By Barbara Postma

Pressure to enroll
As our children reach the ages of 3 and 4, the inevitable question that comes is “Have you enrolled them in Junior Kindergarten yet?” Possibly, depending on your situation and the choices of your friends and family, you may have been asked if you were sending your children to nursery school when the little ones were only 2 or 3.

The pressure to do so is immense. The standard cultural response is so overwhelmingly in favour of sending our kids to early schooling that any parent may feel the pressure and societal expectation to send them to a brick and mortar school at a very young age without question.

But should they? Why wouldn’t they?

Benefits or drawbacks?
The experts are quick to point out the benefits of preschool. Interestingly, quite often the first benefit they list is the ease and comfort for the mom of being able to rest at home, run errands, or return to her career without the hassle of toting along the toddlers. (1)

Of course, they are also quick to point out the academic and social benefits of early education for our children. The research shows that children who are taught their letters and numbers at a young age reach literacy markers earlier and more confidently. But is that an accomplishment that can only be done in a school building? Why can’t a mom teach those skills at home?  

And how do the schools teach? What primary modes of education do they use? Are they modes that a mom could use at home?

On the other hand, what about drawbacks? Are there negative consequences of daycare or early preschool that a mom can avoid for her children by keeping them at home for the early years?

First, let’s first look at the benefits of preschool and see if they are attainable at home as well.

Skills taught
Moms are often quite intimidated by the thought of teaching their children rigorous academic subjects like physics and foreign language or ancient history, but long before those years, what do they actually learn in preschool?

Preschools teach:

  • Numbers
  • Letters
  • Colours
  • Shapes
  • Seasons (2)

If you are counting stairs as you carry your child up to bed, if you are reading good books and playing with fridge magnet alphabets, if you are singing nursery rhymes and playing patty-cake, if you are discussing which colour shirt your child wants to wear, and whether they need to wear a raincoat or a sweater to play outside, then you are well on your way to teaching preschool.

Play-based learning
“But I feel unqualified,” you might say. “Don’t real teachers have some special skills or tricks up their sleeves to do this right?”

Preschools use:

  • Play
  • Naptime
  • Snacktime
  • Crafts and games
  • Dress-up and role-playing
  • Building blocks (3)

Do you have a dress-up box in your playroom? Do you have crayons and Play-doh and Lego? Do you have nap time and snack time?  You are well on your way to teaching preschool.

Negative side-effects
Unfortunately, all is not good news in the research of preschool and early, formal education. Proponents of sending our children to school often speak of what our kids are “missing out on”. Research is beginning to show that not all of what we are ‘missing out on’ is desirable.

Preschool students are often:

  • Bullied
  • Anxious
  • Nervous
  • Poor sleepers
  • Poor sharers
  • Behaviourally challenged
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive (4)

What is the right choice for your family?
Considering the educational and social goals of preschool, and considering the social benefits to preschool, and considering the means through which the schools achieve those goals, do you not see that you could accomplish all of this at home? You certainly are more than adequately skilled to facilitate this kind of learning yourself.

Additionally, there are certainly a multitude of resources available to make this fun and easy for you and your child.(4) There are also so many social opportunities for your child through church groups, social clubs, sports teams, and homeschool co-operatives.  

Consider also the potential negative consequences of sending your child to preschool and decide if it is a risk worth taking at their young age.

Weigh the pros and cons, and then ask yourself what might be holding you back from educating your preschool-aged child. Making a decision about preschooling is a serious task. Not every parent takes time to consider it. You have the option and ability to teach your child at home. Given the research and resources available to you, which decision will you make? http://www.hslda.ca/preschool


 

[1] http://people.howstuffworks.com/preschool2.htm

[2] http://people.howstuffworks.com/preschool3.htm

[3] http://people.howstuffworks.com/preschool3.htm

[4] http://www.parentingscience.com/preschool-stress.html