Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Does your child need preschool? [continued]

Does your child need preschool?

Yesterday I talked about Play is Work, and I truly believe that is all a preschooler needs, play. Many will want more-they will want to sound out words and write their name and count money; and they should. But, for preschoolers the timing of these things should be child led.

This is not just my opinion. I saw this article in the paper last year that said, “A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says free and unstructured play is healthy and –in fact—essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”

I also believe very strongly in reading to young children every day. There have been an incredible amount of studies saying that the single most important thing you can do to help your youngster is to read to them. Children love to be read to. They love to cuddle and snuggle while being read to and/or they love to play while you read to them. And kids learn so much from this experience.

Not only do they learn to appreciate well written words and ideas, they learn the importance of reading. Also, when we discuss what we read with our children it gives us an opportunity to pass on our core beliefs. We can discuss live and death issues while reading about dragon slayers and fairy princesses. Reading opens up a whole world to our children and enriches our relationship with them.

Now I know there are some children who do not have anyone to read to them, who do not have the advantages that other children have and they can certainly benefit from early preschool. But I am not talking about at-risk kids when I talk about play and reading being enough.

I have had many conversations that go like this:

Mom: “I have two children, four and two, and I am looking for a preschool program for my four year old.”

Me: “What are you looking for.”

Mom: “I don’t know. Really, I don’t want to send him to preschool, but all the other kids at church are going and my mother is asking where he is going to go. I feel pressure to send him, but I don’t really think I want to send him. Do you have any suggestions?”

Me: “What are you doing? “

Mom: “Oh we read every day. We take walks and collect rocks and leaves and sing songs. He helps me bake and can write his name and sound out a few letters. He can count pennies up to 10 and sets the table correctly. He plays well with his brother most of the time.”

Me: “It sounds like your son is very well adjusted.”

Mom: “Yes, but I think he needs socialization.”

Me: “Does he play well with other kids at church or at the park?”

Mom: “Oh yes. He loves to play and he pretend reads to his brother. He also wants to do everything my husband does—wears his shoes, wants to cut the grass, use the hammer and so on.

Me: “Does he mostly mind you?”

Mom: “Mostly [laugh], but he is very active.

Me: “It sounds like you are doing a great job. He sounds like his social skills are good, he is imitating his Daddy, loves to be read to and tries to be helpful and kind. I don’t think you need preschool. I would just do what you are doing.”

Mom: “Really.”

Me: “Really. What can he learn at preschool that he doesn’t already know or will learn when he is ready?”

Mom: “I don’t know. But everyone else…

Me: “That doesn’t make it mandatory. It doesn’t make it right.”

And then we finish up the conversation.

And this is why I am writing. If you want your child to experience preschool, by all means go ahead. But, if you don’t—feel confident that if you are modeling good life skills to your child, if you are reading to him, if he is using his imagination to play, you are doing a great job and laying a wonderful foundation for future learning. That is enough.

Take care,

[As a note, I helped to develop a great "read to your child" preschool program called Sonlight P3/4. It has books, tips for teaching, a parent guide, some games and some easy activities to do with your 3-4 year old. It involves lots of snuggling and reading-perfect for a gentle homeschool preschool!]

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