Will not sending my kids to preschool doom them to poverty, prison, drug addictions, despair, etc?
August 7, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Will not sending my kids to preschool doom them to poverty, prison, drug addictions, despair, etc?

A combination of cost and cynicism as well as an ability not to need to is basically what's keeping us from sending the kids to preschool. They are smart, hitting all the checkboxes developmentally for their ages, etc. We provide a somewhat stimulating environment at home. Yet when I hear Planet Money or American Radioworks or other radio shows I love wax poetic about the Perry Preschool Project and how the single most important educational thing you can do for a (impoverished inner city) child in their entire whole life is send them to preschool, I start thinking I might as well be bringing up my kids in a crack house while cooking meth in their bedroom. To preschool or not to preschool is the question - but not a very easy one to objectively answer I think. What does the hive mind say? Everyone here seems brilliant - tell me you didn't go to preschool and you're well adjusted and not in prison, only go to therapy once a month, etc. 'Cause I did go to preschool, and, let's face it, I might have a job but, you know, I ain't winnin' no Noble Prizes. Thanks y'all.
posted by idzyn to Education (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I ain't winnin' no Noble Prizes. Yet!

I think you're fine. Lots of kids don't go to preschool. I am certain there are other factors at play here too. It isn't either/or.
posted by ian1977 at 7:10 PM on August 7, 2011

You are clearly perceiving an essential truth.

Preschool is more transformative for kids in environments which are verbally and sensorially poorer. That's because the experiences offered them there better approach the developmental experiences offered in a complex and stimulating family environment. If you are verbal with your kids, if you provoke their thinking, read to them, work on things like categories, colors, numbers, if you bring them into contact with other kids and teach basic social skills like taking turns, sharing, and introducing themselves, then...

...they're not missing anything.

The worst thing that might happen is that they'll be a bit behind on socialization, accepting the slings and arrows that come with interacting with other humans. But as you say, if they're hitting the "developmental checkmarks," then they can certainly wait until kindergarten.

They're lucky kids. The reason preschool is so essential for impoverished kids is that their home lives don't always offer the kinds of learning experience your children are receiving.
posted by Miko at 7:11 PM on August 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

I'm assuming your not raising your child in an "impoverished inner city lifestyle" so many of the reasons they that kind of education would be revolutionary for those kids probably doesn't apply to you. Those kids, probably, don't have parents who read to them and take them to playgroups and worry about their development to the extent you do. Its comparing apples to oranges.

Being a parent is a hard job don't stress to much. Many people don't go to preschool and turn out just fine.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:11 PM on August 7, 2011

The biggest effect is for children from very difficult backgrounds. It helps them catch up to children in middle-class, intact homes.

It also gives stay-at-home parents a break, but if you're not interested in that, so be it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:12 PM on August 7, 2011

You can do just fine without preschool, and if they participate in a kid's music class, sport, or other group activity now and again they'll easily learn the social skills that they'll need when they go to kindergarten.

Also, read to them a lot, fill your house with books of all sorts, and let your kids see you reading for pleasure. That makes a huge difference.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:13 PM on August 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not necessary. But a lot of parents choose it because it gets their kid ready to do kindergarten when the time comes. Otherwise, it's a big adjustment.

If you, your SO and your doctor agree, then screw preschool. The kids'll be fine!
posted by guster4lovers at 7:14 PM on August 7, 2011

Also -- there are lots of different kinds of preschools out there. I found a really gentle, playgroup-style preschool where the maximum school day was just three hours long. My kid did that only three days a week. So it doesn't have to be five days a week, 9am to 5pm. Just FYI.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:15 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a topic that has different perspectives, and I think it's related to "when should I send my kid to school" which might help your googling.

I have the belief, which is backed up by observations of a small data set (ie people I know well) that it is ok to send kids to preschool, and it is also ok to not send kids to preschool.

I reckon that the schedule and structure of school, if inflicted on a child (especially a boy?) too early can make the child hate school forever.

