Teaching Preschool Was Once My Life – Why I Believe We Should Abolish It!

Abolish Preschool

Our country’s president delivered his annual state of the union address the other day.  I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t watch.  I guess as my homeschooled children grow up I’ll make a point to do so with them.  I knew I could catch the highlights via social media and news websites the next day.  That is just what I did!

In his address President Obama asked legislatures to invest in early childhood education.  Mr. President believes this will bolster our nations academic standing and build up the economy.  As I read those words all over the web, repeatedly, my mind raced back to a time… not all that long ago, when I would have been on my feet APPLAUDING him for those remarks.  In my life before children, when I served as a special education preschool teacher in public schools, or before that as a daycare provider in private and public daycares, I believed wholeheartedly that high quality preschool was the ticket to solving most of the world’s problems.  I was told in every undergraduate and graduate class that children in high quality preschools fair better in every area of life for the rest of their lives.  This notion was slammed into me like no other.  And I believed it of course.   It made my career path seem like a great and high calling.  I clung to it with all of my heart.  These ideas made a really difficult and emotional job,  one that found me sacrificing my personal life, my marriage, and yes even my sanity at times, profoundly worth it.  I was making a real difference in children’s lives after all.

All the while I noticed something that I never appreciated although I can’t say with absolute that I was always totally innocent of this notion myself.  Daycare workers, fellow public school teachers and administrators, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists… they all looked down on parents.  Almost NO ONE seemed to believe that parents could ever possibly have any positive influence on their children. ANYTHING that was wrong with a child was most likely COMPLETELY blamed on the parents.  The solution was never to support parents in learning new ways, to come along side them to encourage and lift them up, or to give them any assistance or resources what-so-ever.  The solution was to get the kid away from their parents and into school for as many hours a week as could possibly be justified.  The general theme was… “Parents are clueless and will never get it right.  Let the experts take-over!”

In fact, I worked as a consultant for an early childhood organization for a while whose MAIN goal was to educate the community on why preschool is so important.  Behind closed doors I heard professionals, all parents themselves, put down mother’s who stay at home and choose to forgo preschool.  They disparaged families who use relatives such as grandma for daily childcare.  In fact, any child who entered kindergarten without a preschool experience was considered behind, more so if they spent their years with family.  Teachers and administrators would make this determination without ever once laying eyes on the child or their family.  Children without preschool experience enter school at a disadvantage brought on by prejudiced educators.

I have always believed, and I still do, that a high quality early childhood experience is essential for children whose family has absolutely no choice but to send them to a care facility all day for whatever the reason, such as a single parent family or financial hardship that makes a stay-at-home caregiver or other relative absolutely unavailable.  There are terrible preschools and there are fantastic preschools.  All children who absolutely NEED to be away from family all day should have access to a fantastic preschool.

However!  How can children who spend their days in the loving arms of their parents or grandparents ever be considered BEHIND for that reason alone? We as a culture should be applauding families who make the sacrifice to keep children close to home and family, not ripping them apart!  Institutional schooling, now matter how fantastic it might appear, has drawbacks! Requiring young children to spend their day with strange adults and a pack of other children who haven’t yet learned how to be mature and good people serving as your role model is NOT the most ideal situation… EVER!  Learning about love and life and even those oh so important academic skills from a close and caring relative IS ideal.  Why has our culture strayed so far away from what we all most know in our heart is right and true?

We’ve even brainwashed most parents into believing preschool is a MUST or their poor child will be doomed to a life of failure without it!  Admit it my Mommy friends!  Unless you are a homeschooler like I am now most likely you are currently making a mental list of the benefits you believe your child gains in their preschool class.  You are right, they do probably learn some great things and if you have found the right fit for your child they might even be having a good deal of fun.  Stop and think , when your child is 30 or 50 years old what will make the real difference in their life?  How many letters they learned or how much fun they had in preschool or the core relationship they developed with you and carried all of their lives?  There are only 1825 days between a child’s birth and their 5th birthday (the age most children enter kindergarten). If it can be avoided should they spend that time being nurtured by strangers? Or by their carrying and loving family?

I say let’s abolish preschool!  Instead institute maternity leave policies like many other developed nations that encourages mothers and fathers to stay at home for an extended period of time to raise their own children!  Let’s make a shift in our culture that values the stay-at-home mom or dad!  If a child’s family needs support, education, and resources in order to create a better home environment then let us spend the money strengthening that family versus creating institutions for 3 and 4 year olds. Imagine that, lifting up the entire family instead of the child alone.  Which do you think will have a longer lasting impact on our society.  Let’s destroy the high-stakes testing and create a k-12 school environment that is first and foremost DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE so that our schools are a comfortable fit for all children… especially our elementary school students.

