or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › The value of preschool
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The value of preschool

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

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?

post #2 of 27
I'm curious what was considered detrimental about preschool?

I think for children who will be attending elementary school, preschool can be beneficial. I've worked for several public elementary schools and there tends to be a big difference between those kids who attended preschool vs. those who did not. I'm talking socially. Unfortunately, kindergarten is so academically focused that there is minimum focus on social and emotional development. A preschool that focuses on social development can help jump start this for kids. They are also generally more comfortable with school routines. Forget "academics." Kids need learn how to play with other kids. This skill is lacking at an alarming rate.

Social development can certainly be fostered without preschool, but a real effort needs to be made. Kids who aren't around other kids are at a social disadvantage, especially those who are already prone to social insecurity. I know homeschoolers tend to make an effort to foster social development and I believe this should start as early as possible.
post #3 of 27

Preschool isn't necessary... doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable and positive.


DD went to preschool the year prior to kindergarten. She went 2 mornings a week (for 2 hours each time.) DD was a very advanced preschooler with some overwhelming perfectionist tendencies. I'd just given birth to her little brother. Her playgroup friends had all started preschool the year prior and so not as many gatherings. The timing was perfect. She attended a little rec center program with a wonderful teacher who handled her perfectionism beautifully. DD took a great deal of pride in the activities she did independently of me. She loved having stories to share at the dinner table that were her own. At 16, she still looks at the experience fondly.


DS was a handful. Very intense. Extremely extroverted in a family of introverts. A host of sensitivities to his name (for which he eventually had occupational therapy for.) He and I were having a really difficult time. I was very against multiple years of preschool but at almost 3, he wandered into a preschool classroom at the community center and fell in love. We gave it a try and wow, what a difference it made for all of us. He calmed and was far more manageable and satisfied at home. He finally had the large group social interaction he craved but with the structure he needed (he did not like playgroup.) I have no shame in saying it was a benefit for me too. It gave me the break I needed to recollect myself and also to work in DD's kindergarten class. Life improved for all of us.


I taught preschool for a few years in a district program for underprivileged kids. Lots of benefits. There were some kids from fantastic families just down on their luck. Those kids were fine. Many of our kids started as non-English speakers though and the value of learning the language prior to kindergarten increased their overall success tremendously. Some of our English speaking kids were from difficult situations, being raised by grandparents, been in and out of foster care. Some didn't own books or crayons. Some spent more time in the care of older siblings and TV than with parents. There is a ton kids learn through experience and environment that you just take for granted. It's hard to think of how a 4-year-old can be "behind" until you meet one. Certainly, I've seen the sort of impact a preschool program can have.


Neither of my kids needed preschool. They were both started well ahead of the curve academically. They both came from a solid family home. They just liked it and to me, that's benefit enough.

post #4 of 27

My eldest did preschool for a year -- two hours two or three times a week. In her case I wouldn't say it was exactly detrimental, but I do think it was a stress that affected her negatively. She was extremely shy and introverted and way ahead of the curve academically. I put her in preschool to see if she could acclimate to a school-like environment separate from home in preparation for KG. She did settle in and cope, but the coping cost her in the form of a huge amount of stress. She internalized it well; I didn't hear about it until afterwards. But she became mute outside of our home, and developed some sleep difficulties and spent every moment there counting the minutes until I would arrive to pick her up. All while smiling and compliantly participating in whatever was asked of her. The teachers thought she was fine. In fact she was miserable, bu putting on a great act -- except for her mutism.


For our family it was manageable but it added complications. It cost money. It increased our challenges: I had two younger children to get up and dressed and into the car twice every preschool morning. It took forethought to ensure that eldest was well-rested and given the transition time she needed to cope with heading out the door. 


None of my other three kids went to preschool. They're all sociable, bright, thriving children who have lots of maturity and exemplary group / classroom behaviour. I'm pretty sure that my two youngest wouldn't have suffered from stress and separation anxiety the same way as my eldest did. But we had a good thing going at home with lots of sibling play, friends, outdoor experiences and child-friendly resources, and I just didn't see the point. In our case we ended up homeschooling (unschooling, actually) during the K-8 years, so I definitely don't see the necessity of institutional schooling for children during preschool, or beyond for that matter. But as to whether it could be enjoyable and enriching, or stressful and detrimental, that would depend entirely on the child, the family and the preschool.



post #5 of 27

I think preschool is just fine, even fun, for a lot of kids.  I don't think it's NECESSARY for most kids. 


