The Preschool Question
Deciding whether to send your son or daughter to preschool can be difficult. Many of today's parents face enormous pressures from family, friends, fellow parents, and society in general regarding whether or not their toddler should be enrolled in a pre-kindergarten environment. Although there is much literature in favor of both attending and refraining from preschool, true evidence to support either side of this argument is hard to find.
When contemplating preschool for your child, you may wonder what is the most important factor to consider. Although the root answer is simple—your child and his or her needs, personality, and development—discerning what is best for your child can be much more complex.
The idea of enrolling your child in a preschool program can mirror a game of tug-of-war. Parents and educators who believe that preschool education plays a vital role in the development of children defend its merits with passion, while parents and caregivers who feel that preschool doesn't play an essential role defend their opinions with equal fervor.
This question has created a rather heated debate, but with little evidence to support either side. As Kelly Maxwell, a research scientist at UNC Chapel Hill's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, says in a February 2, 2005, Tallahassee Democrat article, "I think there's no one thing that's a must for children to be successful for school."
Family psychologist John Rosemond reports in the same article, "I've met countless numbers of parents all across America who have opted not to put their child in preschool of any sort, and they attest to having well-adjusted kids."
Despite some feeling that preschool isn't needed as a mandatory first step in a child's education, the majority of parents in the United States send their children to preschool, according to an April 2003 Educational Leadership report. States such as Georgia have already incorporated mandatory preschool programs for four-year-old children, and New York, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are in close pursuit.
These states feel they have found good reason to enforce a universal preschool program. In a recent study posted on the Chicago Child-Parent Centers website, children who attended a pre-K program are nearly 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school, 40 percent less likely to repeat a grade, and 32 percent less likely to be arrested as a juvenile.
So, what's the right step for your child? As Thomas Andrews, a retired private-school teacher with over 30 years experience in elementary education from Long Island, New York, points out, despite other influences the main consideration should be your child. "It is only natural for parents to feel like they don't want to short change their child by not giving them an opportunity to learn. [But] a huge part of the equation is the child—some children thrive in a preschool environment, while others may not," says Andrews.