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Is Your Child Ready For Preschool?

Ann E. Butenas


After the birth of my first son, I debated the merits of whether or not, when the time came, if I would enroll him in preschool. After all, I never attended preschool. My mother told me she enjoyed me so much, she just wanted to keep me at home with her for as long as possible.

However, when two other sons arrived within three years after the first one was born, I decided it was time to usher as least ONE of them out of the house for a couple of days a week. Was he really ready, or did I just need a break? It was probably a combination of the two, but I felt compelled to give him certain opportunities I could not otherwise provide at home. At the very least, he would acquire the socialization skills necessary to prepare him for Kindergarten and beyond.

According to Carleton Kendrick, Ed., M., "Socialization is the single greatest developmental benefit to be gained from a good preschool experience. There are many other emotional and intellectual benefits provided by a child-centered preschool program. A loving home will provide a child as fine an opportunity for growth as any preschool. The key difference in the home and preschool socialization experiences usually is the degree to which a child has the opportunity to interact with his or her peers."

Mr. Kendrick went on to explain that in preschool, there is opportunity built into every day for a child to interact with children of similar ages.

While I do have other children at home, and they are all close in age, I still felt that my oldest should be exposed to the preschool environment. Before I enrolled him, I read books on the preschool child to find out what he should be capable of doing at his age. Granted, all kids are different, and many develop at different stages. As far as Alec was concerned, I wanted him to go to preschool to develop those skills he did NOT have. For instance, he was never much of a talker until age 3 1/2, nor did he know his colors, numbers, or alphabet until somewhere in that age range. After he started preschool, the information he came home with was astounding. Sure, I could probably have taught him all that, but, with two other boys younger than him to care for, I did not have the time.

Alec's confidence level greatly increased after he had been in preschool. He gained a certain sense of self that was otherwise not apparent before his preschool experience. He enjoyed being around other children and loved learning. Now that he is in Kindergarten, he cannot get enough of the academic environment.

My four-year-old son, Zachary, however, while advanced in many other areas at this age than his older brother Alec was, does not seem ready for preschool. Admittedly, he is not fully potty-trained now and really does not show a keen interest in this developmental stage. That alone would bar him from preschool. Further, he is more laid back than Alec and does not really express an interest in the learning tools that Alec has. He is by no means lacking in intelligence, but I do not think he would be fully comfortable in a preschool setting now. What Alec has brought home intellectually from school has been transferred to Zachary to an extent, so I am not too worried about stumping Zachary's mental capacities. Maybe next year I will opt to enroll Zachary into preschool. His birthday falls on the cusp of the cut-off line to be eligible to enter Kindergarten, so he will be forced to wait out another year before he can start "real school," at which point he will be nearly six and most likely resemble a second-grader, at the rate he is growing. That is why I believe Zachary will be ready to enter preschool at that point. He will need to foster within himself a certain level of self-confidence and enhance those skills he has acquired at home from his family and friends.

My two-and-a-half-year-old son, Noah, will probably not WANT to go to preschool. He is alarmingly clingy to me and I doubt he would be able to be away from me for an extended period of time. Fortunately, aided by his older brothers, at his tender young age, his cognitive and motor skills are further advanced than his brothers were at this age. Just interacting at home with his brothers and their friends has afforded Noah a wealth of learning opportunities he would most likely get at preschool anyway.

However, by the time Alec and Zachary are in school full-time, and I have had enough of Noah hugging my leg as I attempt to make the beds, I think I will be the one ready to enroll him into preschool! I fear that without his brothers around all day, he will lose ground on certain developmental issues. Plus, I don't want him to feel left out.

Nonetheless, there is one prevalent thought that has always been in my mind since I first enrolled Alec into preschool a couple of years ago: Are we too eager to involve our children in activities because everyone else does it? Do we feel compelled to get them a running start on their academic careers? I may step on a few toes here, but sometimes I have felt that certain parents do the preschool agenda to provide themselves with "free time." As parents, we have duties to our children to be involved with them every day, and I, personally, do not want to use preschool as an "escape." If it is a shortened schedule and the child seems to enjoy it and is benefiting, it is great. If the child is unhappy with it, then I would not pursue it. They will be in school for many years, and one day, they will be leaving for college. To this day, my mom has no regrets about keeping the preschool experience from me. She simply enjoyed those few years with me at home. Those are days, in her mind, which go too quickly and can never be replaced.

All in all, I think if BOTH the child and the parents are ready for the right reasons, and there is a happy balance between the preschool environment and the home environment, I think everyone is in for a "win-win" situation. It is becoming an increasingly complex world out there, and, if anything, this next generation needs to be prepared as soon as possible. Preschool can provide such preparation. So can parents.

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.

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Sharelle May 29, 2013 03:41:32 PM ET

My three year old knows all of the above however being an only child and me not having any friends it has been hard finding anybody to socialize him with. I want to put him in preschool. However the only thing holding me back is I have to ask him if he has to go to the bathroom, he insists on me going in with him and helping him get his pants down then he kicks them all the way off. When he's done he runs out of the room bottom half naked. He depends on me too much. "Clingy" as you say. I am trying to figure out how to get him to not get all naked so I can send him to school, but maybe I will just end up having to send him to kindergarten based on not going to the bathroom by himself. Needing me there. I know I would have a hard time at least leaving my boy at the school the first couple days even if it was only for a few hours. I'm not one of those moms that "needs a break"

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N.Nana Nov 17, 2011 09:56:17 PM ET

Im a stay at home mom and I have a three year old and a two year old. I make sure I find time in my busy schedule to sit down with them and read and teach them what they teach at preschool. My oldest already knows her colors and her shapes, she is learning the alphabet and the numbers next. I think next year I will enroll them both in preschool so they can "socialize". It all depends on the parents. As moms i think its our responsibility to make sure our kids are academically successful. And i hate to think that parents would put their kids in preschool just for some "free time". :/

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jlmom Sep 21, 2009 10:27:29 PM ET

My 19 month old attends a play group and the teacher thinks he is ready for preschool. I think like your Mom. How can I know if he is really ready? Excellent article. It felt as if you got inside my mind.

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nkot May 6, 2009 02:15:48 PM ET

This article is really helpful in deciding whether to go for pre-k for my 3 yr. old

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