These days it seems like everything is starting earlier for children. Whether it’s sports, clubs, technology or school, the pressure to join each is stronger than ever! This lead to obvious question: when should my child start preschool?
As a first time mom involved in a mom’s group in a small community, everyone was sending their child to the local preschool at age three. To add to that pressure, enrollment was so competitive you had to be there early to sign up. I didn’t give it much thought except to clear my calendar to make sure I secured a “first come first served” spot for my daughter. We got in. She was with a good friend and thrived for the entire year. She completed a second year at age 4 and moved onto public kindergarten with flying colors. My daughter had no separation issues and met all expectations for small/large motor and social skills. I never second guessed our decision for her.
Then it was our son’s turn at age three. He was a totally different story. He displayed major separation anxiety and a complete refusal to want to go to school. It was a huge decision with the implications that we were missing out on a big part of his preparedness for school if he didn’t go.
In the end, we chose not to send him at age three and wait until four. It was amazing the natural maturity and readiness he showed after one more year at home with Mom. We made the right decision for him and have zero regrets.
Fast forward to our third child, who was another boy. It was a no-brainer, he stayed home until 4. It was the same case. When preschool time came at age four he was totally ready. He had no anxiety and was thriving and loving school.
In my opinion, preschool is a decision that is individual to each child and family. Opportunities for school start as early as two and a half. This may be a great fit for some as there are both private and public options. Parents who work may have to consider different factors than just a child’s readiness. Others can’t afford private preschool so the option of public 4K provides the preschool readiness for kids who may otherwise be at a disadvantage.
There is not a right or wrong method to determine which option fits or whether a child should attend. Each family has different schedules, work situations, values, and goals regarding education.
One concern for those children who do not attend preschool outside the home is that a developmental delay or learning difficulty may get overlooked. Regardless of your preschool choice, I would highly recommend contacting either the local early childhood program in your public school district or attending a child development evaluation in your community. Typically, experts in speech & language, physical and occupational therapy, child psychology, etc. will observe a child in a play-based setting and evaluate for age appropriate development. This allows for early intervention for children who may benefit from specific services to help them have a successful learning experience.
So here is an answer if you are asking yourself, “When should my child start preschool?”. In my non-professional opinion, most children who are within normal limits for development at any age will learn, grow, develop socially, face challenges, celebrate victories, and be prepared for the next step in education regardless of the path their family chooses for them!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/19/2015) redjar (Flickr)