worksheets. This is a time for her to use her imagination and learn and be influenced by us and it’s a time that we won’t get back. She’s smart and she will adapt when kindergarten comes.”
I know my daughter isn’t perfect by any means and there will definitely be things we need to work on before she goes to kindergarten, but she really is smart and social and fairly adaptable. She already knows a lot of the things on the kindergarten checklists, and she’s no stranger to socialization; she takes ballet classes and attends Sunday school, so she’s already learning how to follow instructions, wait her turn, stand in line, and problem solve situations with her peers.
Really, she’s on the right track.
It’s still hard not to get caught up worrying about the what if’s of her being left behind once she does go to school — especially living in a highly-ranked school district — but I’m trying to let it go and do my best to teach my girl throughout our day. I still believe that preschool can be really great, but I’m also feeling more confident that I can teach my daughter the things she needs to know in different ways here at home.
I am gathering simple activities that will help teach her the things she needs to learn. But even more, I am focusing on exposing her to new experiences and giving her opportunities to learn through play. I want her to be interested and engaged in the world around her, because I truly believe that is what creates a successful student. I am beginning to realize that worksheets and rote facts will surely come, as kids are being forced into structured learning earlier and earlier, but I’m starting to feel good about the fact that we will be homeschooling our girl this fall.
Even though we will likely be in the minority as we forgo preschool, I think that maybe a bit more play and time to just be little is exactly what my child needs and what is right for our family.