However, the fun and play aspect of pre-school along with the big bonus of social interaction can give a kid confidence, teach a kid how to get along well with peers, teach a kid it's ok if they don't get their own way all the time.

If you're providing that social interaction with play dates, taking kids to the park etc, and letting them be exploring learning minds on their own, then why pay for someone to do it for you?
posted by titanium_geek at 7:16 PM on August 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

I didn't go to preschool. My mom (who is an elementary school teacher) made sure I had a stimulating learning environment at home. I was reading when I started kindergarten at four, well ahead of my classmates who all went to traditional preschool.
posted by phunniemee at 7:16 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: And as a testament to my parenting prowess, a group of internet strangers have totally erased my fears of permanently socio-economically damaging my children. You guys rawk. Thanks.
posted by idzyn at 7:20 PM on August 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Do remember though, school isn't all about skills learning. It's at least 50% learning to be with others in a structured environment. I agree with others that playgroups, music classes, Mommy/Daddy & me programs, library storytimes etc will help build that skill area.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not necessary. My second-youngest sister never spent a day in preschool or public school, and while far from perfect, is no criminal. If you look at all of us siblings and cousins together (8 kids in all) it's quite obvious that the educational similarities and differences have nothing at all to do with what kind of building we spent daylight hours in, and who was there besides our own relatives, between the ages of 2 and 5.

If anything I'd say the two who went to daycare starting at age 6 weeks are slightly worse off socially - certainly they got a lot more sick as kids, and are far more heavily influenced by their peers - compared with the rest of us. Some of us did a year or two of preschool, one did two years of daycare and then kindergarten, and three never spent any time outside of the home before school, including the one who didn't ever go to school at all.

I'm one of the middle-grounders; my mom didn't work till my parents divorced, and then I alternated amongst daycare, preschool, and hanging out with Grandma till I started school at age 4. My problems have a lot more to do with being a child of divorce than my early schooling, in part because I was, e.g., reading before I got there.
posted by SMPA at 7:23 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to preschool, but I was a poor city kid. I think it's one of the reasons I was reading and writing (short sentences, my full name) by kindergarden. Now, I'm not winning any noble prizes either, but I have a successful job in academia and am a published poet. I'm no dunce. However, my parents COULD NOT have provided an experience similar to preschool. I would have definitely started proper school at a different level if I had not gone to preschool. If you are able to provide a socially and educationally stimulating environment at home, I'd say you are fine.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:28 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't go to preschool. I'm nearing 40 with a job, a good relationship and no therapy (yet).

Mom didn't send me because she was a stay at home Mom and wanted me with her. (And we were pretty low on funds.) But I had books and toys and alphabet letter magnets and records and all sorts of things to keep me thinking.

We didn't do group music classes or reading groups or neighborhood playdates. The only exposure to other kids my age was the cousins at family parties. Evidently, that was enough to make sure I wasn't a gibbering feral child on the first day of kindergarten.

Your kids will be fine.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:50 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have three children. The first went to a really really laid back preschool that my friend down the road was holding. It was super inexpensive and my daughter went twice a week for two hours. We signed her up because she wanted to go and be out and about - not because we expected her to learn stuff. And really, I don't think she learned very much. She went in already knowing what was being taught. She went because it was a fun thing to do. She did great in kindergarten - but not because of any previous preschool, in my opinion.

My second child (son) had absolutely no interest in going to preschool. So we didn't sign him up. He's a real homebody and thrives at home. I did casually do a little preschool lesson for him once or twice a week (basically showing him a different letter or number each day and then doing an activity related to the letter or number). He started kindergarten with zero preschool and zero social skills related to preschool. And he did great! There was absolutely no adjustment period for him. At that point he was just ready and by giving him a comfortable enriching environment at home, I think he was more secure going into kindergarten than if we had forced him into a preschool setting.