My daughter didn't go to preschool and I didn't really push academics on her at home.  She had some interest in sciency things and letters so we just let her run with that, we always have craft stuff around, etc.  She had no problems adapting to kindergarten and she was the only child in her class who hadn't been to preschool.  She was also one of the few who didn't cry on the first day and got in the car smiling every afternoon.  Academically, she was ahead of the pack and still is.  Socially, she's fine.  She adapted with no problems to all the routines and expectations.


Not going to preschool has been a total non-issue even though everyone in the WORLD went out of their way to tell me I was holding her back and she'd struggle in kindergarten.  She took right to it, never got in trouble, never asked to stay home.  Everything went fine.

Preschool is crazy expensive in this area and where we lived before, there were no half day or three day a week programs.  I just wasn't ready to send my four year old off all day, every day.  When weighing the cost (financial and time) against the benefit, we decided to skip it. 

post #6 of 27

Not necessary, and imo not worth the money and stress of tuition if it is a financial hardship.  


My oldest did preschool, but I barely took her anymore by the second half of the year, because I didn't feel she was really benefitting and I preferred to keep her home.


My middle son did no preschool.  (and is just fine now in Kindergarten)


My youngest does preschool because he REALLY benefits from it.  He has a language disorder and some sensory stuff and being in preschool has helped him make tremendous progress over the year.  Necessary?  No, not really, but I know he wouldn't have made nearly as much progress in the year's time without it.  For him, it is definitely worth it.

post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies! As I said in my post, I think preschool, while not strictly necessary, can be fun and beneficial, especially if a child is going into a traditional kindergarten. I agree that there are some kids for whom preschool will be detrimental because of personality issues, but I think it's only a small percentage of kids. I think the main reason people on the other forum thought it would be detrimental is because their impression of (and I'm sure sometimes their experience with) preschool is of preschools that push heavy academics on little kids. Sure, there are a few kids who are ahead of the curve in both academic and fine motor skills and might enjoy doing worksheets, but that's not appropriate for preschoolers in general. Unfortunately, there are schools out there that work that way.


Back in the day when kindergarten was normally only a half day program and mostly about learning social skills, preschool was even less necessary. Now that kindergarten on the whole is pretty academic, I think at least a year of preschool before kindergarten is helpful for most kids, though still not strictly necessary. I think the average kid will benefit from going into kindergarten with some experience in a classroom environment and with kids outside of their family. That doesn't mean kids from stable families who don't go to preschool are doomed. I think it does mean, though, that some of them will have a harder time adjusting to school than did their classmates who went to preschool.


When it comes down to it, though, by the time they get to first grade or, at most, second grade, everything has evened out. I could look at my son's K class and tell you which kids had definitely never been away from their parents in a structured environment before. There's no way I could tell which kids in his second grade class didn't go to preschool.


The way I look at it is, if there's an affordable part time preschool program in your area and you like it, it won't hurt, and might help, to send your kid for a year or two even three.

post #8 of 27

Short answer... I don't see preschool as necessary or even beneficial in the long run.  Our kids did have a positive experience with preschool though.


It certainly doesn't have any long term academic benefit, unless the kid comes from a home where the parents don't read etc.

post #9 of 27

As far as the social benefits of preschool, I'm not so sure there is a guarantee.  For one, if the kid is simply not at the developmental stage where they can easily get along with others and follow rules, preschool really isn't going to help it, and might just make the situation worse. 


