When children stay home with a parent, relative, or nanny, they do get some socialization but it’s really hard to get as much as they would get at a preschool. Sending children to school gets them out of the house socializing with others. It also exposes them to children of various ages.
Finding a friend is really important for children, and this can be hard to do in a home setting or when playdates are always arranged by the parents. Preschool offers children an opportunity to meet others and pick friends on their own. Younger babies look to their parents as reassurance that the environment is safe and they are free to explore. As they get older, they develop the skills to do this at a further distance from their parents and preschool is a safe setting for them to practice this skill.
Another pro of socializing children in preschool and away from parents is that they get to socialize without their parents being right over their shoulder. This gives students a chance to learn conflict resolution and other social skills without the influence of their parents. Sharing and interacting with other children can be especially difficult for children who don’t have siblings. Children also have a chance to find role models and build relationships with adults who aren’t relatives when they are away from their parents in a preschool setting.
Preparation for Kindergarten and Formal Schooling
Learning at an early age sets a foundation for learning for an entire lifetime. Preschool teachers are trained to teach educational concepts to children. They also follow a curriculum that is designed to help children progress through learning and to make sure they have a strong knowledge base to start kindergarten. By giving children a way to ease into formal schooling, they will likely feel more comfortable in a school setting and develop positive associations with school and learning.
In a study in the Early Childhood Education Journal, researchers examined scores on the Georgia Kindergarten Assessment Program (GKAP) and compared those who attended preschool with those who did not. They found that “Students who had attended preschool demonstrated statistically higher overall school readiness, higher Physical scores, and higher Personal scores than students who did not attend preschool.” There are many factors that contribute to why students who attend preschool tend to be more prepared for kindergarten, and these factors can be difficult to replicate at home.
In addition to the educational knowledge, students also learn how to behave in a classroom setting and respect teachers and other authority figures. Children get used to following the rules in a structured school setting, making it easier for them to transition to kindergarten.
Especially for children who have not already gone to daycare, it can be a big shock to all of a sudden spend extended periods of time away from their caregivers. Going to preschool helps children practice and learn to enjoy being away from familiar caregivers. This is more of a low stakes environment that makes it easier for them to transition to kindergarten. It also gives them the confidence to form relationships and explore the world on their own.
Structure and Routine
Some children really struggle with a “take the day as it comes” approach that might be the norm when they stay home with a parent all day. Structure and predictability can really help these children. There are many benefits of having a routine for children, and it really gives them a sense of security because they know what to expect. So many things change in a child’s life as they grow and develop, so having constant and predictable parts of their life can help them be more stable and confident.
Mom and Dad Get a Break
Even if you are a stay at home parent and love being home with your children, getting a small break every so often is crucial, even if you don’t realize it. When you get a chance to have alone time, get things done without the kids around, and do whatever you need to do to recharge, you’ll be a better parent when your child does return from preschool. Preschool offers a way for parents to get a break without feeling guilty because they know that their child is having fun and learning. Some preschools offer classes for half the day on just 2 days/week. This would be a perfect fit if you just need a break. Shorter schedules like this can also be great if you have a smaller baby at home to give you and the baby one on one time.
Exposure to New Things
Often, preschool offers experiences that children wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. Many preschools offer daily experiences through music, art, and gym class. There are also often guest speakers and field trips. Students might go visit the local police station or hear from people of all different occupations during career day. Students can also get exposed to people of different cultures and backgrounds. It would be really hard to get this type of exposure to so many different things in a home setting. The entire day at preschool is designed to teach and enrich your child, so you can be confident they are constantly learning and being exposed to new experiences.
Cons of Sending Your Child to Preschool
At some point, children will need to learn to be away from their parents, but forcing them to do so before they are ready can be traumatic. Younger children may not be developmentally ready to spend an extended period of time away from their parents. Extreme separation anxiety can create a negative association with school for the child. Sometimes parents begin to send their child to preschool and then realize that their child just isn’t ready. If this is the case for you, your child’s preschool teacher can help you determine what the best next steps are moving forward.
Less time with parents
If the alternative to preschool is staying home with mom and/or dad, then this means children will get less quality and one on one time with their parents. Parents really do know and love their children best. As wonderful as a preschool may be, given the right circumstances, parents will always provide the best love and care to their children. Kids grow up so fast and every moment their parents are able to spend with them is priceless.
Doing and Learning Too Much Too Soon/Overstimulation
Every child learns and develops at their own pace. When you try to make a child learn or do something before they are ready, it can have a negative effect. If a child is not developmentally capable of learning a concept yet, they will get extremely frustrated and it can make them come to dread and even hate learning.
If children attend preschool too early, they can easily get overstimulated. Parents my know the signs that their child is getting overstimulated and will be able to respond quickly to help the child decompress. At preschool, when teachers don’t know each child as well and they can’t give one on one attention, they may not recognize the signs that a child is being overstimulated. Any preschool you consider for your child should be developmentally appropriate for their age and overall needs.
Teacher to Student Ratio
Staying home with a relative or a nanny often provides one on one interaction. There is just no possible way for a preschool teacher to give your child the amount of attention and focus that you can in a home setting. With a one on one setting, the caregiver gets to know the needs of the child much more intimately and can easily tailor care and learning to match exactly where the child is at developmentally.
Any teacher will readily state that they could be more effective if they had smaller classes. A study by the Tennessee State Department of Education examined the effect of teacher to student ratio and found that smaller class sizes consistently yielded better test scores for elementary aged students when all other classroom factors remained the same.
Too Much Structure
Structure is great and many children respond really well to routine. One of the cons of some preschools though is too much structure. It’s extremely important for children to be free to play and explore. Too many rules and too much structure can squash creativity in children. Preschools also operate on a set schedule, so it may be hard to find a preschool that works with your family’s schedule.
Raising a child is expensive, and preschool is no exception. The annual cost of childcare in most states is over $10,000/year. Typically, the better the school the more expensive it is going to be. If a parent or relative is able to stay home with your child until they enter kindergarten, you could potentially save thousands of dollars.
Germs and Sickness
There are two main schools of thought in this area. Some parents think it’s a good idea to expose their kids to germs and illnesses so they can build their immune system, while others want to protect their kids from getting sick as much as possible. If you fall in the latter camp, this is a major con of preschools. Preschool will make it more likely that your child will get sick, which also makes it more likely for the rest of your family to get sick. This might mean you have to take more sick days at work.
You Don’t Have Control
Most preschools are wonderful and have trained teachers who truly love children. You do always have to keep in mind though that in every profession there are people who aren’t good at their jobs and unfortunately, there are people who verbally and physically abuse children. When you send your child to preschool, you are trusting them in the hands of another adult and you don’t have control of what goes on once you leave. Doing thorough research and making sure you have a good gut feeling about the school can help you circumvent this con. It’s something nobody wants to think about, but it is an important point to always keep in mind when trusting your child in the hands of another.