Not Doing Preschool

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Starting Kindergarten without Preschool

Will private schools accept a child without preschool?

June 2010

My 4 yo will begin K in Fall 2011 and I am beginning to do preliminary research regarding which schools would best suit her. My 11 yo is starting middle school at Windrush this Fall so I am focusing my search in the El Cerrito, Berkeley, Richmond area and have found 6 schools that I think would be a great fit.

Does anyone know if any of the following private schools will consider a child for K that has no preschool experience? Windrush, Walden, Crestmont, The Berkeley School, Berkwood Hedge and Montessori Family School.

My husband hasn't worked since August 2007 and has been staying home with our preschooler. The only recent experience she has with daycare is when I take her to the backup care near my job, maybe averaging once a month or so.

Should I try to enroll her in preschool for this Fall, even if it's just 2 mornings a week, so she can get some preschool experience before applying for K? If so, any recommendations for good, affordable preschools in the area that still have Fall 2010 openings?

Also, if anyone has any experiences with the K programs in the schools listed above, I'd appreciate any reviews, advice, insights, etc. We are thinking of moving to Hercules, Pinole or El Cerrito in October, so we will also be researching public school options once we know where we will settle.

Thanks. Mommy to 4 yo with no preschool

I would try to enroll her in the Berkeley Parks and Rec FREE preschool program, it's 3 days a week and they have 10 and I think a 20 week session, I think you can only do one session. I have heard great things about the curriculum (Tools of the mind) I am hoping to get my daughter in when she turns three in the next few months, since we live in Oakland we can try to get it but Berkeley residents are first priority. Good luck!

OH and if you can not do the preschool thing before she goes off to K, don't fret,My sister's children never had preschool and all four of them are in honors and advanced classes. pre-preschooling mama

I have 2 daughters at Walden , and preschool experience is not a requirement. Some children come into the school after being home-schooled for a time, some come from a preschool. It is a small school with amazing teachers. Pamela is the K teacher and she has an amazing ability to include all children, help the wiggly ones focus, allow the focused ones to lead, and teach a subject all at the same time.

My younger daughter started there early and will do a second year in K this coming year, and we are thrilled to have Pamela for 2 years. Ruby will be 5 this Sept. Pamela is very able to incorporate children of different abilities / maturity. The curriculum is different every year, based on the children's interests. It's a small school with lots of individual attention, and lots of encouragement for each child to ask questions, think for themselves, be creative, work together, solve problems, etc. Walden is a wonderful place with integrated arts, music, drama, sign language, and Spanish. I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have. Best of luck with relocating. Laura

Am I missing something important, not doing preschool?

July 2008

My son will be four in a few months, and has never been in day care or preschool. He does go to friends' houses without me, at least once or twice a week for half a day usually. He separates easily, does fine, loves to go, gets along well with all kids, loves to play with just about anyone. I am home with his younger brother and don't really have the money to justify putting him in preschool. Of course, I feel the pressure from many of his neighborhood peers, but, I do think that he gets certain emotional benefits of being with mommy that kids in preschool don't (a deeper level of attachment, having his feelings heard and mirrored, all his speech understood, his days filled with field trips and fun, bonding and sharing with his little brother, etc.). I must admit, I don't want to miss a minute (well at least not too many minutes!) of him being little, either, since the time flies. I so rarely meet other parents who aren't putting their kids in preschool. Am I missing something important? And, if you are in a similar situation and want to get together for play, please feel free to leave me your email address as we are always looking for new playmates who aren't busy with preschool each day. Somehow we've become the exception instead of the norm...

My son entered kindergarten without a stitch of preschool! He also entered ''early'' by today's standards as he just turned five two weeks before school started. My son was extremely social, often more so than his older, preschooled classmates. He thrived in his kindergarten class and I truly feel that it was his time at home with me that gave him the confidence to succeed so readily. Now we are off to first grade at the end of the summer and very excited! Trust your instincts. I think you are spot on in knowing that your son's time with you has been beneficial and immeasurable! anon

Well, here's a quick response to your query. There's nothing wrong with your staying home with your 4-y-o, and enjoying every minute of it. That said, if he starts in kindergarten without some sort of formal group experience, he will be behind his peers in social development.

