By M. Renee Edwards
As parents, we know that crucial brain development occurs in the first three to five years of our child’s life. For that reason, we go to great lengths to make sure that our children are exposed to things that are educational as well as fun. Choosing to send our children to preschool is but another aspect of ensuring that our kids are exposed to fun as well as academics, thereby setting the stage for their success in school in later years.
Many parents opt for preschools that focus on academic programs rather than creativity or social skills. But your choice of preschool should be suited to your child’s stage of development and personality rather than based on parents’ aspirations for their child’s future.
A report issued by the office of the California superintendent said that kids who go to “quality” preschools drop out of school less, are less likely to get pregnant as teenagers, have fewer problems with law enforcement, and are less likely to be placed in special education classes. Those same children are more likely to go to college, less likely to end up on welfare, and are more likely to avoid long periods of standing in the unemployment line.
What is a “quality” preschool? Some define a quality preschool as one that has a safe and healthy environment; as one that meets a child’s relationship needs while helping that child reach critical developmental milestones. But is that all a “quality” preschool is about? What about creativity and the arts? Aren’t there schools that offer both?
Of course there are. In fact, some preschools emphasize creativity and cater to the desires of the child, while others focus on structured learning and academics. There are, however, different kinds of schools within each category. For instance, some structured learning facilities give tests and homework. The goal of these structured schools is, according to one preschool director whose school has an academic focus (including homework), to teach children to become self-sufficient, to learn to share, and to be sensitive to the feelings of others. These schools, while being academic at their core, do have scheduled playtimes where children also learn social skills and are, she believes, the equivalent of a public school’s kindergarten.
Another preschool, unstructured in nature, offers children a variety of options: a room where they can dance and sing, another where kids can build with blocks, as well as an outdoor play area. The children are allowed to do what they choose, as long as they inform staff of their choice. Its director says, “children learn best when they follow their own interests.” She also said in an L.A. Times report that, “we want whole kids who are healthy, happy and eager to learn, and not burned out by the time they’re 7.”
That’s a good point. Sometimes parents, in their quest for their children to get the best education possible, don’t take into consideration that often times placing children in an academic environment at an early age has negative effects, causing behavioral problems in later years. Again, make your preschool decision based on the needs of your child, rather than your desires for their education – they’ll have plenty of time to get into the educational swing of things once they hit kindergarten, even if all they do is play all day in preschool. Your child will thank you for it later.