Should I send my child to preschool?

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I know that not everyone will share the views I express here, nor will everyone have the luxury of choice, as I do.  But I want to explain why I will not be sending Munchkin to preschool.

I am a teacher; I have a Masters in Education (well, very nearly!); and I am a mother. I think therefore, that I’m pretty well qualified to make the following comment: we institutionalise our children into school at too young an age.

Children have to be in compulsory education from 5-18; that’s 13 years of their life! If we send them from age 3, that adds another 2 years. I wias in favour of the Cambridge review, which stated that children should not start formal education until they are 6, but that was ignored by the Government who commissioned it and the opposition at the time, so that was that.

I know that a lot of preschools and reception classes do have a play based curriculum, do understand the need for informal styles of education in the early years and do work hard to keep learning fun, but I’m a secondary school teacher and I have regularly seen pupils who are bored witless of school by 14 or 15 (just when they really need to be switched on) and all I can think is, they’ve been there pretty much all their life.

I didn’t go to preschool as a child, and I still felt pretty cheesed off with it all by sixth form (and staying until 18 was a choice then, unlike now).  I didn’t do as well as I should have in my A levels and didn’t start working until I reached University and began a whole new style of learning and teaching.

I don’t think that we should institutionalise our children at such a young age, and yet I am also very aware that my daughter is at her most interested and like a sponge at the moment and I don’t want her to miss out on Educational opportunities. But, you don’t just learn in school, there are many other places and ways to learn and by not sending Munchkin to pre-school we have time to exploit those.

I also know that one of the things children do in the preschool and reception environments is to learn to socialise without their parents, both with other adults and with other children, but again, there are other ways to achieve this.

The choices we make about schooling among the most difficult choices we have to make for our children and only you can decide whether or not your child will benefit from preschool. As the Government said in their 2007 document about home schooling, “The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. In England, education is compulsory, but school is not.”.


31 thoughts on “Should I send my child to preschool?

    Kinga said:
    October 21, 2011 at 6:41 am

    You know this sort of thing is like putting a bee in my bonnet. 🙂 And now I’m pulling out my soapbox and getting ready to step onto it…

    I agree wholeheartedly. 6 at the earliest should be the age we send our children to school. They don’t need to go any younger than that and all the studies point to the fact that children can get turned off schooling, especially ours filled with achievement targets and exams and assessments too early.

    So why did I send my son to pre-school at 3 and now school at 4? Because he’s shy and finds it difficult to relate to his peers. He’s a lovely and sweet boy, not very boyish and the children in the playground often scare him and he clings. So, when we moved back to the UK, we sent him to a lovely pre-school in the village where we lived and saw his confidence soar. It still took him a long time to make “friends” and to play with others, but he partly came out his shell.

    6 weeks into his new school, the jury is still out. He won’t tell me much, but I felt it was best for him to go because of the social development he’d gain, nothing to do with academics. Because my husband and I know (we’re both teachers, too) that pretty much everyone learns how to read and write and count eventually. Especially when you put the effort in as a parent, too. I just want him to find nice friends and enjoy his time there.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 7:59 am

      Really interesting points there, Kinga. Munchkin can get very clingy and I am sending her to nursery once a week at the moment, hoping that she will get over this. Pre-school is definitely a useful induction into the school environment and if it suits you and your son then, perfect. I am also aware that our location allows me more choices. In London there are so many people making so many different choices about education, I am not going to make Munchkin isolated or the odd one out. Were we in a more rural environment that meant Munchkin would not be able to socialize with peer except in a school, I may make a different choice.

    mumonamission said:
    October 21, 2011 at 7:08 am

    So I’m commenting from my other account as Ruth wrote this post and I want to add my two pennies worth!! The thing about Ruth isshe has this way of challenging you to think outside of your comfort zone when it comes to education. she makes me think about things that are in the back of my mind but I don’t really want to think about. Having said that I am constantly picking her brains and voicing my concerns about BearCubs future education. My dilemma is like Munchkin, I have a very bright little boy. I am already concerned and frustrated about the fact that nursery keep informing me of his breakthrough milestones he achieved 6 months ago only they didn’t notice. Jury is still out with me about pre school as I wand BearCub to be stimulated and challenged but not institutionalised. And after hearing more than a couple of primary school teachers comment to ‘not make them too intelligent now or they’ll be bored at school’ – Grrrrr – don’t even get me started on that one. Maybe that’s another blog post!!!