It used to be that kindergarten was the time when kids would learn to sit quietly in a group, listen, respond in turn, and deal with other important school social skills. For a lot of reasons, now kids in kindergarten are expected to know all that already so that they can begin the great tasks of learning to read and write. (you can say what you like about it--and I know many who don't like--but that's the way of contemporary education.) Of course a certain amount of socialization will happen in kindergarten, but most private schools--and even public schools--do expect kids to arrive in kindergarten with some group experience.

You sound like you a terrific mom and are giving him great attention and learning experience. However, he will need to know how to conduct himself in school without you there to mirror his experience and help him articulate his feelings. His teacher will help, but your child will be one of many kids in the group. Playdates are one thing, but formal group settings are another.

There are co-op preschools where you could be more a part of your son's preschool experience. There may also be schools where your son could go part time. Both of those options would help with your cost and time-apart concerns.

On the other hand, your son will probably do fine in kindergarten w/out preschool. Just allow an for extra measure of adjustment when he starts. a mom

I am not at all into pressuring kids, overscheduling them, or doing what your neighbors are doing. That said, kindergarten is quite academic nowadays, in large part due to NCLB (a whole 'nother problem). Kids are expected to be ''ready to read.'' My daughter was in K last year, and the 4 kids that didn't go to preschool did struggle as they didn't know their letters and sounds, were not used to the large groups of kids and structure, etc. (I know this as a frequent classroom volunteer). Preschool is a lot of fun for many kids, and provides them with experiences you're just not going to get going next door to the neighbor's house. Why not find something very PT, say 2 mornings a week? Maybe a co-op where you work (and the cost is low) at the school one day and he goes by himself for a day as week (by day I mean 2-3 hours). Really, I think it's a valuable experience for kids and they usually love it. Think of it not as something you ''have'' to do but a fun opportunity for your son to learn, make friends, and get used to the idea of school in a very low-key way. It will make the transition to ''real school'' much easier, I guarantee it. anon

I could have written your post (and thought about doing so many times) I am in the exact same (seemingly unusual) situation - drop me a line if you'd like to meet up at a park! same boat mama

I take care of my grandson full time while his parents work. He is 3 now and has not gone to preschool. I make sure he has plenty of fun and educational things to do. We go to the park, on field trips to Fairyland,Habitot,Studio Grow, University Village classes, Soccer,T Ball and story time at the library. He knows all his letters, numbers, can read at a first grade level, add, subtract, knows his colors, can write pretty good and has a great imagination. The only thing I think he is missing is one on one playtime with kids his own age. You are right that kids not in preschool seem to be a rare breed in this day and age and if you are interested in another playmate for your son we would be happy to get together for a playdate. j

The answer is what is best for your and your family. If you are happy with him at home, then keep him there until kindergarten. If he is going on play dates alone, then he is already being exposed to different value systems and rules, he knows how to share, etc.

I think that families use preschool for different reasons. Sometimes it is societal pressure...sometimes it is for sanity...sometimes it is because to nurture a budding interest...

Maybe you could find a local homeschooling organization. There are certain to be plenty of kids who have the same flexibility in their schedules. -anon

I think you should put your child in preschool. It sounds as if your child does well in playdates, but there is so much more to preschool. Learning to work in groups, understanding the differences between people, learning to take direction from teachers, developing play ground confidence, writing, reading, math, science, art, music, etc. My son is starting Kindergarten this fall and I know he will excel and be happy, because he learned confidence in a school setting and met friends and developed into a great kid. Teachers expect quite a bit from kindergartners today (most in my sons preschool class are reading) and I think it would be to your childs best interest to check out preschool. Sounds like he'll love it and really the cost is pretty nominal to help set the stage. go preschool!

Don't worry about a thing. It will all work out just fine. Enjoy your time together. We did. It's true that there are kids in my son's first grade class who have more academic skills, but you know what? My son learned about life. He can cook, keep his room straight, grow his own patch of pumpkins, raise a baby animal, enjoy nature, and just be a total pleasure to be with. It did take him a few weeks to get into the school routine at age 6, but in the hands of a supportive teacher, it wasn't a big deal (for him anyway! I was the one crying!)

School has offered him a lot too, and I'm grateful for it. But I have to say that it disrupts family life, so don't do it before you are all ready for a big change. It sounds like everything is going well for you and your son right now just the way things are. 'The Grind' can wait. that time was precious

Well I'm a nanny. You'd think I'd be all for paid care, but in fact I'm not. If you are the kind of mom who is suited to staying home with your child and you love it, and everyone in the situation thrives and leads a varied existence (you mentioned regular playdates and field trips), then yes, you should continue it until s/he goes to Kindergarten.

