There’s a lot of pressure these days to send your child to preschool. Everywhere I turn, I’m asked whether our children attend. Perhaps some of the questions come out of curiosity because my husband is a pediatrician, but perhaps not. All sorts of reasons to do so have been set forth: socialization, academics, giving mom a break, and a few other minor reasons. I think some of these have some validity. A number of our friends put their children in preschool; they have not put pressure on us, nor am I writing to them. I simply have been thinking of reasons we are choosing not to put our children in preschool.
For the sake of discussion, I am not addressing academics. I’m a teacher with a master’s degree in education, and teaching is something I enjoy and can do better than most preschools. I understand not every mother is like me, and really, academics isn’t in itself a spiritual issue. That’s a personal decision with many individual factors to consider (although I truly believe it doesn’t take a teacher to provide a challenging, academically stimulating environment for her children).
The question I ask myself is, what do I gain or lose by keeping my children at home?
I’d like to start by considering social reasons: the Bible is all about relationships, and I’m not confident that a preschool is the best place to learn biblical ways of relating to others. For example, when a young friend is disobedient, my children’s natural reaction is shock and pride; they do not see their own struggle to do right. I want to challenge that tendency. I want to help my children understand our responsibility to pray for them. I want to remind them that they are learning to obey, too, and I want them to feel compassion instead of pride. A preschool teacher simply doesn’t have the time to teach these things. An excellent preschool teacher will help children learn that disobedience is not rewarded. That’s good, but I’d like to be able to teach more.
There is a need for learning group dynamics, and parents often see preschool as the ideal setting for learning them; however, I don’t think preschool is the ideal setting for our children. I’ve noticed my older child tends to follow the bigger children. He’ll let them pummel him, even if he’s not enjoying it, because of his desire to be a part of the group. I want to be able to teach my child how to respond to the group, but I will not know where he needs guidance if I never see him in a group. Again, I’m not convinced a typical preschool teacher is going to be aware of each child’s personality and limitations, and have the time and wisdom to deal with it biblically.
Another difficulty is that in a preschool setting, the group dynamic that tends to develop is a dominant child directing play, with the more passive children accommodating and following. We do need both leaders and followers in life, yet this dynamic is not always a healthy one. Often a dominant child is selfishly taking toys, overruling other ideas and contributions, and manipulating the environment to suit his whims and desires, while the passive children simply shrug their shoulders and go along.
These social problems exist in preschool settings (and some homes) when the highest virtue tends to be keeping the peace. Children quickly learn that keeping the peace is valued and praised, and a dominant child’s manipulating of the environment may go unnoticed. A passive child who screams and fights back quickly learns that such behavior is inappropriate, but isn’t also taught how to respond to a selfish, dominant child. I know that I sometimes find it difficult to make a decision that I know will result in emotional upheaval, even if it is the best decision. When two children are in conflict, it is difficult to discern which child I allow to be selfish as I help them resolve the issue, so I understand a preschool teacher will undoubtedly miss and misinterpret these same challenges in a group. Ironically, dominant children may be those whom parents are most likely to sense need additional social interaction, but be least likely to learn the skills they need, in preschool.
Yes, preschool can teach children to share, take turns, and play fairly. But I can teach those things in my home, and I can do it better. I want to teach these things from a biblical perspective. In the world, politeness and other social customs are taught as a means to get what you want, not as a way to show God’s love. I must work to make sure that my children have opportunities to learn these things.
Of course, every child and family are different, and there may be reasons that one family may legitimately and wisely make a different decision than the one we have made. I’m simply explaining why for our family, we have found preschool unappealing for the very reasons it is supposed to be beneficial.
We’ll continue this discussion later. I’d like to consider a few more reasons we have not chosen preschool, and why a Christian parent may not have a need for preschool that the world does. Click here for Part 2.
Jamie Mulfinger says
Thanks for that post! Looking forward to reading more on the subject. I also am tired of being asked (pestered about) why Matthew is not in preschool. It is easy for me to say, “He just turned 3!” but of course this doesn’t answer their question. The fact is, I just don’t want to discuss it with people because I doubt they will understand since they have opted to put their 3 yr. olds in preschool all day. So, what do you usually say when people ask you this question?
To be truthful, I usually stutter over this question, too! Thinking it over, I think next time someone asks me, I’m going to ask them, “Why would I?” and then simply respond to their answer (whatever advantage they come up with) that I haven’t seen the need for preschool to give my child that particular advantage. I dunno. If it’s somebody who is genuinely asking why, as in “what are your reasons” then I typically respond similarly to what I wrote.
Thanks for your comments and visit! Michelle
Shelley Gallamore says
It is important to assume that the people who ask “why isn’t he in preschool” are simply asking out of their experience – they are doing it so they assume that you would do it too. they probably aren’t trying to make a value statement to you – unless the continue to ask. 🙂 So, for the casual askers I just said “oh, we’re not doing preschool ”
I didn’t do preschool with the first 3, but with the last one who was home for 3 years alone – we did send her to preschool the last year…there weren’t any other siblings around during the day to help knock the edges off her.
I think your response is a good one too. You seem to have a natural, kind way of interacting with people that I can learn from. I think you’re right, people are just making conversation, much like they ask questions like “Is your baby sleeping through the night?” And we moms sometimes take offense when it’s just a person trying to be pleasant!
Can you tell me what you mean when you say “knock the edges off her”? What deficiency did you see in your daughter, and how did preschool help that? I know I’m coming from a different perspective, but I’d like to hear how you came to the decision you did, and how it helped.
Shelley Gallamore says
A lot of my experience is based in my husbands having been an only child and then becoming the father of 4 kids. It is a change from how he grew up. But, basically he feels that the major thing he missed was the constant interaction with other people that wouold have caused him to deal with his sin issues of selfishness, etc. When no one bothers your stuff and everything is planned with you in mind, you don’t have as much of a problem minding and being content. (to an extent) Having siblings, especially close in age siblings really forces kids to deal with those “rough edges”. With Megan we found that she wasn’t getting the benefit of not being the center of the universe that our older kids had experienced – and preschool provided some of that for her.
I like how you expressed the challenge of a child without siblings as a potential sin struggle, and I would agree that this situation is one that can be helped through preschool. At the same time, I’ve seen preschool exacerbate this problem, too. I’m glad preschool turned out well for you. 🙂