My third (son) has had difficulty with speech so qualified for preschool to help him with that. Had he not had speech difficulties I would not have put him in a preschool. I don't know if preschool was the best for him. He went each time, but never really wanted to. He graduated out of it. His speech is better now, but not sure if that was just time doing its thing or whether his preschool helped. But now that he knows what school is like, he's not looking forward to kindergarten at all (he starts on Wednesday). But, he's ready for kindergarten - however I don't think it's because of preschool. The biggest strides I saw in his progress took place over the summers and when he was at home.

I'm not a huge fan of preschool as an academic learning experience and may even not be the best for the social aspect in certain situations. It was great for my first, because she's so social and independent. But it would not have been good for my second because he just needed extra time at home. It took him longer to feel secure. But once kindergarten presented itself, he adjusted awesomely. For my third, I feel it was unnecessary, and actually made him more clingy and now dreading kindergarten.

Just a data point - my kids have all gotten very high grades in school. They have many friends and are very well adjusted.

So . . . in short, I don't think preschool is necessary. It can be fun for them though and it's nice to have a little break from the kids once in a while. But not sure if the price of most preschools is worth it.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:54 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did go to preschool. I'm still jobless and socially maladroit.

I think, like everyone else, that if you provide the same things that preschool provides, and you aren't leaving them in playpens while you shoot heroin, they will be okay.
posted by millipede at 7:55 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a recent podcast interview with John Taylor Gatto, a New York State Teacher of the Year, he mentions his dislike of email and prefers snail mail. Go ahead and ask him this question in the traditional format. Address here:

John Taylor Gatto
235 West 76th Street (14E)
New York City, New York 10023
Fax 212 721-6124

I can't think of a better person to ask this question of, having run into his interviews over and over again on disparate podcasts of differing focus - so he's pretty well respected - he's kinda the Go To on education and society issues if you want your kids to be grounded and well educated.
posted by jbenben at 7:57 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

The biggest effect is for children from very difficult backgrounds. It helps them catch up to children in middle-class, intact homes.

I've read a bit on the subject and this accords with my understanding.
posted by grobstein at 7:57 PM on August 7, 2011

No, they will be fine. Go to the library instead, maybe get the cool game "Math War" to drill addition and subtraction in a year or two.

I didn't go to pre-school, but my mom took me to the public library weekly and I now have a masters degree. (Here that Doug Ford?) And we had crack dealers in our apartment lobby.
posted by jb at 8:03 PM on August 7, 2011

They've already got 12 years of school (and probably more) coming up.

I wouldn't sweat skipping pre.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:03 PM on August 7, 2011

Here's another dirty little secret: There is NO DIFFERENCE, in terms of intelligence and academic achievement, by fifth grade between the children who are reading at age 2 and the children who don't start reading until age 7. NO DIFFERENCE.

Plus if you're cooking meth in their bedrooms, they're probably learning a lot of chemistry and math.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 PM on August 7, 2011 [13 favorites]

Was going to add that no amount of pre-K pre-learning of math or letters or whatever really results in vast differences by even Grade 2. Developmental timelines differ, but most kids of normal intelligence coalesce into the mean skill level in the primary grades.

Former K-1-2 teacher here. No big difference. Please don't obsess about Baby-Mozarting them. Doesn't do anything. A rich environment with lots of varied experiences and plenty of talk, talk, talk and noticing of the world does. Skill & drill, not so much.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I never went to preschool and I'm a beautiful independent woman with a great credit score, hard worker and am living my dreams I wished for since I was of preschool age.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:39 PM on August 7, 2011

I think the most common reason people send their kids to preschool is so that the caretaker parent can work.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:44 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's another dirty little secret: There is NO DIFFERENCE, in terms of intelligence and academic achievement, by fifth grade between the children who are reading at age 2 and the children who don't start reading until age 7. NO DIFFERENCE.

