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Preschool: Now, Later, Ever?

Preschool: Now, Later, Ever?

Like many moms of toddlers, Circle of Moms member Autumn S. is worried both about whether she is giving her 3-year-old enough of an education at home and whether it's too soon for him to start preschool. She's asking lots of questions:

“[Our kids] are going to be in school for many years of their lives, should I start now, or wait until next year's pre-school, or just skip preschool and send him to kindergarten? Second, I know it would be good for him to be around other kids and work on his social skills and have a little bit of structure to his day, but I'm just not real sure what I want to do.”

If you're like Autumn, you love spending time with your little one, but you’re beginning to question your teaching abilities and to wonder whether your child needs more social interaction. Does your child really need preschool to enrich his environment and to succeed in kindergarten? And if so, what’s the right age to start preschool? Moms who have already been through this have shared three important considerations that will help you decide what to do.



1. Take Cues From Your Child

Is your child ready? Many Circle of Moms members say that your child will provide the best cues. As Jenni explains of her 3-year-old son Ben, who will be starting preschool when he turns four, both his readiness and his need for preschool are obvious to her. "He's really excited to start," as a result of hearing so much about his step-sister's school activities, and what's more, he has a speech delay that she thinks will be helped by a school environment. 

Robyn, a mom of five, agrees that your child is the best indicator: “I sent my oldest because I was concerned he needed more socialization with other children his age. My second child was sent for the same reason. I discovered some things about the preschool later I was not pleased with and since it was the only one I could afford at the time, I chose not to send my third and fourth children. I taught them at home and was very pleased with their readiness for school. My fifth child needed to go to [a] developmental preschool due to lack of talking.”


2. Research Schools

Circle of Moms member Robyn recommends visiting the kindergartens and preschools your child might attend to help you come up with a plan. At preschools, find out what the entry requirements are. As she explains, "Some preschools are not very tolerant of children who need lots of help with personal skills," like potty training and zipping their own clothes.

Heather S. adds that if you're considering skipping preschool entirely, visiting particular preschools and kindergartens to see for yourself what kids really need to know in order to thrive in these environments will help you think through whether you can prepare your child for kindergarten on your own. “If you would’ve asked me before my son was in kindergarten if preschool was necessary, I would’ve told you no. But “schools have changed a lot since I was in kindergarten (1985). . . .No longer do kids learn socialization skills and have creative play time [in kindergarten], now they are fast-tracked and are learning math, reading, writing, Spanish, music, art, and gym — all in kindergarten and, depending on your school district, all in a half day.”

She's watched many in her son's peer group struggle with kindergarten and even repeat the year. And while repeating kindergarten is not a bad thing, having "a crying, frustrated child who never wants to go to school," is. Now she's glad that she sent her son to preschool because it gave him “a platform to start kindergarten with.”


3. Examine Your Own Capabilities

Like Robyn, Laura S. asked her local grade school what would be required of her child at the start of kindergarten, and when she realized she could not teach it all herself, she decided that preschool was a good idea. Similarly, Jennifer H., who was able to teach her daughter the ABCs, letters, colors and shapes, still found preschool to be invaluable, because “skills like listening, following directions, and waiting your turn are very important and hard to teach at home.”

On the other hand, if you feel like you have the time and knowledge to prepare your child yourself or with the help of friends, preschool may not be necessary. Alisha G. is a mom who plans to home school her children until kindergarten. She says that helpful resources, including activity books that can be found at Wal-mart, are readily available.

If you opt out of preschool, whether for financial or other reasons, many Circle of Moms members suggest organizing play dates with friends and attending activities at the local park or neighborhood library to provide your child with some more structure and opportunities for social interaction.

“As long as you can keep up with your child's social skills outside of the home, she will be fine. . . . There are things you can do for your child inside the home that are just as good if not better than preschool! Lets face it, preschool is expensive and the economy is not great . . . .but that does not mean you're a bad parent because of it!” says Dawn T.

As Crytal H. advises, the right time to start your child in school is when you’re confident that what you’re doing “is right for you and your family." 

