Does Preschool Even Really Matter?

When my kids were infants I had decided that they were not going to preschool. I didn’t see the point. I thought because they had each other they didn’t need preschool for the social experience. I also thought that we could simply hire a teacher to prepare them for kindergarten. Then I spoke to a friend who at the time was a kindergarten teacher, she said to me “they absolutely need to go to preschool.”

She also said “I can tell which of my students went to preschool and which ones didn’t. Kids who go to preschool have already separated from mommy and daddy and are ready to learn. They also know more when they start kindergarten. Those that didn’t go to preschool spend much of the day crying and not much time learning. So I started looking for preschools. ☺

That said, a private preschool program is expensive and not an option for everyone. There are also many great alternatives to preschools like:

  • Playgroups – Playgroups are generally less formal and less expensive than a preschool program. They typically consist of 6 kids or fewer. Similar to preschool though, most playgroups are “drop-off” so kids in playgroups separate from mom and dad and learn how to function in a group.
  • Enrichment and Pre-school Alternative programs – Preschool Alternative programs are typically offered at places like Gymboree, Kidville and other child development programs. They are less expensive than preschool and offer some of the same learning opportunities. They are also drop off programs and operate on a first come first serve basis.
  • High Quality Day Care Programs – Many day cares are now offering pre-k programs and are less expensive than pre-school but do your homework!
  • Public Pre-school – Many states now offer public preschool programs. In most cases though kids are not eligible for public pre-school until age 4.
  • Homeschooling – A growing population of parents are choosing to homeschool their children and necessarily for religious or cultural reasons. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 3% of school age kids are being homeschooled. Here in NYC, nearly 3,000 kids are also being homeschooled (this figure does not include pre-schoolers.)

So what are your thoughts on the value of pre-school and the available alternatives and what works best for your family?

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