Why preschool?

Preschool is more than just snacks, juice and naps. Preschool can be a time when children first interact with their peers on a regular basis, and it might be the first time children can assert their independence away from mom and dad.
Preschool teaches discipline, rules and life lessons, such as learning to wait, when and how to take turns and how to share with others.

These are practical, hands-on lessons that children retain differently than they do when learning the concepts of sharing from Mr. Rogers, Barney and Sesame Street. Practical, participatory lessons help develop children’s personalities and form the basis of further social interactions.

Advocates of education have long said that children’s brains develop rapidly from birth to age five and that adults should take advantage of teaching their children all they can during that time. Many states are encouraging parents to send their three and four year olds to preschool by offering discounted (or even no-cost) preschool programs for lower income families. But does the decision to send your children to preschool really matter?

Sociologists and educators believe that early schooling lays the foundation of social skills, knowledge and self-confidence, and that it paves the way for future success.

Studies, such as the “High Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 40” and the Chicago Parent-Child Center study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2001, show that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and to attend college as preschool attendance instills in children how important schooling is.

The studies also show that children who attend preschool are more likely to be employed at age 40, and to earn more money than those who starts school in kindergarten.

Additionally, the CPC study shows that children who attend preschool are less likely to be assigned to special education classes, are less likely to be arrested and/or incarcerated, are less likely to need public assistance as adults and are less likely to be held back a grade.

Preschool programs empower young children to initiate their own learning activities (as opposed to being passive recipients, such as what watching television or DVDs encourages children to be) and to take responsibility for themselves and their learning (even though at the time they are too young to realize that is what they are doing).

Preschool children actively participate in singing songs, playing in sand and water, finger painting, listening at story time and playing games that increase large and small motor skills. They also may learn beginning math skills such as sequencing, identifying patterns and spatial relationships and may develop an enhanced awareness of letters and basic reading. All of these things lay a necessary foundation for future schoolwork and learning and for many necessary life skills. 

Jill L. Ferguson is a freelance writer from San Carlos, CA.