Sure, there's the possibility that your little one will freak out when school hits, but that possibility exists regardless. You're totally right that time flies. There is no such thing as perfection anyway. The best any parent can do is make decisions that feel right for their own family. My suggestion: go with that, and don't compare.

In my opinion, nannies are ideal for parents who aren't suited to being with their child 24/7 (there's no judgment in this - our world includes all personality types), or who need to work for financial reasons. I really support your intuitive sense to just keep your child at home.

neither of my kids went to preschool. they loved it at home and so did i. we had daily activities and got together with other preschoolers regularly. when my kids entered kindergarten they were well adjusted socially and ahead academically. the kids are now in 10th and 8th grade. both highly gifted and still socially well adjusted. they lost nothing by not attending preschool and gained everything by being at home. looking back, if i had to do it again, i would have kept them at home for another year, until 1st grade as kindergarten was too chaotic and many of the kids were very immature and mean. personally, i thought it was a waste of time. do what is right for you and your family enjoy your kids :)

I think it's important for young children to be around groups of other young children early in life. In the old days, this happened naturally with groups of cousins, neighbors, etc. My mother did not go to preschool, but was always around a large group of siblings and cousins from an early age. As a result, she was always comfortable with other people. However, I did not go to preschool, was mostly alone with my mother all day, and grew up cripplingly shy. In kindergarten, I cried every day for a couple of months. I was overwhelmed by the large group of children -- it all seemed so chaotic and confusing. After many years of hard work, I learned how to force myself to come out of my shell, but I still struggle with painful shyness. I think socialization is like language -- there's a ''critical period'' in those early years where your brain is primed to learn it, and if you miss it, it's much harder to catch up later. You don't have to send your child to full-time preschool (a few hours a day, 2-3days/week is fine starting at age 2) -- that way you can still enjoy that precious time together most of the time! Recommends preschool

Did you keep your child home till kindergarten?

Sept 2004

We've started looking at preschool options for 2005 for our child, who will be 3 next year, and up until now, has stayed at home with one parent.

Frankly, we're feeling discouraged by the whole process--cost, lack of ethnic diversity (or seemingly so?), competitive spirit, etc. All of these things have made us stop and think: Preschool is *not* compulsary, so must our child go, and at 3 yrs. old?

I'm not looking for pros and cons of preschool (or a debate), per se, but more advice from others who have kept their child/ren at home until kindergarten (or at least until 4yrs. old). For instance, what sorts of activities do you do to keep them busy at that age? If they've entered kindergarten, have you sensed that they're somehow lacking in anyway when compared to other kids? Was it possible/easy to find other kids that age not in preschool and form playgroups with them?

Just want to consider all the options...Thanks. Preschool novice mom

After doing a year of preschool partime when our daughter was 3, we are now home-preschooling for age 4. (We intend to go to one of our local public schools for kindergarten.) Since all her friends even the younger ones are in school of some sort, we felt it important that she felt she was doing something rather than ''not going to to preschool.'' We tapped into some homeschooling activities so she could meet other children who are at home in a fun but purposeful manner. We signed up for preschool science classes at LHS, a performance arts type class, a music class, go to the weekly story hour at our library for the 3.5 - 7 age set and listen to language cds with that extra car time. We do a easy hike 3x a week in the mornings (~45 minutes). We also have two regular weekly playdates with friends that don't go to preschool every day. It's challenging but I'm having more fun than I thought I would and I don't have to pack lunch anymore.

Trouble adjusting to kindergarten after no preschool?

March 2003

My kids will not go to preschool nor have they been to day care before they will attend kindergarten. I would be interested to hear adjustment experiences of other parents whose kids have gone to school without preschooling. I imagine it depends on the child but there might be a ''general'' trend. Mary

Our three daughters started kindergarten without ever attending preschool. The two oldest daughters were anxious to start school and I noticed very little difference between those children who had attended preschool and ours that hadn't. Surely within the first semester any advantage had evened out. Our third daughter was apprehensive about leaving the nest and going to school, coupled with the birth of her baby brother a month before she was not too sure. She was fine when school started. No clinging to my leg begging me to stay. Also, all 3 girls missed the cut off dates to start school(the youngest by 1 week, the other 2 by a month) so they all started school at 5 1/2 so I would imagine that played a part it their adapting. Bobbi

Don't sweat it; kids do fine either way. Neither of my sons went to daycare or preschool and both were fine in kindergarten. I wish you the best