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 8:05 am

      Glad I make you think, Loretta! I do still think that it is family support that sees children through school, and children succeed whether or not they went to pre-schools. I don’t think sending children is going to disadvantage them, I just wish Government policy didn’t constantly lower the age of schooling to improve achievement, even though research shows that it doesn’t work.

    Mymummycanloseweight said:
    October 21, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I agree to an extent. My now 4 year old spent three days a week at local nursery when I returned to work. After my second was born I decided to take a career break (something I’m in very fortunate position to do). When I stopped working, my son stopped nursery and started pre-school three mornings a week. The change in him was noticeable, who was a happier little boy only been in an environment away from mummy for three hours rather than the previous ten!

    But why send him to preschool at all? He is very used to an environment away from me and is socially very confident, and I think this ability to be independent and socialise is something that should be encouraged. His pre-school is all about learning through play with some structured group activities. He does more of the things that we don’t always have the opportunity to do at home, painting, craft, making pizza and bread to name a few recently. With two I find it harder to fit this sort of thing in!

    However, on the reading, writing, letters, numbers front I am not pushing this. He is a bright child but I’m not worried that he can’t count past 12 yet, that he can’t sound his letters, that he has no interest in writing his name yet. He’s three! And I strongly feel that this time is for having fun – and I think pre-school does nothing to counteract this. He is happy both at home and at preschool and that for me is the most important thing.

      Mymummycanloseweight said:
      October 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

      poor child – that should have read almost four year old! He’s four in December 🙂

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      I am glad that you have found a preschool that suits your little boy so well. I don’t wish to judge anyone who does send their child to preschool. We all mke the decisions that are best for our own children and our own situations.

    Sarah said:
    October 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Hi, new to this blog, so don’t know the background, but if you are a teacher what are you going to do with your child during the day? Or do you not work at the moment?

    I had no choice in the matter as I have to work, so my kids were in the creche at 2.5months and carried on from there. If you have a choice, then you are at leisure to consider the implications and make a decision based on what you believe to be best.

    We live in France, and both boys loved the maternelle with its concentration on play, stimulation and running about. I have no regrets, which is handy as I had no choice.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 9:48 am

      I am a teacher and in the lucky position not to have go back to work fulltime. I send my daughter to a nursery with a play focus, for one morning a week. I know that our system dies not offer many options for those who have to or want to return to work. I like the more European model of early years play based learning. This is what the Cambridge review suggested. Unfortunately we seem focused on the institution rather than the children rather too much in this country.

    Bonny and Blithe (@blitheringbonny) said:
    October 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    My wee lad started pre-school in September which takes them from 2 (don’t shout at me!). However, it’s not at all school like, it’s warm and colourful and they do things like gardening, baking, crafts, singing and chatting together with lovely mumsy teachers who give great cuddles. My god my boy adores it and gets so much out of it. He goes in skipping and comes out dancing! And do you know I can’t offer him the same at home. We’ve been to playgroups together, music groups, have a weekly rotating mums house group, but I find he gets irritated and doesn’t connect with the other kids and I think it’s because I’m there and he plays up to me.

    On the other hand I recently visited our local schools nursery class open day where I was going to place him next year and although it’s ofsted outstanding, exceptionally clean and organised and had the wow factor to other parents, I found it completely characterless, ridiculously structured and forceful in the learning. I too wish we could be more like our European neighbours with their early years models. We need to chill a little and let kids have fun!

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      I won’t shout! I’m not that bad. 😉 seriously, if you have somewhere that offers what you and your child need, that’s brilliant. Many families need/want their children to be in childcare of some sort for a variety of reasons, and it is and should be your choice. I’m glad you’ve found somewhere that sounds so ideal.

      I am very interested that you were not so keen on the school environment preschool. Perhaps the linking of preschools to schools is what has institutionalised them?

      One of the reasons I wrote this from my perspective, rather than as a balanced argument was to hear other views.

      Thank you!