I'm not saying I disagree, but could you provide a source for that information?
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:45 PM on August 7, 2011

Its great to sent impoverished inner city kids to preschool because there is a higher likelihood that they don't have parents at home providing a stimulating environment for them. But your kid does! So don't worry about it. Maybe take him to the odd group class thing so your kid is used to interacting with other kids, but yeah... don't worry.
posted by Kololo at 8:50 PM on August 7, 2011

I'm sure you'll get tons of people who will say I/my child didn't go to preschool and I/my child turned out fine. On the flip side I'm sure there are lots of people who sent their middle-class child to preschool and they actually benefit from it. I think for some kids it can be great. But is it necessary when there's a supportive, engaged caregiver at home with the child? I doubt it.

I went to a preschool fair recently where all the local preschools have tables set up to give you an overview of their programs and all the parents hover and fret in circles around the tables and try to make their child sound appealing to the schools' directors. It was all very fraught and, truthfully, pretty horrible.

I went with the idea that I would get some idea of what preschool was for and how my child could benefit. She's currently in part-time daycare and I couldn't figure out if there was a reason to switch her to preschool at some point. The one person that I asked these questions of looked very concerned at my ignorance of how beneficial and important preschool was for our then-18 month old daughter. Due to my questions and concerns she suggested I enroll in their Intro to Preschool classes where all my questions would be answered to which all I could respond was "What? You want us to go to Pre-Pre-School?" And then we went home and read books with our daughter and pledged to never subject ourselves to the overly anxious competitive preschool admissions circus. We may still have her go to preschool for the year before kindergarten but I think mainly it will be just as a new and fun thing to do and it will be at a place a few blocks away that we already know about.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:51 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

My daughter is three and just wrote her first letter. Okay, so it was "Dear Grandma and Grandpa [crayon drawings] Love Childsname," but, you know, it was a letter, and she had no problem going up to the post office counter and buying a stamp so she could mail it. She has memorised Yeats, Stevie Smith, and Shakespeare. She is big into ancient Egypt, sharks, dinosaurs, and hand sewing.

I am not anti-preschool but I don't know that it's going to be that valuable to go and hang out somewhere where an adult might attempt to help her figure out which things are blue and which things are green. I will be homeschooling for somewhat similar reasons.

I might feel differently if we were a bit isolated, but the kid has a horde of small friends nearby, and, at this point, more adult friends than I do. So we've got the socialising bit down pretty well, too.

IIRC (too tired to look it up) have some studies not come to the conclusion that the benefits of preschool for kids whose parents really are at the cooking-meth-while-kids-are-in-playpens level are not even particularly long-lasting? Great little boost for kindergarten, meaningless a few years later?

Which is not to hate on preschool; I think I enjoyed my time drawing pictures there well enough. I still remember the light bulb going on over my head as the teacher showed me how to draw curtains! I might briefly enroll my daughter in a co-op that lets parents volunteer, but she is not big on the idea that I might not be there on some days, and it has so far worked out superlatively to listen to the kid above all else. Do your kids even want to go to preschool? Ask...!

I have been leafing through The Unschooling Handbook and you might find it a good read, just to get a little "Oh, wait. They already ARE learning. I AM teaching them" confidence refresher. No preschool is going to take my daughter to another city's museum to see mummies, or read her more Yeats; you will do wonders if you just grab shark books from the library when you catch your kid being curious about sharks.

A final note: some modern "preschools" are just crappy, dishonest daycares. Viz The Goddard School, a franchised "preschool for children six weeks to six years old." Preschool...six-week-olds. You can be confident that the overall quality will be in line with the overall honesty. Some of those places charge whopping amounts, and admittedly some have some pretty amazing equipment. However. I think my preschool, a city-run affair where an activity very popular with the students was "Put on a garbage bag with head/neck holes to protect your clothes, and wash the teacher's car," had a lot more to offer -- places staffed by 21yo ECE grads who will be gone in two months do not compare to places run by parents and grandparents. With for-profit "preschools" there is a pretty high risk that your child will be in the care of somebody with insufficient understanding of and affection for small children, I fear.
posted by kmennie at 9:07 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I didn't go to preschool, and made it to high school, college, law school just fine.