I chose to send my daughter to preschool, but my sister-in-law decided to keep her daughter (same age) at home until kindergarten. The one main difference between the kindergarten experience of these two girls was *not* academic, but rather, social. My niece struggled with dealing with her peers for an extended period of time, on her own (without mom's help or input). My SIL had assumed that because her daughter went to Sunday School each week, she was getting peer-experience and teacher experience. While this was true, it is totally different being with 19 other children for three to six hours every single day, all week long. Her daughter did not have the social skills to deal well with conflict, negotiation, sharing, compromise, and so on. To her surprise, her daughter had a hard time for the first six months or so. She has thus decided to send her now three year old daughter to preschool for a year before kindergarten. A Preschool Happy Parent

More Questions about Not Doing Preschool

Can't afford preschool with baby on the way

Nov 2009

I want to preface this by saying that I am a normally pretty relaxed momma who is beginning freak out BIG TIME about pre- school. I don't think I felt as anxious about choosing my own college or grad school. My almost 2 yr is thriving now in our nanny share with our dear nanny but I am looking for pre-school for next year so he can socialize in a group. He is a happy, social, verbal child who also loves gross motor activities, music, animals, books, general silliness, and being outside.

My big problem is cost, we are planning to try for baby number #2 and there is no way that I can afford to pay our nanny and even part-time pre-school. I really can't believe how much Bay Area parents are paying. Some full-time schools are as much as $1700 per month and many part-time programs are about $800 per month. As a full-time working mama with a commute, I can't really swing the coop thing. I keep thinking that maybe we could transition #1 and #2 to pre-school at the same time but most pre-schools don't accept toddlers.

Has anyone kept their older child at home with their nanny and younger child and skipped pre-school or waited until just one year before K. If so, how did it go?

We are middle-class but looking at these fees I feel poor. Maybe I just need moral support that this is ALL crazy. Back in the day (the 70's), my brother and I went to a parent participation nursery school for one year before K (I vaguely remember making paste) and we are fine. a normally chill momma who is freaking

I'm a working mom of two kids - 2y 4mos apart - and am baffled by the costs of childcare / preschool. Part of the way we've been pulling it off is by our very affordable preschool - Smiles in Montclair. It's a very straight forward, play-based with structure school with teachers who've been there a long time. Full time is under $1000. That being said, I just went to an open house for a pre-K program for my son who will graduate from smiles and am not even sure if we can afford it - since we'd also send his younger brother there too (for logistics sake). It's like having a second mortgage payment! In retrospect, I would have given more thought to spacing my kids out more so that we weren't hemorrhaging financially in these few years.... Looking forward to public school....

Our almost 4 year old isn't in preschool for the same reason you are describing. Since we have a baby and her, we couldn't afford daycare and preschool. Our daughter's doing just fine and we just make a bit more effort to make sure we get together with others who have kids her age. We've let go of all the ''preschool'' stress and have confidence in the fact that there is no one ''right'' path in life. Good luck

My son did three years of preschool and is thriving in 2nd grade. My daughter did one year of preschool and is thriving in kindy. Yes, one year of preschool is definitely enough if you believe that's all you can afford. Another middle-class family struggling to afford childcare

Considering not sending second child to preschool

April 2004

We are contemplating sending our second child to preschool and I am looking for input from people on both sides- those who believe in it and those who do not necessarily think it is needed. We sent our first child to preschool and although it was a good experience we find ourselves wondering if she would have benefitted just as much by being home and engaged in more playgroups and activities. Our plan was to start sending our second child who is three years old to preschool during the summer along with our five year old daughter so he could gain a comfort level while his sister was still attending. However, our beloved preschool is closing in June! And, we are expecting a third child in July/August. So, I would love any input on the following: 1. We are concerned about the adjustment in August when we have a new baby, our daughter is starting kindergarten and our son is starting preschool. Some schools have summer openings to help our 3 yr old adjust to the idea of it before the baby comes but the preschools we really like either are full for the summer or are too costly for us. We thought about waiting several months into the new school year but we fear that we would not get in to any decent preschool considering all of the long waiting lists. 2. Cost versus benefit. Our three year old is involved in two regular playgroups, a gym class and a music class. If we added one more activity for socialization would that be enough socilization? Preschool is expensive considering he would only be there about 6-12 hours a week. 3. Does he need to be away from mom/baby and develop independence? This is the big question for us and we are really stuck on this one. We thought about joining a local health club that offers a great, structured childcare where we can leave him up to two hours a day (the baby too which would allow Mom a bit of ''sanity'' and much needed exercise time too). Would this allow him the opportunity to learn to be away from Mom and gain enough independence? We are comitted to sending him to a pre-K program next year but we are really questioning what to do this coming year when he would be age 3 to 4. Thank you so much for your advice! Conflicted parents