    Jess said:
    October 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Great debate. So many thoughts on this, just a few things. My concerns about home schooling: depending on how long you decide to home school might answer some of my concerns.
    Is home schooling a middle class thing?
    Will home schooled children lack respect for authority from people other than their parents?
    If you want a middle classed education, but can’t afford private school, why not send them to a ‘free school’, where they can learn Latin…..JOKE
    What happens when home schooling parents all meet up with their children, who takes charge, plans extra or is it just a free for all?
    If most home school families are middle class, will the children learn how to ineract with children of different classes, cultures, race?
    Preschool isn’t all day, therefore why can’t you strike a balance?
    Are parents homeschooling for the sake of their children’s needs or their needs?
    Do some home schooling parents have an inability to socialise themselves and are therefore isolating their children?
    However,is homeschooling actually homeschooling before their fifth birthday?( when a child has to start school) the above questions relate to when you elect to take your child out of school I think.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      Wow, Jess, that’s a lot of questions! Here goes…

      I am going to address your last question first. Deciding not to send your child to preschool is not homeschooling. You do not have to send your child to school until they are 5, so any decisons before this are not home-schooling. That said, this blog may raise questions about home schooling, so I will attempt to answer these too… (P.S. I have no firm idea about whether I will home-school munchkin, only that I do think we send our children into formal education too early in this country.)

      Home schooling is potentially a middle class thing, though I don’t have any statistics, so that is just assumption. People do it for lots of reasons – language, culture, religion, special needs provision, bullying as well as ‘educational values’ as it were. I would agree that it is often only those with a reasonable income who have the choice regarding home-schooling.

      I think the question about authority is an interesting one. I would say in my experience that your respect for authority (or lack thereof) comes from you parents, whether you are home educated or educated within school. I have come across plenty of students in my teaching career so far who have had no respect for authority, in spite of having been at school all the way through!

      With regard to private education, think people have the right to chose, but I am a whole hearted supporter of the state system, and as for free-schools, that’s a whole different blog!

      Having never met up with other home-school parents myself, I am not sure how this works. I’d love to hear from anyone who does home school about this.

      With regard to mixing. I totally agree that one of the benefits of school is the socialisation with others and the ability to mix with people who are different to yourself, however in all but a few comprehensive schools in large cities, this isn’t the case in many schools. Like people tend to live in like areas and choose the same schools. This isn’t necessarily right, but it is true.

      You are right that for many parents a balance can be struck between preschool and other activities and this is brilliant. My concern is not that preschools are bad in themselves, but that we send our children to the institution of school from the ages of 3-18 and this institutionalises them and ultimately bores them.

      My answer to the question about home-schooling being for parent or child is that as with any decision about your child’s well being and education, from childcare if you return to work, to University choices, the decision should be what is best for your child and your family.

      Whether home school parents have the ability to socialise or not, is I would guess case-dependent.

      I hope that answers some of your questions! Feel like I’ve written another blog Thank you for making me think about my opinions!

    Jess said:
    October 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Free schooling comment lol
    Please can you write a blog about that next 🙂

    catparrott said:
    October 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    A really interesting post. I have to admit I’d never considered it as ‘institutionalising’ children but it has given me something to think about. My personal feeling is that there’s probably quite a range of preschools from the most relaxed, play based ones to the very academically focussed. I went back to work (4 days a week) when E was 14 months so he was obviously going to need child care of one sort or another. We chose a nursery that is attached to a small school because we liked both the nursery itself and also the overall ethos of the school which had good academic results but prioritises social skills and a sense of community.

    He has moved from nursery which was 100% play to Kindergarten where they introduced some ‘learning’ like colours, shapes, numbers and opposites through play and he has now moved into preschool where they have 1 half hour ‘lesson’ a day on phonics and do number based games but still spend the rest of the day playing. He considers it all to be fun at the moment.

    In terms of learning this seems to have kept pace with the kind of things I would be doing with him at home anyway but I feel this is also giving him a really gentle, gradual introduction to school life and I’m confident he’ll continue to move up smoothly through the years with the friends he’s made. I know I would have found it hard to help him prepare for some aspects of school (the structured day, the waiting to ask a question, the sitting quietly in such a big group) in a home setting but these things are being introduced slowly over these few years which I hope will be less stressful for him.

    Having said that, we don’t really have much choice as I have to go to work so maybe I’m just trying to justify my decision.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      This sounds like another lovely preschool and I’m glad it’s working for your son and your family. I don’t think there’s any need to justify decisions made in part about practicalities; if you need childcare and this is good childcare that you and he like, then there’s no problem. I am in a very lucky position that we can afford for me to stay off work and therefore I do have a choice. I don’t think preschools cause a problem to children, but as a secondary school teacher I am interested in why so many children are bored with school by the time they are taking exams and why we in the country have such an early start to formal schooling.

