The argument is over. Boys and girls aged two, three, and four are young and need a few years in which they can spend quality time at home with their families. But while moms and dads are more than capable of teaching their children the fundamental skills needed in preparation for a big year—kindergarten—there are substantial reasons and evidence to conclude that preschool education is necessary.
The Classroom Environment
The first step, walking over the threshold to enter the classroom filled with learning stations, tubs of blocks, a play kitchen, a reading nook, small desks and chairs, and plenty of floor space, can be overwhelming to the senses; but important for learning. The physical detachment can be challenging for both parent and child; yet, preschool is helping children acclimate to a program, which often lasts from 9 am to 12 pm. The most valuable skills, learning the classroom and school rules, such as standing still and in a line, raising a hand to ask a question, or sitting at a desk and on the floor, take time and plenty of practice.
Mention the word backpack, and children are eager not only to have one, but also to experience the thrill of attending school. A preschool environment fosters a feeling of self-worth and the responsibility of taking care of one’s belongings and space. Children will learn to recognize their name, hang up a coat and their backpack, and turn in homework. Children will also be responsible for setting the table for a snack and washing their hands, being a line leader, helping to clean up toys or tables and taking possessions home each day.
The First Classmates
Most young children are accustomed to meeting other children at play centers or playgrounds. Dealing with the necessary wide-open time to run and play is not required in a classroom situation. However, in the process of learning classroom rules, and engaging in various independent, partnered, group, and whole-class activities, preschoolers are meeting classmates, practicing the art of socialization, and learning vital skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperation in a safe environment.
In addition to parents and grandparents, the next role model young children will meet is their classroom teacher. If we visit a preschool classroom, the love of the teacher can be noticed immediately. It is shown through her bulletin board, full of students’ pictures and drawings. She is eager to hear their stories, and offers praise for good deeds. The teacher can transform the shy or the anxious child, the over-eager or talkative child into a well-prepared student.
Parents have the choice of sending their preschooler two days, Tuesday and Thursday; three days, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; or five days a week. In a wide variety of games and activities, children receive instruction in pre-literacy and pre-math skills. Singing and movement, learning rhymes and chants, sorting and matching, board games and counting, as well as using magnets and blocks, are just of the few skills or activities which foster exposure and learning. Preschoolers will maintain a schedule and may be able to attend a music class or other specialized class. Depending on the school, a lunch hour, outdoor recess, and craft-focused activities are available to extend the school day. It allows children to practice the skill of sitting in a cafeteria and engaging in group activities with peers.
Preschool may be perceived as structured playing; yet, the skills learned are so much more. The National Institute for Early Education Research has concluded that more than two-thirds of four-year-olds showed “better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills” due to the influences of preschool education. Beyond readiness for school, preschool helps children become well-rounded individuals. February is the perfect time of year to start seeking a preschool for your child. Please do not let your child miss out on this exceptional opportunity.