I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood that has a bunch of families in a similar stage of life as me: young, one to three kids around my own children’s ages, and the parents are people my husband and I actually enjoy socializing with. I’m also lucky enough to have the end townhouse unit literally right next to the little tot lot playground. Because of this, I get to talk with a lot of these mommies while our kids gleefully play.
Since the next school year is coming up and we are all mommies who get overly excited to rush into the next, fun stage of parenting our oldest child, the topic of preschool has come up a lot. It seems all my neighbors and friends are sending their 3 year olds off to PRE-preschool this August and I’m the only one saying hell no. Isn’t my 3 year old too young for preschool?
Props to you if you want to send your kids to school a year early. This is definitely not a bash on that decision, since it’s a good one in its own ways. But if you are asking yourself “is my 3 year old too young for preschool?” or “should I send my child to preschool?” or “wait, there is 3 year old preschool?” – maybe you’ll want to hear the many reasons I won’t be sending my 3 year old off to school just yet:
- She’s too young. I know my daughter and I know her maturity level better than anyone who might observe her on the playground, in church, or in passing. So I’m the one who understands that it would be a waste of money to have her go to the early school classes. I’m sure she’d have fun, but I worry that she’d have so much fun that she might distract other children who are the same age, but are more capable of sitting through an entire read-aloud or color time. For now, she is just too young to benefit from it academically, which is half the reason of why we’d pay for her to go.
- She will be going to school for forever—why start her a year earlier? She will be stuck at a desk for 13 years, from grades K-12—even longer if she does preschool and college afterwards. She will have her chance to learn in that environment but I’m not eager to rush her into it. She only has so many years at home, with me, to enjoy and to just be a kid. Yeah I’m sure pre-preschool would be fun for her but I want to see her fun and be with her to take a million pictures of it. I want to bring her to movies and parks, splash pads and malls with kid play zones. I want to have the freedom to decide, “Today we are going to the zoo!” and not have to be like, “Awh, but we can’t because you have pre-preschool during the hours we could’ve gone.” I plan to cherish every year together before school has to officially start.
- Social skill practice can be attained through other venues that are more appropriate for her age and personality. One of the benefits of going to a pre-preschool class is the social practice your toddler will get and this ends up being a main reason for why parents decide to enroll their kids. But for my specific toddler, I believe she can get that same social practice through a tumbling or dance class. Pair this with the play dates I set up, the library toddler classes I take her to, and how many cousins she has to play with, I feel comfortable that I don’t need to pay for her to get those socializing opportunities.
- I want the challenge of teaching her at home. I’m not talking about the normal parent duties that most of us do anyways, like reading to her or practicing our ABC song. On top of all that, I want the challenge of finding my own “hidden lessons,” as I call them. These are the moments the child has no idea she is learning because it just seems like play. As a stay at home mom, I have many chances to utilize these moments and I’d like to challenge myself to actually make them happen, even when I feel incredibly busy with other tasks. I want to use the tools and skills I learned while gaining my Elementary Education degree. I want to recreate Pinterest activities and crafts with her. And if I put her in a pre-preschool class, I might be tempted to prioritize those “extra mile” moments lower on my list when I know they are getting that learning from their teacher.
- Biggest reason: It’s freaking expensive. The exact price of what a 3-year-old early preschool class costs varies across states, even within towns. The cheapest I’ve found around here (I haven’t looked at every single joy school or preschool; just within the ones I did look at) is around $75 a month for a few hours two days a week. And most had a registration fee (another ~$60) due at sign up. I get it—preschool teachers need to make a living and I was a teacher once so I remember that teachers get paid crap. So I get why the prices are set at what they are. But that still doesn’t mean I can afford it right now. So if I don’t have to pay for an extra year and my kid can still start kindergarten without being too “far behind,” then I’m not going to worry about it.
At first I was worried that not putting her in the 3-year-old early preschool class would put her behind her peers, so I talked with a friend of mine who has been a Kindergarten teacher for 8 years now. When I expressed my worries, she shook her head and said, “Don’t even worry about it. I’ve seen it all: kids who went to early pre-preschool, kids who only had one year of preschool, kids who only went to joy school, and kids who didn’t go to anything. Even if they start the year on a level behind the others, most of the kids are on the same level by January. As long as you work with your child a little here and there, make sure she recognizes 5-10 letters and maybe her name, she’s going to be just fine. Don’t stress about it too much if you can’t afford it right now.”
Okay, I can definitely handle that on my own! So for us, 3-year-old pre-preschool class just isn’t in the cards and that’s okay because my kid won’t end up failing Kindergarten due to her not attending.
What do you think? Are you sending your toddler to pre-preschool? What other reasons would you send or not send you kid to these early school classes?