    Shehh said:
    October 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This is such a huge topic…so emotive. I don’t really have the mental faculties to explain how I feel about it. My 2.5 yr old has been in a nursery part time since his first birthday (What a great gift, eh?) and my husband and I through our work have had the privilege of observing and working with teachers and practitioners in early years and primary education. It is impossible now as a mother to separate my personal, protective feelings and what I see going on in settings and classrooms.

    Why preschool? I send my son, sometimes intensely reluctantly, to nursery and playgroup. I believe he wants to be with me at home. I think it is beneficial for him to have time with me at home. I also believe he benefits from limited time with his peers (though peer play on this scale at this age deserves a whole new post, R!), in an alternative environment. I am a frazzled mummy and I know for certain that the time he has with me once I have had a break is quality time – I’m less tired, more patient and more enthusiastic.
    The proviso is this: play-based learning that shows real understanding of children and their next steps and nurturing staff who show a genuine desire to “hear” my child. How often have I encountered this? Not often enough. Loretta’s overheard comment about “not letting them get too intelligent now” is terrifying. Parents, when choosing preschools, nurseries or joining reception class need to be armed with useful, coherent information about what to look out for and understand what kind of early years philosophy lies behind the system in place. (A very good head in a very good school felt it necessary to explain to prospective parents why there was not a desk each in reception class.)

    On losing enthusiasm for school in their mid teens: I don’t think you can pin this one on early institutionalisation. Many children lose the learning light in their eyes for a variety of reasons, most significantly in my experience due to poor transition from primary to secondary school. Perhaps we could also blame insufficient personalisation of learning, lack of resources, time-strangled teachers?

    On homeschooling: really like Jess’s questions – and the issues concern children from 5 upwards when there are a whole barrage of problems to unpick.

    On free schools: Jeez. Don’t get me started….

    Sorry for going on.. didn’t know i was going to!

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      There is absolutely a place for children having time with their peers, and mum’s having time for themselves. I agree on your principles for a good nursery, with play and individuality being at the core. I would alsi agree that it is difficult to say that it is one thing which creates this, but I don’t feel that a prolonged exposure to a school environment improves this. As a secondary teacher I would also agree that there is often a lack of personalisation in learning and this in part to do with another gripe of mine, our obsession with testing and exams… But that is yet another blog! Thanks for your comments, Shehh.

    Daddy by Default said:
    October 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    In the past I think homeschooling got a bad rep because most of the home schoolers were either card carrying feminists or women who were seen as anti-social themselves. I also think we’ve come a long way with different types of schools, educational methods, and education in general. For many families, the gen-x era kids will be the first among them to go to college. Home school is more accepted, more ubiquitous and up to a certain point, probably just as good of an education as the primary grades.

    There’s no doubt school is just more than grades and classes. Socializing with many kids is important to development. In that way, homeschool will always be subpar, unless you are homeschooling other kids too – in which case you’re not really homeschooling – you’re running a small school out of your house.

    In my family, we have several kids who were shy and withdrawn who didn’t come out of their shell until preschool or kindergarden. Without that experience, they’d probably still be too shy. So in that case, i think the forced school/socialization actually helped them.

    Just two cents from someone who has many teachers and a few homeschoolers in his family.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Thank you for your comments. Some interesting ideas, especially about how homeschooling may have got it’s rep. Are you in the States?

    Bek @ WeAreWildThings said:
    October 23, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m just curious on your take. I’m interested in what you consider the reality of the difference between a nursery and a pre-school. I had been looking at moving my son from his childminder into a pre-school but I’m actually training as a childminder myself now so I’m just going to mind him myself! I’d been looking at a Montessori pre-school as I love the idea that he would have the choice to learn at his own pace. Anyway, I thought that all providers of childcare to children in the Early Years age group were required to deliver the early years curriculum through play anyhow? You said your daughter goes to a nursery one morning a week, is this not really just a pre-school in a different name? I am with you in that I think kids start school too early, but I do think that they reality of early years education is that in the right setting it can be more about utilising play to encourage learning naturally, rather than an institutionalisation of children.

    Mel (MilkChic Breastfeeding Fashion) said:
    October 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I was destroyed that I had to send small one to preschool – I had a very hands on stay at home mum and having seen the benefits didn’t want her to miss out.

    Unfortunately that wasn’t an option – I had to prepare to go back to work. I was lucky that I was able to wait until she was at least walking and able to communicate fairly well. I don’t think childcare is always an ideal option for babies as the ratios don’t allow for the kind of care I would like my child to have. As they get older and are able to make themselves heard, that becomes less of an issue.

