I'm posting simply because I'm curious to learn what people on this forum think about preschool. By preschool, I mean a program that's just a few hours a day and would be used by stay at home parents or parents who work part time. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying daycare is bad, I just want to limit this particular thread to part time preschool.
For my part, I don't think preschool is strictly necessary, but I think it's valuable for kids who are going to go on to a brick and mortar elementary school. I don't think preschoolers should be attending a strict academic program in which they do worksheets, but I think it's wonderful for preschool age children to get used to working with a group and listening to grownups other than their parents. If they also learn some early reading and math skills through play that's great, too.
I sent my son (now 8) to preschool for one morning a week when he was 2.5. It was at a church based preschool that uses mostly volunteer teachers, has parents volunteer on a rotating schedule, and provides a wonderful, caring environment. I hadn't originally thought of sending him before age 3, but many of my friends were sending their two year olds to preschool, so I asked around a bit and thought this one sounded good. My son loved his teachers and learned to be more cooperative and be a better listener, and I got a few hours to run errands without him or just relax when I wasn't volunteering at the school.
My original plan was to send him two mornings a week at age 3 and three mornings at 4, but my plan was disrupted when his speech issues qualified him for five day a week special needs preschool at age three. He'd been receiving speech therapy at home through our state's early intervention program and made very little progress between 2 and 3. After his 3rd birthday (his birthday is in March) he was eligible to begin attending the early start class at our local elementary school. In our district (and possibly all over Kentucky, though I'm not sure about this) early start is a class both for kids with special needs, who can start on their their birthday and for kids whose family income qualifies them for free lunch. The latter group of kids is eligible to attend they year before entering kindergarten. The program is three hours a day five days a week. The morning class goes to school for the first three hours of elementary day and the afternoon class goes for the last three hours. The teacher gets a lunch break in between the two classes. With a mix of kids with varying special needs coming in throughout the year when they turn three and typical kids coming in in the fall at 4 (some with fall birthdays turning 5 shortly into the year) you might think this class would be a disaster. I suppose it might be in some places, but my son's class was absolutely wonderful. The big kids helped out the little kids. All the kids learned to be understanding of the kids with special needs. My son's classmates tried to help him out by translating for him if an adult didn't understand his speech (he had a lot of articulation problems, which didn't improve significantly until first grade) or trying to guess from context what he was trying to say if they didn't understand. Since I wanted to finish the year in the church preschool, I originally sent my son to early start only three days a week. I figured he would attend the other preschool on the 4th day and then have a day off. A little over a month in, my son made it clear that he didn't want to miss the fun of preschool on Fridays, so I started sending him four days a week. He then attended for a full week for two complete school years before beginning kindergarten at the same school. He ended up having a rough kindergarten year academically due to his dyslexia (which we figured out for sure near the end of kindergarten), but I think it would have been much worse if he'd also just been getting used to being away from Mom and listening to a teacher for the first time.
Now I have a two year old daughter, and I've signed her up for preschool one morning a week just like her brother. It's a coop preschool, which means parents volunteer in the classroom, but it's not the same church based school that her brother attended. At this school, parents volunteer approximately the same number of times a month as the number of days their child attends the school. I've flirted with the idea of homeschooling in recent years, and I originally thought I might not send DD to preschool at all but rather just do more intentional preschool activities at home. However, I ultimately decided to send her so that I could have some time to volunteer at her brother's school. I spent a lot of time volunteering when he was there for preschool and during the first 2/3 of his kindergarten year before DD was born, and I really miss it. I've tried to set up some kind of childcare exchange with friends for the past two years so I can get a few free hours to volunteer, but nothing has ever worked out. So this spring I decided to look into preschool programs and fell in love with this one. DD fell in love, too, it seems. The day we visited we were told we could stay as long as we wanted after our tour. We ended up staying for the rest of the morning. DD jumped right into the mix with pleasure. She played at the stations, listened intently during circle time, and joined in with the other kids on the playground. Assuming DD's articulation issues (which are much less severe than her brother's at this age) don't put her in special needs preschool, I think I'll follow the plan I originally made for her brother, sending her for two days at three and three days at four.
At a certain other large online forum, made up mostly of homeschoolers but also including some afterschoolers like me, there's a discussion going on about the value of preschool. The overwhelming agreement is that preschool completely worthless, and possibly even detrimental, for children from stable, loving homes. Even most of the posters who send their kids to school are agreeing. I figured trying to start a counterargument was pointless, so I came here to post instead. I should make it clear that I'm very happy about the preschool choices I've made for my kids and I know lots of people who have done similar things. I'm just always curious to hear the perspectives of people outside of my circle of acquaintance.
If you sent your kids to preschool, why did you make the choice and how do you think it has benefited them? If you didn't send your kids to preschool but did send them to a traditional elementary school, why did you make that choice? When your kids first started kindergarten, did you feel like they were at a disadvantaged compared to their peers who had gone to preschool?