We have all heard so much about the preschool debate. The two basic questions are these: “Should I send my child to preschool?” and “Which preschool approach or philosophy is best?” Let’s talk about these two important questions.
First, the question of “Preschool or not?” Deciding whether to send your child out into the world for their first experience away from you can be heart wrenching. If you are a stay at home mom, the question can even seem ridiculous. Why would you send your child anywhere when you’re at home and can offer your child everything that is needed? This is understandable, though myopic. A mom’s job is to nurture her child and to give him or her the tools needed to grow into a confident human being who enjoys life and is a good citizen.
Children need to be in a peer setting in order to gain the self-confidence that comes from these particular successful social exchanges. That is not to say that relationships with family members, neighbors and weekly lessons don’t count, but the real test comes when children are faced with the struggles that arise from the need for turn taking and patience, on a daily basis, which are inherent in a school environment. A family member or neighbor will likely have an agenda or a bias, simply because it is human nature.
Karate instructors and coaches may have a set of specific goals, which may or may not be aligned with early childhood development. Again, not to be unfair to anyone. But, children deserve the opportunity to develop their social skills and self-confidence through real life experiences. So, after the familial bonds have been firmly established, and the child has a base of language, usually somewhere around age 3, school becomes increasingly important. Add to that the importance of feeding the developing brain by keeping those neurons and synapses busy, which happens when children are permitted to explore, and are engaged. Which brings me to the second question of “Which philosophy or approach is best?” To me, the answer is cut and dried. Children need to play. It is crucial to their understanding of the world. It is crucial to their sense of self, their natural curiosity, their need for connection. And play is crucial to a happy life.
Through decades, there has been a vast amount of research, and it all comes to the same conclusion: Children learn through play. Therefore, children MUST play. A child who is not offered plenty of opportunity for play is a child who is being denied the basic needs of human development. So, again, unless you have several children around the same age, endless time and endless patience, as well as an uncanny sense of reasonable expectations for your child’s ability for self-discipline, how can you possibly achieve a stimulating environment at home?
Consider for a moment, children entering kindergarten. For those who have not had a preschool experience, what must it be like to suddenly be spending six hours a day among twenty or so kids with an authority figure who is not mom? I can only imagine that it would be terrifying. Of course, there may be reluctance on the part of both mom and child for the initial preschool separation. But there is no doubt in my mind that it is the best thing for both mom and child.
Within the first couple of weeks, you both will get used to the idea of going your separate ways for a few hours. And before you know it, your child will be exhibiting new skills and new ways of being, that will cause you to realize that sending your child to preschool was, indeed, the right thing to do.