At what age are you planning to start your child in preschool, or ar you skipping it?

Image Source: cafemama via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Emilys-Mum Emilys-Mum 5 years
I'm not a teacher and I don't have the patience to sit and teach. I play with my 3.5 year old daughter and very much enjoy being with her and watching her. We sing songs and we dance and do all kinds of things together. The Kindergarten and school she will hopefully be attending in a year and a half, requires the kids to be socialized. If the kids go to pre-school, they are almost guaranteed entry. If they don't attend pre-school, the kids have to go through all kinds of testing, which I totally don't approve of and many don't get accepted. I don't know how other schools are as far as rule with regards to this.
CoMMember13631168226529 CoMMember13631168226529 5 years
It depends on what you are looking for in a preschool. I sent my children to 2 and 3 day programs when they were 3 and 4 years old so they would have an opportunity to socialize with other children their age. I purposely did not look for a preschool with an "academic" agenda. At 3 they don't need to learn to read or write (other than writing their name), there are many skills that prepare them for school without the pressure of "learning" skills that are better left until they are ready for elementary school.
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 5 years
There is no need for preschool unless your child has a learning disability or a speech delay. Definitely work with them at home, but I don't think it needs to be so formal. Simply reading with them often, interacting with them and communicating with them, and letting them play independently as well will be very helpful. It's true most kids love preschool, but remember this--the first five years are so fleeting and you can never have them back. They can learn all they need to be successful in school and life at home.
LisaTanguay LisaTanguay 5 years
I think that at least one year of pre-school is a good idea. Especially if a child has never been in a group setting with other children and structure before. My daughter is in pre-school and will be in a pre-K program next year. My one fear is that she will be bored in school. Since starting pre-school she has come along way socially. She is an only child who up until September had a private at home sitter with only the sitter's daughter to play with. Since they are a day apart they act more like sisters than friends. It was good to seperate them for a few days a week. Both girls are become very independent and they no longer rely on each other for everything when they are together. It is great to see them develop so quickly.
GracesMommy GracesMommy 5 years
I'm lucky to live in a city where preschool is provided free by the city's public school system. I started my daughter when she was 3 (turned 4 in November). I put her in for several reasons but a huge one was the social interaction she can't get at home. Learning to sit still during circle time, stay in line, etc are skills crucial for all of the elementary grades. I've also subbed for kindergarten at the beginning of a school year and could usually tell which children had been to preschool and which hadn't. In preschool all the children are learning school and social skills together for the first time, but a child who starts kindergarten without preschool experience is already behind his peers who were taught school basics in preschool. Keep in mind I'm not talking about educational skills such as knowing letters, numbers, shapes, etc but skills such as waiting your turn, following the teacher's directions, knowing when to sit still, and so on. It's better to learn and practice these skills in preschool rather than in kindergarten where your child could be labeled a troublemaker simply because he didn't know any better.
VickyLewis3534 VickyLewis3534 5 years
i did not send mt oldest child to pre school until he was 4 1/2 yrs old and he had difficulties settling into the structure of school my youngest started and 3 and settled much quicker and found learning easier as he had almost two years in pre school
ElizabethBennett26547 ElizabethBennett26547 5 years
My son was in a preschool that focused on learning through play, and unfortunately, it did not prepare him for kindergarten. He is expected to know his numbers 1-20, his full alphabet, and be able to write sentences. I am fortunate that he's bright, he's learning to read pretty quickly, and I am able to see that I need to spend time with him on learning the right way to write his numbers. Definitely don't skip preschool, but take the time to investigate what they teach in the preschool you place your child in.
MelissaSoule MelissaSoule 5 years
My son is in pre-school for the second year. He loves it! I have seen him grow so much with his teachers' help. He will enter kindergarten knowing how to read and being able to add and subtract. My only fear is that he will be bored and then get in trouble. In some areas where I am (SC), they have an "honors" kindergarten for kids who can read and know their numbers and such. That saddens me, but at the same time, I would rather that be an option than boredom and trouble.
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