What’s the deal with preschool? I’m not setting up a joke. I really want to know.

I didn’t go to preschool as a kid. Maybe that just a 20th century thing (wow, that makes me sound old), or maybe my experience just wasn’t the norm.

My dad was a teacher, and my mom was a librarian. They made sure my sister and I had plenty of educational experiences outside of the classroom. As a matter of fact, I excelled in grade school, despite my lack of a preschool education.

Today it seems like that’s not really an option. Your kid goes to preschool. Period. Or it’s assumed that child will be left behind.

My daughter is a year and a half now, and I’m already feeling pressure to figure out where she’ll go and why and when. There are so many choices: co-op, Montessori, Waldorf, nature-based, alternative language, and the list goes on.

At the end of the month there’s a co-op lottery that I’m planning to attend. Then Szaba will at least be “on a list” for next fall, just in case. I’m told people get to this thing at 5:00am. The doors open at 10:00am, and then you get a lottery ticket. When you’re number is called, you enter a gymnasium, run to the school table of your choice, and try to make the cut. I’m picturing something akin to theΒ the running of the bullsΒ meetsΒ The Hunger Games.

Tell me from your personal experience: What preschool styles do you like and dislike, and why? How do you think your kids have been affected by the preschool choices you made? Is it really that important? What am I missing here that I need to know?

What IS the deal with preschool?

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10 thoughts on “Preschool?

  1. Okay, Seinfeld, here’s how/why we ended up sending our kid to preschool. She’s been at the same place since she was 13 months old. The place is run like a daycare for the littlest of littles and as they get older (our kid will be 5 next month) they start to work on simple writing and math. and, as I know you know but I’ll say it here for anyone who doesn’t know us, it’s all in Japanese. Because our kid is half-Japanese, the language component was huge for us. And it will continue to be as we try to get her into one of the immersion schools in town. Besides the language component, there are practical reasons. Our kid is an “only” so we thought she would benefit from the socialization starting at an early age (and she has). Further, her mother and I both work so we needed to put her some place where she would be well taken care of during the day and didn’t want to have to depend on a single full-time nanny.

    I went to preschool when I was 4 and I’m reasonably certain it’s because there were 8 kids in my family and my mom had to go back to work so she needed to do something with me during the day. So that’s what I know about preschool.

    1. That’s a great point about socialization, Philip. As a matter fact, I’m currently looking to switch our two days per week of child care from in-home nanny to day care for that exact reason.

      From what I’m gathering, day care and preschool are basically the same thing, often in the same facility? One (day care) is just for younger kids and therefore has less learning-specific activities?

  2. You are doing such a beautiful job on your My Castle Heart postings! Can’t imagine how touched Sue would be to read these. (Ah, but she is!) I have not had children, so I’m not a good one to say, but I think pre-school came into being when both parents started working outside the home. Now, you’re right. There’s so many options, and although sometimes I think it’s too much too soon, youngsters seem to thrive. My feeling is it’s more important to socialize you children. And no matter where they go, they do become social! My step-granddaughter did not start walking until she began day care/pre-school. In 2 days, she was walking! There’s my example. You are doing a fabulous job with Szaba. You should start your own pre-school!!

  3. Here is my advice from a “How to Have Your Second Child First” perspective: Don’t sweat so much about learning styles. It’s preschool. It should be a warm, safe, fun, and intriguing environment for your child. You should get a good feeling about the place and it would be nice if the teachers are engaged, seem really interested in their work, and have been there a while so you don’t end up with a revolving door. It should be a schedule, location, and price that works for your whole family. Beyond these factors, I think the details matter not a whit. I drove my first kid across town, and picked my second kid’s school by convenience and a schedule that meshed with kid #1. Both worked out fine. Ditto for when you start. Start when it feels right and when it’s the best choice for both you and Szaba; don’t get sucked into the pressure. I have never done one of those Hunger Games frenzies and have found solid preschools just the same. And I also know friends who went straight from babysitters to Kindergarten and everything worked out fine,too. The more important thing than what school you choose–and this continues on for many years–is that your child has a healthy, supportive environment at home. If that’s the case (as we know it is!), they will be social, eager to learn, confident, and well-adjusted. Everything else comes out in the wash.

  4. I think you’re right about how preschool has risen in popularity, Martha. And as I commented to Philip, the socialization is definitely the biggest plus in my book. Right now we share a nanny two days a week with another girl three months younger than Szaba, and it’s been wonderful just seeing how they relate, differ, and interact. However, Szaba adores any opportunity to be around slightly older kids, so I think having a wider variety of interactions and experiences would be both beneficial and enjoyable for her.

    By the way, thank you so much for the kind words about the blog. When I’m typing away about my thoughts here at home, it can feel isolating sometimes. I wonder if anyone is getting anything positive out of it (as I wholeheartedly intend), and it’s good to know that people are. If nothing else, it’s been highly therapeutic for me. I figure, something that feels this right can’t be wrong, right? Sue is definitely inside cheering me on, too. But you knew that already. πŸ˜‰

  5. Fantastic (and wonderfully sane) advice, Kerry, as always. I’m curious: Were you like this with your first daughter, so naturally calm and self-assured? Or was it something you didn’t develop until your second? Regardless, thanks for passing it on to the rest of us.

  6. I have really strong opinions on this. I would happily share them over email. I study preschool, and Z started preschool this year. Socialization is overrated for very young kids, at least from a research-based perspective (not knocking that it is in fact important for some kids).

  7. Angela, I love your blog! So happy we’re friends on FB. I feel like I really know you even though we only spent that one weekend together a few years ago (thanks Margo)!

    I know how you’re feeling about preschool; I was thinking the exact same thing 4 years ago!

    We decided on Montessori and it changed our outlook on schools overall. We LOVE the program for multiple reasons. Happy to give more details offline.

  8. Pre-school education aims to encourage children aged between two and five years old to learn, play and develop. It should build on the learning that takes place in a child’s home and should also prepare the child for primary school.

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