The preschool rat race used to be limited to upper-class residents of major cities, but it’s slowly spreading across the country, according to Melinda Wenner Moyer in an article on Slate.com. Parents are obsessively researching options, waiting in hours-long admissions lines, and even subjecting 3-year-olds to admissions tests.
Of course, parents who are willing to go to such lengths for their children simply want to give them an educational head start. But Wenner Moyer argues that these children already have that head start. For them, preschool is simply a racket, she says.
Is preschool a waste for all children? Not at all, the author says. It’s an amazing boost for more disadvantaged kids. The problem is, the children who will truly benefit from preschool don’t go:
Compared with kids who skip preschool, kids who attend usually have more well-to-do, encouraging parents who read and do puzzles with them at home. Children who don’t go to preschool are usually from more disadvantaged families, which means they watch lots of TV and are yelled at more than they are praised, which some researchers believe can stunt cognitive development.
In other words, as Wenner Moyer notes, the kind of parents who read articles about preschool on Slate.com probably don’t need to send their kids to preschool! It’s an assertion she backs up with research. A University of Texas study, for instance, found that children with good, stimulating home lives didn’t gain an advantage from preschool, but the opposite was true for kids with a less-than-ideal home situation.
So if preschool doesn’t especially matter for already-advantaged children, the type of preschool really doesn’t matter, Wenner Moyer argues. While matching an educational philosophy to your child’s personality makes sense, the rest is semantics, she says. (However, she does note that one recent study suggests children in classical, more “purist” Montessori schools may get a slight edge – but no one knows whether that – or any preschool advantage – actually lasts.)
Bottom line? Stop stressing, she says:
If you’re providing your child with a stimulating environment at home—and if you’ve read this far, you probably are—don’t stress about preschool. Hell, skip the whole damn circus if you want.
Will you send your child to preschool? Do you think it will give your child an educational edge, or do you have other reasons?