Most kids of my generation didn't attend preschool.  What makes it necessary now, when it wasn't before?

post #10 of 27
From the studies that I have read it seems social skills and behavior generally are at risk of decline but math and reading skills are increased temporarily. Age of preschool enrollment and hours attended were significant in some results.
post #11 of 27
Asiago, I'd be very interested in reading those studies! Do you have links or references? Thanks!
post #12 of 27
There so many studies but the UC Berkeley study stands out because it had children of various socioeconomic groups. Where as the Highscope Perry, Abe Cedarian and Chicago Child Parent studies were of severely impoverished children. There are so many studies though. I do think the UC Berkeley one though was well rounded and thorough.

post #13 of 27
Thanks for the topic. We have our son enrolled in a preschool program for the fall...but now I don't think it's necessary. I stay at home and plan to homeschool. I feel confident that I'm providing him what he needs with activities and what not. We're all different and with different circumstances. Trust your instincts, you know your children best. :-)
post #14 of 27
I really think it depends on the child. Its my daughter's first week at pre k and she loves it so far. She is four and she has one of those personalities who loves to be social. I was able to tell she was beyond ready. She basically tells me to leave during the drop off and doesnt want to come home during pickup. Certainly not a necessary thing but an enjoyable social setting for her.
Edited by ParadigmShift - 8/28/13 at 1:53pm
post #15 of 27

My 2 cents...


Is it beneficial? Possibly. Kids will learn in a nurturing and stimulating environment. There are certainly trade-offs in sending them to preschool vs in a nurturing home and vice versa.

Is it necessary? For a typically developing child, no. For a child that may have delays, possibly.

Was my child at a disadvantage for not attending preschool? Absolutely not. My child is several grades ahead academically in all areas. Socially, he is self-assured and does not succumb to peer pressure. He has friends and plays with them but also respects the time when he feels he needs to be playing alone. He is able to follow instructions, complete tasks and immerse himself into the culture of the classroom without losing himself.


My reasons for not sending my kids to preschool are two-fold. Primarily that I wanted to spend more time with my kids and financially, it would be tight for us. There are free preschools in our area though that have awesome programs but I felt like home was the right place for them before they're off to kindergarten.

post #16 of 27
Originally Posted by Asiago View Post

There so many studies but the UC Berkeley study stands out because it had children of various socioeconomic groups. Where as the Highscope Perry, Abe Cedarian and Chicago Child Parent studies were of severely impoverished children. There are so many studies though. I do think the UC Berkeley one though was well rounded and thorough.


Wow! I finally read these articles. I realize that we all have different circumstances...but I'm thankful and grateful that I stay home with my kids. I'm glad we decided to do preschool at home. Thank you for sharing.
post #17 of 27
Thread Starter 

I noticed that this thread had recently been updated, so I skimmed the reference articles. Unless I missed something major in my skimming, it seems those studies are of full time daycare, not of the kind of part time preschool this thread referenced. Don't let studies like that scare you away from part time preschool if you think it would be a good thing for your family.

post #18 of 27

in our case preschool was very detrimental for dd.


however i will say it was a ps AND daycare situation. it was a fantastic place. dd learnt sooo much. she hated being away from me (so when i was off work dd only went part time so for the ps time of it).


it was a non academic ps which taught a LOT thru science experiments and art projects. really unique out of the box kinda thing. 


when dd started k, at the end of 3 days she was done with school. she hated school. she remembered her ps days. where is the art, where is the music, where are the science experiments. she begged me to send her back to ps and let her do preK there and then go onto first. 


to date dd's attitude to school is 'i come to school to party, i go home to study'.  even tho dd is in a v. challenging program and in 6th grade - school is nothing like her ps. 


i hope dd enjoys education when she goes to college (her interest will take her to college which she wants to pursue). 


if dd hadnt gone to that ps/dc she probably might have been more open to school learning. 

post #19 of 27
Maybe I missed this somewhere, but isn't the biggest advantage of sending children to preschool/daycare, the ability for parents to obtain employment outside the home? I know people like to taut preschool as something that children directly benefit from, but I think the money from employment that provides financial stability for the family as being the biggest benefit for a lot of families.
post #20 of 27

...preschool part time, never full time. If its  fulltime, its for the parents. Dont try to  tell me that a child of 2, 3 and 4 needs to be in school all day every day....


Oh yes, the whole 'social development' thing i think is baloney. However, its a nice way to find playmates.

Edited by contactmaya - 10/13/13 at 8:17am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Learning at School
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › The value of preschool