I think one of the most important things my mom did was that she taught me how to read and write, and read to me alllllll the time, took me to the bookstore, bought me lots of books, encouraged me to write my own little stories, etc. I had a big headstart with all that on most of my classmates who did go to preschool.

As for the socializing, you can get that in in other ways. I do think social development is really important though and something to take just as seriously.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:42 PM on August 7, 2011

I have a few coworkers who have talked about the trials and tribulations of getting their daughters into preschool... with starting applications at less than a year old to pre-pre-schools. If they do well, then they can qualify to get into the very good preschools. Then they'll have a better chance at getting into the selective private elementary schools.

Don't get caught up in the hype. I don't think preschool is really for anyone except the wealthy who demand their kids to be valedictorians at Harvard, or for kids who are struggling and lagging behind (it's a good opportunity to start screening for learning disabilities). I view it with the same skepticism that I view protests against putting your kids in daycare ("You'd let strangers raise your kids?!" transforms to "You don't want your kids to have all the advantages you can give them?!").

More fun anecdata: I never went to preschool, have a Masters, and studied at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. My brother went to preschool and has an extensive criminal record that began when he was eight. Of course, he makes more money than me now, so it really depends on your metrics for success.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:48 PM on August 7, 2011

Forgot to say,

Will not sending my kids to preschool doom them to poverty, prison, drug addictions, despair, etc?

I think THE biggest factor in the path I took in my teens and early 20s was my peers and my surroundings. I grew up in a town where everyone else's parents were these cultured, liberal, upper-middle class intellectuals who were generally very welcoming and kind to me, and their children were high-achieving, academically oriented kids with (generally, relatively) good judgment. If I had been surrounded by other kinds of kids and other kinds of people, I think things might have gone fairly differently. If I were you I'd focus more on this than on preschool.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:50 PM on August 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only preschool I ever went to was at the closest Baptist church in my Bible-belt hometown for a year before kindergarten. (To this day, I'm not sure why my nonreligious parents did that...) It had very little impact on me, other than giving me a little early insight into what kind of blathering idiots I'd be exposed to over the following 13 years. (Basically, being confused and asking my parents about why the other kids only pretended to read books they picked up.)

That said, I did make a couple friends that lasted well into... elementary school.
posted by supercres at 9:57 PM on August 7, 2011

I didn't go to preschool. In school, I struggled with social cues and such, as my parents were loners of a sort, and my father hated having kids around. I got over it. I'm happy, well-adjusted, social, and so on.

However, I made sure my kids got into preschool early, because we live in Los Angeles, and there isn't really a walking culture...and based on my own personal experience, I wanted my kids to learn how to deal with other kids (the good and the bad) as quickly as possible. The younger you have bad social experiences, the easier it is for you to get over them, I think (assuming you have good support.)

I can't say whether it was impactful or not, but I can say I have two tremendously outgoing, charming kids, who tend to be the leaders in their respective groups of friends, and who make new friends very easily. Plus, they've each had at least a few experiences that I personally would have found mortifying and they just shrugged 'em off and kept moving on.

So, if you can get them into a free local public preschool, at least a little of the time, do it -- for their social education, not their formal education. Let them meet their first bully or whatnot in an environment they won't be in for 6-9 years, and at an age where they'll find it more confusing than stressful.
posted by davejay at 10:10 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

also: they loved going to preschool. L-O-V-E-D. they loved the private one, and they loved the public one even more.
posted by davejay at 10:10 PM on August 7, 2011

Nthing what everybody else has said. I study education policy for a living and if you are providing an intellectually stimulating environment in your home then your child is likely better off (or at least is not made any worse off) in your home rather than in a preschool. Most studies do not find much of a difference between kids that attend preschool and those that don't once relevant socioeconomic, demographic, and family characteristics are controlled for, at least in terms of educational outcomes.

