That is a loaded question. I actually just dealt with this issue myself and have a lot of feelings on the subject. Truth be told, there is no right answer here. There is just a right answer for you. Herein, some thoughts on the subject.
Years ago, nobody sent their kids to school before kindergarten. That’s because most mothers didn’t work outside the home so there was no need for it. With more and more moms having full-time jobs, the need for preschool came about. But what started out as child care became an important step in preparing children for kindergarten.
According to seasoned New Jersey nursery school director Michele Glazer, one of the main benefits of preschool is socialization and the ability to problem solve. “When kids are in a group situation, they’re constantly problem-solving,” Glazer explains. “If they’re by themselves, they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to learn firsthand about what it means to share, take turns and work together with others.”
Another benefit of preschool, and one that many parents are concerned about today, is readiness for reading and writing. The classroom has a painting easel, play dough, and other activities that help pave the road for a smoother course to reading and writing. Another important benefit of preschool? Learning to depend on and trust another adult besides mommy and daddy.
So what if you can’t afford preschool or just don’t want to give up mommy-and-me time with your little one just yet? Fortunately, there are ways to get the benefits of preschool at home. For example, make sure to plan regular play dates for your kids and be diligent about setting aside time for reading and art projects. “If you are willing to spend the time and make sure that your children are provided with the same kinds of stimulating and engaging activities at home that they get in school,” says Glazer, “then your kids will definitely thrive at home as well.”
You also have to know your child. If your child is content to play with you or a younger sibling for a few hours in the morning, then keeping him home might be your best option. Conversely, if your child is positively loopy by noon on a Sunday, then sending him to school might be the right option. Preschool might be the perfect place to get out all his energy, especially if keeping him home means he’ll be by himself or with a baby sitter.
Ultimately the decision to send your child to preschool is entirely a personal one, and it’s important to do what’s right for you and your family. For me, the decision was mostly about finances, but it was also about doing something that I know I will never get to do again — spend a year at home with my son and his younger siblings, playing, learning, (sometimes pulling my hair out — me, not my son), and laughing. After all, my son will embark on 13 long years of school come kindergarten. Why add another?
What are your thoughts on the preschool/home school debate? I’d love to hear your personal experiences in the comments below.