Blast from the Past: Preschool is Not Necessary

Recently, I was approached by a journalism student working on a project who wanted my opinion on preschool. Here is part of her email along with my responses to her questions:

I’m working on this article and I want to focus on why enrollment in preschools
has consistenly gone up, especially for children that are 3 and 4 years old. I
also am looking at whether preschool is a necessary step for children and why
or why not. Below I’ve listed a few questions for you. Please feel free to
elaborate on anything as much as you feel necessary and if you can send your
answers back to me as soon as possible, that would be great (my article is due
at the end of the week)!

1. In the article by Diane Laney Fitzpatrick, you were included because of
your blogging about the necessity of preschool. Tell me more about this – what
influences your opinions about preschool?

Actually, I blogged that preschool is not necessary and can be harmful. I think the primary influence on my thinking about preschool is that my generation did not have preschool and we’ve done just fine, and none of my own children went to preschool (or to school at all), and they are doing very well. Ex. My son graduated from college last year magna cum laude.

2. Do you believe that preschool is more beneficial for children than staying
at home with mom? What sort of things can a child gain from each? Do some
outweigh others?

Heavens, no. I think being home with a parent or someone else who loves you very much (i.e. grandparent) is far superior to preschool. Also, I believe children of all ages need freedom to learn, and the classroom is not a place of freedom. I see no advantages to preschool except for the child who is living in neglect, and the advantages to him/her, besides being common sense, are well-documented.

3. What do you think is one of the biggest concerns for mothers that sways
them one way or the other?

I don’t think it’s just mothers; dads care, too. I think most parents believe the hype that preschool is necessary so the child doesn’t fall behind his peers. Most studies refute this, btw, and in actuality you often see the child who was in preschool burn out in school by about the third grade.

4. Even though preschool may not be necessary, is it actually beneficial? Can
children benefit just as much when they stay at home with their mothers?

Again, I see no benefits of preschool for most children. Interested parents, plus sibs, neighbors and extended family for socialization did just fine for generations and will continue to do so.

5. What sort of background to have with children? How does this background
impact they way you think about this issue? Any specific occurences that
influence your opinions?

I’ve homeschooled my four (inc. one with dev. disabilities) from birth. They are now 15, 17, 23 and 25, so I’ve seen the results. Also, the kids I’ve known who went to preschool tended to become very peer dependent, and not as self-motivated as other kids. Take our next-door neighbors. The boys who lived on one side of us did not go to preschool. Great kids…one is now a music teacher, the other an optometrist. The girl on the other side was in daycare from six weeks on, preschool for two years before school. Flunked out of high school. And this from a more affluent family.

6. Is there anything else you feel is important for me to know about this
issue that I have not asked about?

You’re probably out of time, but it would be interesting to examine the vested interests of those who promote preschool so hard in the face of so many studies suggesting it’s not working. My guess is they have a certain mindset they want to inculcate, and that kind of thing works best when started very early on.

Thanks again and can’t wait to hear from you!

Her deadline was fast-approaching, so I don’t know if she had time to read an editorial I shared with her about preschool from the Wall Street Journal, but I hope she did because it’s well worth reading.

(Originally published 10/20/08, and I haven’t changed my mind!)

5 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: Preschool is Not Necessary

  1. Janet, you and I are on the same page.

    Barb the E.G., I do think it was a lot less stressful when preschool was an option (instead of something the govt. now wants to make mandatory) and only half-days, so the kids could have a life.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I think the big increase in preschool enrollment is primarily due to 2 factors.

    #1 is demographics. The norm used to be the traditional nuclear family with the dad as breadwinner and the mom as full-time homemaker. Today, that’s become pretty unusual in many areas of the country. There are a lot more divorced and never-married parents, and even those who are married tend to be both employed full-time outside the home. The need for childcare is probably the biggest factor driving preschool enrollment.

    The second factor driving preschool enrollment among even families with a stay-at-home parent is the idea of there being a “critical learning period” in early childhood. You see this with the popularity of all the Baby Einstein videos, LeapFrog electronic gadgets, Jr. Kumon workbooks, etc. There’s this fear among parents my age that kids who don’t receive early academics will wind up permanently “behind the curve”. Which is, of course, nonsense but when everyone in your social circle has bought into this belief it can be difficult to be the odd one out.

  3. You’ve made some great points here, CW. In your area of the country, demographics are pretty different than in parts of the Midwest. I do think your second point is true everywhere. The difficulty of being “the odd one out” is one of the negatives of early socialization in childhood, don’t you think? 🙂

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