Preschool, as others have noted, does have other significant benefits for some student populations: for many students, the meals they get at preschool are their only meals; for many families, preschool allows a parent to log critical hours of employment. Preschool also allows for an early look in on children that may be at risk or particularly vulnerable to check for abuse and neglect.

Our society generally seems to place an importance on early childhood development that is a bit more extreme than most studies suggest is warranted. Not to say that it isn't important, but it is easy to overdo and many companies play on parental guilt to sell you programs and products that don't really help (infomercial selling flash cards that purports to teach toddlers to read, I'm looking squarely at you), You know your child better than anybody else on earth. Let that knowledge and intuition be your guide, not social pressure and guilt.
posted by jtfowl0 at 10:18 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get books. Read them with your kid. Repeat. They will be fine.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:45 PM on August 7, 2011

jbenben - John Taylor Gatto is a fairly extreme outlier among unschooling advocates (not to mention homeschooling advocates, among whom advocates for unschooling are only one wing.

While I completely agree that preschool isn't necessary (I'm with the homeschooling advocates on this one - I don't think school is necessary at all for many families), Gatto is very much on the ultra-libertarian, school-is-a-conspiracy-to-make-your-children-slaves, abolish-the-public-schools-for-good camp. So hardly a live-and-let-live unschooler, or even a secular homeschooler.
posted by Wylla at 10:50 PM on August 7, 2011

home-schooled child of a friend didn't read till 10 and one half years of age. at age 23? 2 well received novels to his name.
posted by dougiedd at 12:03 AM on August 8, 2011

Preschool teacher here. Academics really aren't the point of preschool (it's a bit of a warning sign if they are). Socialization without parental intervention is. Learning how to get through a full structured day with a consistent group of random children, some of whom might be chodes, is. Storytimes and mommy-and-me stuff don't really fill that void. You need to be removed from the picture. Playdates aren't structured, and are with pre-approved kids your child already knows, so it's not as helpful.

Is it totally necessary? Not really. Does it help make the transition to kindergarten smoother? Yes. I don't really recommend preschool for children under four, but it helps enforce behavioral basics that even the best intentioned parents would have have a hard time instilling. These are mostly helpful for starting kindergarten, but the skills transfer elsewhere too.

You are fortunate in that you don't seem to need to send your kid to a center out of necessity. My advice to have your kid go once a week, preferably for a full day, for like 6 months (maybe even just the summer before kindergarten). Find a school that isn't phony or too rigid. You can not recreate school and that's not your fault, and it will not really damage your child if they don't go, but if you plan on sending your kid to a mainstream school at least a tiny bit of preschool would be best.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:47 AM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I went to preschool for a week or two. Then my parents asked me if I liked it. I told them I hated it, because the bigger kids (I was really small) were kind of pushy and scary, and I got no say in what activities I did. They took me at my word and didn't make my go to preschool any more. I was much, much happier.

Also, I'm no expert, but I've done quite a bit of reading about early childhood education, intervention and the like. My understanding is that preschool is an important part of education for children that don't have a rich learning environment at home, but is unimportant for those who are read to, talked to, and generally are able to exercise their curiosity at home.
posted by Cygnet at 5:01 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

@twolights -- I'm looking. I'm on a school board (as I've mentioned before) and we have a pretty large early childhood program, so I read a lot of research on early childhood stuff. However, a lot of it is Xeroxed journal articles passed on by administrators and my stack o' research is in disarray right now as I'm cleaning my files. My google fu is clearly not hitting the right keywords. Sorry about that. :( (Maybe an actual early childhood expert will rescue me by knowing a source off the top of their head.)

Maybe the larger point is that until they're 7 or so, children mature at such wildly different rates that a standardized school is difficult. In the 50s kids didn't come into kindergarten expected to know how to read in the U.S.; in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, school doesn't start until 7. (BBC on that) By 7 most kids are ready to settle down and learn in a traditional school environment, but LOTS and LOTS of kids aren't ready before age 7, and more boys than girls.

