Back to Preschool?

I was surprised at the number of back-to-school comments, or not-back-to-school in the case of homeschoolers, I saw on Facebook this morning. It’s mid-August. Why so early?

child paintingNot only are school-aged children heading to the school building, but so are many three- and four-year-olds. Some of these little boys and girls are barely potty trained and they are being sent away from the comfort of home. Why so early?

For nearly a decade parents have been told that they may doing their children great harm by keeping them at home. Parents have been told that they cannot adequately prepare their little ones for the rigors of kindergarten or first grade. These things are best left to professionals. So off go tiny tots, lugging oversized backpacks, to an institution of learning.

The Universal Preschool movement began in the 1990s, but reached full steam when California put the issue before the voters. Many slogans, taken from a RAND Corporation study, made claims that children would be smarter, earn more money, not use drugs, and one ad even claimed Social Security would be saved.  Who could deprive their child of that advantage?

Actually real life hasn’t matched the claims. Government Accounting Office reports show that Head Start, the standard for most preschools, has not lived up to expectations. In fact, the much reported statistic that says children who have been to preschool are academically ahead of their peers when entering kindergarten doesn’t hold true when the children get to third grade. All gains that seem to be made during preschool are lost. (See “The Real Numbers” from Preschool: At What Cost?)

Is your heart telling you that you have a better idea? That you are your child’s best teacher? As Dr. Benjamin Spock told several generations of parents, “Trust yourself.”

Are you having a not-back-to-school celebration?

Comments (2)

  1. Reply

    You are so right, the early years are critical to building a character foundation. I’m not sure, however, that this is due to any active “teaching” so much as modeling appropriate behavior (as in respecting others and showing empathy), allowing children to take part in meaningful work (making meals, doing repairs, organizing materials) together with an adult, and fostering the interests of the child.

    I’m looking forward to reading the book!

    Laura Weldon, author of Free Range Learning

    • Susan K. Stewart


      Laura, I think it’s a combination of both teaching and modeling. As we allow our children to take part in meaningful work, we show them how to do the specific tasks. Also we can “teach” character qualities with reminders to say “please,” use a napkin, or walk quietly indoors (even at home). Character learning certainly doesn’t involve workbooks, desk, or other trappings of “teaching.”

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