The experts and teachers claim preschool is required in order to ensure children enter school “ready to learn.”  Almost all children would enter school ready to learn if schools created developmentally appropriate expectations for children.  When I worked in public school preschool it was my job to determine which children were “ready” to move on to kindergarten.  I was OFTEN stuck between a rock and a hard place with those decisions.  MANY of my students were on par with every single developmental marker there is.  They could sit and pay attention for the appropriate amount of time FOR THEIR AGE.  They had appropriate fine and gross motor skills.  They had age appropriate social skills… etc.  Yet, they weren’t ready for kindergarten.  WHY?  Because kindergarten is no longer developmentally appropriate for kindergarten aged children.  We now see a lack of recess and creative play time, prolonged seat work that requires these precious little people to pay attention, sit still, and WRITE for FAR longer than is appropriate for their age, and a curriculum that is far to advanced for their still developing brains.  To compensate I, the preschool teacher, was under constant pressure to create what should have been a kindergarten (or even FIRST GRADE) program in my preschool classroom.

The constant mantra is…If we just expose them earlier they will do better!  NO! It’ll just frustrate and demoralize the children who just aren’t ready!  We set so many children up for school failure, or at the very least we develop a hatred for learning, in these tiny precious souls.  What a tragedy!

Instead of forcing every child into preschool and slamming “school readiness” down their throats… let’s abolish preschool, raise up the value of parents, and make SCHOOLS ready for our most precious learners.

Comments

  1. You have so many valid points here. My views about this have changed drastically through the years. Ironically, it was my 16 year old’s preschool teacher that encouraged me years ago to not push her into starting kindergarten a year earlier as it could end up in her moving away from home a year earlier. I’m glad that I listened to her advise.

  2. We kept my daughter home for preschool because of financial reasons, but I’m so glad we did. I agree that some parents don’t have a choice and in those cases their children should have access to high-quality preschool. And while I do think that parents are made to feel like they *have* to send their kids to preschool, or the child will be at a disadvantage, every family is unique and needs something different. I know that for us, keeping my daughter home was absolutely the right choice!

  3. They’re still babies!!! Preschool was never even a consideration for me but we have pre-kindergarten here and it’s expected (though not mandatory) that children are enrolled. Most of them are 3 years old! I kept my eldest out of pre-k and started him in kindergarten just before his 5th birthday and have never regretted it. He is now in 7th grade and well ahead of the class in most subjects. I don’t believe there is ANY benefit to starting them so young. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. What an insightful post! I live in the Netherlands so I am not sure whether there is such a push to start kids in preschool so young, or what exactly it entails. I do know that at the age of two, kids can go to a ‘school’ or playgroup for a few hours two days a week. I’m not sure if this is the equivalent of pre-school though. I haven’t researched it, but I think we will be letting our toddler go once he turns two (in six months) because he loves playing with other children and we do not have friends with kids that are the same age.

    The educational system here is rather different than in the US though, and kids don’t tend to get homework until about 8 years old. There are numerous programmes and ‘paths’ that children can go on to get to university or to finish their degrees. It’s all very customised, and I find it rather confusing. I have a lot of research to do in the coming years.

    I also have a really good friend who is a teacher in the US. She may be the exception, but when we talked about her work (she teaches special education), she explained that she always tried to meet with parents, especially of difficult students, and discuss the tools that they should be using/implementing at home. She also worked in daycare and pre-school even though she teaches high school now. I found the perspective you adopted rather surprising because this friend and I had had so many conversations about her work and how she views parents, etc.

    Anyway, I really like your post. I also feel really blessed to be a SAHM and that we don’t have to send our kiddo to stay with someone else during the day.

  5. Standing up and applauding this post!
    I had several people tell me the kids should go to preschool; I opted to do preschool at home, in our own way. My daughter is far beyond most of her kindergarten peers this year.
    It kills me that their kindergarten class only gets one recess per day, and on days when they have late arrivals they don’t get a recess. In kindergarten! She comes home with worksheets with work I’d associate with skills they don’t possess until much older. She has almost an hour of homework a night. Not kidding. We have gotten to the point where we are pushing our children too hard. They need this time to be kids.

    Stopping in from BYB.

  6. Don’t forget the hideous reason of PreK for “socialization” BAH! Don’t even get me started!!! I absolutely agree that PreK is unnecessary, except when needed for reasons you mentioned.

    stopping by from byb!

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