And back to the main point of the post, preschool and kindergarten age kids mostly learn through play anyway ... there's some conflicting research on how good "academic" preschools are for middle-class children with a rich home environment. (Boys in particular may be turned off because they tend to mature into the ability to sit still and learn in a classroom environment a little later; if they become accustomed to academic failure in the earliest grades, or even in preschool, that can have a really detrimental effect.) So, OP, I wouldn't worry about it, and I double-extra wouldn't worry about it if we're talking about "academic" preschools. Incidentally, here's an article from Harvard profs about how if you want your kids to go to Harvard, don't start them in academic preschools; make sure they play.

(Incidentally, my district has a much-copied and much-awarded early childhood program, and it's primarily play-based, and the teachers are CONSTANTLY having to explain to, like, state government poobahs in charge of funding who come to tour why they're not drilling 3-year-olds with math flashcards. Very depressing.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:16 AM on August 8, 2011

I came to the US at age 3 from Vietnam. I didn't attend pre-school, go to music classes, playgroups, or anything else that parents (including me) are forcing on their kids these days. I turned out just fine! I sent my son to pre-school for 2 years strictly for socialization since he's an only child and I figured he might want to hang out with someone other than me. Do I think he's a future Rhodes Scholar because he went to pre-school? Nope. Would he have been a-ok without pre-school? Yep.
posted by fresh-rn at 8:19 AM on August 8, 2011

My four kids are pre-schooled, and also went to a full-day K though my town schools only offer half-day K. (OK, actually the little one will start this year. Wait, that's in like THREE WEEKS!) They were relieved of some pressure in their first couple of years because they already knew what was being taught, so they could focus on the non-academic part of School Life. If you are reading to/with them now and eaching them to play nicely with others, than maybe you will have the same result.

Another point I have heard before is that getting your kids in with strangers' kids exposes them to a whole new zoo of microorganisms. Get those strange colds and bugs fought down (and antibodies developed!) so that they won't spend half of first grade sniffling.

Last, being exposed to other kinds of people gets them used to, well, other kinds of people: they get accustomed to compromise and difference. Not saying you're not raising them this way, just that it's more practice at being a social creature.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2011

For most Americans, the alternative to preschool is parking your kid in front of the TV for 8-10 hours a day while parents work and do housework. That turns out not to be so good for kids. I'm guessing though that you have alternatives other than preschool and TVschool.
posted by miyabo at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2011

Related: interesting CBC Ideas broadcast The Brains of Babes (in three parts, each about an hour long I think) is here.
posted by Cuke at 11:00 AM on August 8, 2011

Try visiting some preschools or daycares or home of people who watch children and see if you like one and can afford to send your child maybe 2 days a week for half a day.

I never went to preschool, but I did go to a babysitter's house with a bunch of other kids while my parents worked. She was a very good sitter and had organized activities sprinkled through the ample free play of the day.

I also "taught" in a preschool for 3 years.

By far the biggest thing that kids seem to take away from preschool are social skills. In addition to the obvious interaction with other kids, it also teaches children how to identify authority figures (i.e. listen to the teacher), follow directions, and gets them acquainted with the idea of a routine, despite the routine being new and different than your home routine. All of this helps children when they get to school and get jobs, etc. However you don't need to send your kid full time if you are home. Just a little bit of an intro will be enough to prepare them for the shift that is kindergarten. I never once had a preschool student that was able to learn to read based solely on what was taught in the preschool classroom (I had both a 3 year old class and pre-k). Some students did learn how to read, but it was because their parents worked with them at home (and they weren't any brighter than the non-readers of the age). Making children that young go to a school where they have so much structured time that they must learn to read is a bit cruel in my opinion. Kids need to play and be kids, run around, get excercise, etc.

tl;dr - If you can afford it, get your kids out of the house and away from you for a little bit each week, so they can learn routines other than yours and be socially adaptable.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:51 AM on August 8, 2011

on preview, what Betty_effen_White said.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:55 AM on August 8, 2011

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