When my first child was small I did not even consider pre-school because when I was a child there was no such thing. I was aware that it was an option but I assumed it was a place for kids whose mothers were working and wanted to give them more than just day care.
I did put my girl in Kindergarten and she was just fine. I had heard that many people put their children in pre-school so that they could get socially acclimated and the separation from their parents would not be so difficult. My girl did not even hardly look back as she waved me goodbye and ran off to be with new friends.
I was severely reprimanded however when she went into the first grade and her best friend could already read and she could not. She informed me that the little girl had learned in pre-school and she wanted to know exactly why I had neglected to let her go when she was four! I explained that she was quite happy at home with her cousins and that I did put her in Kindergarten. She told me that they did not teach you to read in Kindergarten, just pre-school. Boy was I in trouble.
So when my son came along I had to think it through carefully. He was a very social child, almost too social, but he did have trouble sitting still and listening so I decided it might be a good idea this time. Plus I did not want to get in trouble again. But since he was so active we decided to send him to a pre-school that used music as one of their primary learning tools. It was a small converted house with about ten or twelve children in each half day session. They were constantly playing soothing music in the background and they had a couple of birds and a few small pets around as well. The lady in charge had a very calming demeanor which really seemed to keep everyone very relaxed. Part of everyday was spent playing with musical instruments and learning about music. My son loved it.
However, I am not sure it was the best choice to prepare our son for entering Kindergarten. We decided, because of where we lived and our choice of public schools, that we would put him in a private Christian school nearby. The curriculum was fast paced and left very little time for free time. For children who are not quite ready to sit still and learn it was extremely difficult, my son being one of those children. I thought that he might just not be mature enough so I kept him back in Kindergarten a second time. Something which he has not yet forgiven me for all these years later!
I really think when it comes to deciding if you should put your child in pre-school you have to take the child’s personality into consideration. I do think that it might be a good idea if the child is having a hard time interacting with other children or that they may have separation anxiety. The half days would be so much easier than the full days on the child. Also, if the child is a child that is inquisitive and loves to learn it would be a good idea as well.
What really needs to be considered is what type of pre-school it is and where their focus is. We thought our son may get used to a structured setting by being in a relaxed atmosphere but in hind sight it might have been better to start him out in a more structured pre-school. Although in our son’s case I believe that there was no real great choice since schools with an open concept and the ability to move around as you learn are not plentiful. Boys (and some girls) would benefit from the ability to have more hands on training and more freedom to move.
Although pre school is not the only option for helping your child start their education off on the right foot. Many children find that one on one care, like from a nanny or tutor can help them learn and be on par or above their peers when they enter primary school. Others see socialization as the number one priority for pre school but that can also be found in play dates and mother’s day out programs.
Depending on what your child’s needs are, you should try to find a preschool or alternative that meets their needs. While structure is important, sometimes other needs take priority.
Keep in mind that primary school also has options. Private or public, home school and online education are options that you may consider, especially if your child has special needs or learning difficulties. Some children are just not cut out for sitting still and taking tests. This does not mean they are not smart and cannot be successful in life, it just means you have to work hard to find an education that fits their needs.
As I look back on my education I can see where an alternative school might have helped me be a better student and value education rather than go to school for friends and to graduate. I saw both my children struggle with the test mentality that many schools these days have and I wish I had know of the alternatives they could have participated in. While standardized tests are important for some things, it should not be the end goal of education to test well.
Another problem I wanted to touch on was the ADHD epidemic, especially with little boys. As I mentioned, my son was very active and hadtrouble in standard education. He was labeled ADHD at a very young age, which I fought for many years. Yes, children may have more energy or trouble sitting still but that does not always require medication. Sometimes teachers and schools need to be flexible and help children to cope with the issue rather than medicate away the symptoms.
Later on in his education my son did get on medication and it helped his grades for a while, but he hated not feeling like himself. Eventually he got off the medicine and we worked with his teachers to allow him to test in a distraction free zone and move around more in class. As he got older he was better able to cope with his energy and changes in diet and activity helped also.
While pre-school may be a good option for your child, make sure you know what you are getting them into. You don’t want to make them dread going to school. However some children also need a ‘practice run’ to get used to the idea of going to Kindergarten. A half day or short program might be just the thing to help them get used to the idea.
From pre-school to high school, as a parent you want to do what is best for your child. The best way to do that is to know your options and get to know the schools and teachers. Go to open house and see what the classes are like. Meet the teachers, talk to the administration and get a feel for what your child will experience. You may open your eyes to things you never expected and you will be able to make a better informed decision about your child’s introduction to education.