If you have a child not quite old enough for kindergarten should you enroll him (or her) in preschool? That’s a question parents ask once their children approach their third and/or fourth birthdays.
But does preschool really make a difference? Having subbed in several preschools in both Connecticut and Florida, I can testify that preschool is more than just coloring and pasting. In my opinion, it’s an opportunity to not only adjust to school, teachers, and other children; it’s also a chance to not be left behind. Besides teaching young children their ABCs and how to cut, color, and paste, preschool also prepares young children socially as well as academically.
It’s in preschool that four and five-year-old first learn how to control themselves—to sit still and listen as the teacher gives directions. It’s here they first learn to problem solving skills. Some educators even go so far as to contend that attending preschool may spare children of encountering brushes with the law. Hopefully, when they’re tempted as teenagers to do something illegal, they may remember basic rules of integrity taught to them in preschool.
Some opponents of preschool may argue that all children do is play at preschool. But that’s where they learn as play is a child’s work at ages four and five. For example, when going to an “art center”, a four-year-old discovers that by mixing red paint with yellow paint, a new color of orange is created. Or, when a little girl plays house with other children in at the “housekeeping center” she learns to role play as a “mommy” solving problems in housekeeping chores.
Simple skills such as cutting may seem lame to us adults, but it’s a fine motor skill that is important to learn before beginning regular school. Similarly, skills such as dancing around in a circle to music and building with building blocks teach children about balance.
Circle time is a positive preschool activity where small children first learn good social skills. Children learn to take turns in talking and sharing by raising their hands. And, we all know about those kids who bully others or try to control their classmates. It’s in preschool where children first learn how to stick up for themselves in a proper way. They also learn about good manners, particularly at snack time where they have to ask to be excused and then clean up after they eat their juice and cookies.
But the most important lesson for young children is that they learn how to be self- sufficient. In other words, a good preschool teacher not only helps her students, but also teaches them how to do things for themselves.
Because so many children do attend either public or private preschools, those who stay home are left behind—not only academically, but socially. When they do start kindergarten, they may have trouble catching up to their peers.
Although preschool is a vital part of a young child’s life, only about seven states have preschool as a requirement. I learned this fact listening to a radio talk show last week. Before the speaker listed the states, I immediately thought, I’m sure he’s going to mention the New England states, where education has an above average reputation. Yet, surprisingly he noted states such as Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, and Ohio. If your state does not include mandatory preschool, then private and religious preschools are excellent choices. And, for parents of low income, Head Start is a wonderful program to get preschoolers on the right track for regular school.
I’m sure parents can add other bonuses from having had their children attend preschool. They’ll be quick to agree that preschool is an opportunity parents should give their children.