It’s not mandatory! Enough Already!

I feel like I’ve been asked a million times.  “You don’t send your kids to preschool?  Why not?”

And for the most part, I don’t mind answering the question.  But when the question comes with a tone of voice or attitude that I’m not doing the best for my kids, that’s when I get irritated.  You know, the look or the response that implies that I’m crazy, or maybe just plain stupid.  Obviously I don’t understand that a child these days MUST be stimulated, taught by others, over-scheduled, and expected to be overachievers beginning at age 3.

A few weeks back someone asked me if little A was going to go to 3 year old preschool next year.  I said no.  Then she said, “oh, then you’ll send her when she turns 4.”  I said no.  You could have heard a pin drop.  And the look she gave me.  Ugh.

I felt like saying, “It’s not mandatory.  Enough already!”  But of course, I didn’t.  Instead, I felt obligated to tell her all my reasons why I have chosen not to send my kids to preschool.

Now, I don’t want this post to imply that sending your child to preschool is wrong.  I really don’t feel that way, and I certainly don’t want my opinions to make anyone feel defensive.  It’s just that it seems like society has “decided” that preschool is best and if we choose otherwise, we’re bad parents.  I don’t like the herd mentality that I see when it comes to preschool.  Instead of just doing what everyone else is doing, my husband and I gathered information, assessed our own abilities and life situation, evaluated our kids’ abilities and personalities, and then made a decision.  And we’ve decided preschool just isn’t right for us.

And for the record, here’s why:

  • Before I made this decision, I consulted several kindergarten and preschool teachers.  The majority response was that kids don’t really need preschool to be academically prepared for kindergarten.  The major impact of preschool on many children is learning how to interact with other kids, follow rules, raise their hands, etc. 
  • I really felt that as a mom who has specifically chosen to use my time to be home with my kids, I was best equipped and certainly competent enough to teach my little ones the basic academic concepts they need in kindergarten.  Things like colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes, etc.  Skills like cutting paper, coloring, gluing – all are easy enough when you are interacting with your kids on a daily basis.
  • As far as the socialization part – I think parents can easily teach kids to follow rules at home (hopefully that’s happening anyways!) and be taught how to do things for themselves that they’ll have to do in kindergarten with a little forethought (putting on snow gear by themselves, opening lunch containers, etc.).  If kids are involved in play groups, MOPS groups, or even go regularly to the church toddler/preschool room, they are getting what they need as far as learning to respond to someone other than you and learning how to interact with other children.
  • For me, it felt like sending my kids to preschool was pushing them to grow up too soon.  Let kids be kids!  Five year olds are still kids – and early enough to go to school.  Without any evidence that early learning really provides an advantage in learning past kindergarten, I wasn’t ready to push my kids to grow up any earlier than necessary.
  • I don’t think there is any argument against the fact that kids learn best when they are in a loving, nurturing environment that challenges their skills.  Who better than mom can provide this?
  • Germs.  Enough said.
  • And lastly, I always said I didn’t want to make parenting decisions based on fear.  And the only reason I would lean toward preschool was that little nagging voice (probably the effects of our society) that said to me “if your kids don’t go to preschool, they’ll be behind in kindergarten”.  Well, I told the voice to go stuff it.  As a matter of fact, I have 2 kids who went into kindergarten without preschool experience and according to their teacher they were better prepared than most of the kids in their classes. 

So if you’re getting ready to make preschool decisions, I hope I’ve given you something to think about.  Again, I’m not knocking anyone’s decision to send their kids to preschool – it’s entirely possible that if I was still working I’d have kids in preschool as well.  I’m just encouraging everyone to think it through and make the decision that’s best for your kids without buying into the lie that preschool is a must.  It’s not.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – it’s ok to disagree with me!  What criteria did you use when making your decision, and are you satisfied with it?

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3 thoughts on “It’s not mandatory! Enough Already!

  1. Great discussion Steph! And such perect timing as I’ve been thinkig a great deal about preschool lately. We are still in the “weighing our options” stage. I actually felt pressure to get the kids into a 2 year old playgroup or something since it seems like many do that as well. Of course the thought of schlepping 3 tiny tots into the van and off to a playgroup quickly zapped me back into reality.
    As a former preschool special ed intervtion teacher, one big plus for some children to attend preschool is early screening for behavioral, social, and learning issues. Some parents (and pediatricians) truly don’t recognize delays, and having supports in place prior to K can make a big difference. I also feel that giving a child the experience of listening, responding to, and respecting an adult other than their parent is a great thing at age 3-4. However, like you mentioned, preschool is not the only place this can happen. Another positive I can consider is that preschool is a wonderful stepping stone for children as they adjust to time on task, adjusting to not taking a nap in the afternoone, and being away from mommy. It does seem sudden to go from being home full time to being in K for 5 full days a week.
    On the flip side, I get frustrated to think that I might shell out one or two thousand dollars to send my 3 to preschool when I know full well I could teach them at home. The sickness and germ thing is a big concern for me as well. I also don’t like the idea of locking into a schedule just yet. It’s so great to be able to take our own field trips when we want!

    As you can see, the momma’s conflicted. This has become an area for prayer in my life for sure! Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I think this post is great! I know exactly how you feel about “the looks” I get them often when people hear I stay at home with my kids. As if what I do is not good enough.

    For us we are evaluating each child individually to see what is best for them. My first begged me to go to school, she was shy but really really wanted to go. After looking into it we decided to let her go twice a week for 2 1/2 hrs each day. She started at 3 and did the 4 yr program as well. She did well and thrived!

    My son on the other hand is the same age as your youngest. He is very outgoing and a very quick learner. I have no desire, nor do I feel like I have to/want to send him to preschool. It’s just him and I during the day and I really don’t think he will be attending preschool in the fall. Perhaps I’ll change my mind when he’s 4 but for right now we are both very content.

    I say to each his own. Breastfeed, or bottle feed. Home school, private school, public school. Vaccinate, or not to vaccinate. Stay at home mom or working mom. Women can be so critical about every single decision that others make for their children.
    Lets cut each other some slack and start accepting our differences without judgment.
    There isn’t one perfect way. We were all unique and have unique callings, needs, as well as unique gifts and talents. We all need to evaluate where we are and where are kids are and what’s best for our situation without others making us feel guilty for our choice!

  3. Very well said Andi! I was afraid while on our panel last MOPS meeting that people would feel I was pushing my decision to send my children to public school on them, but all of us feel strongly about the choices we make and should feel free to express our opinions. While my choices may work for me, they may not work for you. But sharing the whys and why-nots of your choices could help someone else to consider a point they’ve never considered before. In the end we should respect people who choose differently.

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