    I think it really comes down to the family and the childcare. I was lucky to find childcare that is small and homely, and while it meets all the ridiculous educational targets they put on preschools, it doesn’t do so at the expense of caring.

    I am lucky that I have a good compromise, with 1 day with Grandma and 2 at childcare and I manage to do my work around her the rest of the time. It means I can focus completely on her on the days we are together. She has learned to share beautifully and to deal with older and younger children so all in all, it as worked out for us. Given a different financial situation, I am unsure what I would do.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you very much for your response. Childcare obviously has benefits and there are often times/situations where we have no choice. It seems that you have found a solution that suits you all very well. I am very glad that you have found somewhere that “meets all the ridiculous educational targets they put on preschools, it doesn’t do so at the expense of caring”. 🙂

    nursemay said:
    November 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I totally agree, coming from South Africa where school is only compulsory from 7 years old it has been a bit of a transition to the UK education system. My 3 yo has recently started at a lovely play group 4 mornings a week which she adores… we decided not to send her to nursery as I found it a bit to formal and pressurised with uniforms and the like. She is 3. She needs to run and play and get dirty and just have fun. They really do learn through their play at this stage which is why I loved the play focus of the play group! If I didn’t have 2 other younger kids at home and work 25 hours a week I would reduce this to 2 or 3 days but options are limited by money (as always). A great thought provoking post!

    Ramblings Of A Suburban Mummy said:
    November 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    My son started pre-school this September (age 2 and 5mths) and I have to say that I am really pleased with his improved confidence, speech and general social skills. It is based around play and incorporates some educational aspects but what I like is that they encourage the children to try new activities and it gives him the opportunity to play with other children his age. As we don’t know any other children in the area at least he is getting to meet other children and interact with them.

    I agree that structured education could be delayed but do think that children need to be socially interacting earlier and therefore for us pre-school fits the bill.

    Rebecca said:
    November 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Interesting debate and I can understand your view point. I would say it depends on the child and the parents circumstances. Not everyone is able to give their children the rich stimulating environment a young child needs through whatever reason. My daughter didn’t go to pre school but she did go to nursery when she was three and she loved it. It was attached to the school she now attends and she settled into Reception brilliantly. She likes rules, loves reading and writing and has good attention span so a school environment suits her. I know that isn’t the case for all children and think that if we can better meet their needs at home then we should be allowed to.

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    Katriina (@headspaceblog) said:
    April 2, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I really understand your position, but in my case I really think my daughter (who is now 6) has done better being at (Montessori) kindergarten for part of the day than at home with me the whole time. I do my best as a mum, but I don’t have training in education, I struggle to be patient and consistent, and overall I think that my daughter has gained so much from being in the Montessori system in the mornings (though since age 6 she has been going for full school-length days). I have to admit, too, that having her in kindergarten for part of the day saved my sanity in many ways, especially as until recently I also had her younger sister at home with me. Children are so receptive during their early years and I have the utmost admiration for the Montessori system, with its activities that are so appealing to children and at the same time are feeding their thirst for learning the things they want to learn most. I also love our school’s overall ethos of consideration and respect. I don’t think I could have given my daughter what her school and its teachers has given her, and I have learned a lot during the time she has been there.

    marissa said:
    August 17, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Studies have shown that preschool children fare no better educationally than children who start school in kindergarten, the study found that by the middle of the kindergarten year the both groups leveled out academically. The children who stay home and spend that extra year or two with a nurturing loving family in my opinion are emotionally better off. Extended absence from parents (more than six hours a day) also appears to heighten emotional and behavioral problems in many children. But preschool is a better option than daycare if the parents/close relatives arent available. Some preschools offer 1/2 days one or 2 days a week, which may to be the best of both worlds.

    Many people believe that the most important impact of preschool is on a child’s social skills. But I do not believe that a three or four year old can only learn social skills in a class of a dozen or more kids. Interactions with siblings, or one or two friends, is absolutely fine for kids at that age. If a child would be watching television all day, certainly preschool is a better choice. However, if the child would be doing fun and interesting activities such as play dates, library time, nature walks, or museums and zoo outings with a mother or caregiver who can teach things, it’s not immediately clear that preschool is advantageous.

    Kids can get the kindergarten “prerequisites” without going to preschool. My childrens teachers told us entering kindergarteners should be able to read and write the letters of the alphabet and numbers, and be able to count to 20. We taught them all of this and more at home in their preschool years >and saved a LOT of money.

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