I believe that the benefit to preschool is much more than for socialization. It teaches your child how to ''go to school''and better prepares them for kindergarten...where they are expected to sit at one desk, preform certain tasks, stick to a routine, etc....I think if your child doesen't go to preschool s/he would be much less prepared for that environment. Secondly, the odds that s/he will go to college are greater if they go to preschool, which let's face it, in this day and age, is needed to survive in the world. I hope this helps in your decision.... Preschool Fan

You can't believe how much 3 and 4 year olds are capable of!!! I have my 3 yr old (just turned 3 in January) in full time preschool and she is exposed to so much--activities, friends, adults (teachers and adults who come in to lead activities), field trips, food, books, music, physical movement, and just free play time. This means that when we're home, at the end of the day and on weekends, I can just BE with her and that's cool with everyone. I also have a one year old who goes to daycare. If I were in your shoes with yet a third child on his/her way, I would let the two bigger birds spread their wings away from momma bird and make room to focus on the baby and mother's needs, which will not be insignificant especially in the first year!!! I also learned in the past year that despite all my fears and hopes to do things perfectly, that my toddler was quite resilient and stepped up to doing preschool! She's having a great time. Momma bird

Just a quick two cents on the preschool issue: very good friends of ours did not send their daughter to preschool, mostly for financial reasons (though she was in daycare for about a year, until she was 2 1/2). Instead, she spent the days with her then- unemployed father and younger brother taking hikes, swimming, going to museums, etc. She is now halfway through her kindergarten year and is doing extremely well. So, while there are a lot of positive effects to be had from a good preschool experience, it's clear that there are many other ways for children to get the kinds of emotional, social, and intellectual stimulation that will prepare them for primary school. You should choose what works best for your child and your family. (BTW, the correlational data relating preschool and college attendance that were referred to in another posting should be understood in their proper context: they were collected in homes and communities that did not provide adequate developmental support for young children -- no books, child-centered activities, etc. -- as well as having a host of other complications that affected children's health and well-being. Preschool attendance in and of itself does not guarantee future admittance to Harvard.) Lauren

My daughter (who attended preschool) started Kindergarten last Fall. All the children in her class, with the exception of one, attended preschool or a developmental kindergarten program. Well, the child that did not attend preschool, from the get go, is the most well adjusted child in the class! She is quietly confident and assertive. No one walks over her. Clearly a very secure child. Has many friends and is genuinely liked by all the kids although her personality is not out there. She has never had a day where she has had a problem separating from her mother. We still have children (who attended preschool crying). Maybe it's because her mother didn't push her out of the nest in a big hurry and when she went to Kindergarten she was truly ready. Don't be in a rush

Activities for 3-year-old not in preschool

August 2002

I'm thinking of doing some sort of very small, at-home, joy school for my three-year-old daughter. She is very imaginative, has a large vocabulary, and has a pretty active mind. Is there anyone out there that has tried a joy school at home? Any advice about activities, or do's and don't's? I'd like to work with her for a year or two before she starts kindergarten, but I don't know where to start. I'd love your advice, rebecca

Check out Before Five in a Row:

I can't recommend it specifically, but we have gotten a lot out of Five in a Row (for older children) and plan to get it.

Make books with your child. She draws the pictures and dictates the text to you.

Play tic tac toe. Good for 1)thinking skills in general, anticipation of possible moves 2)understanding symmetry (if first player goes in middle, all 4 corners are the same and all 4 non corners are the same move) 3) teaching letter writing. start with x's and o's move on to c's and l's, r's and f's, etc.

Explore the juvenile non-fiction section of your library for topics of interest --- backyard birds (get an ''identiflyer'' to learn birds and frogs by their call), dinosaurs, dogs, lizards, whatever. Try to find fiction about same topic --- talk about fact vs. fiction. My 4 and 2 year olds love the ''See How They Grow'' video series. The anthropomorphic presentation of facts about the development of farm animals, sea animals, forest animals, pond animals really appeals to them and has been a springboard for us for further exploration and imaginative play. My 4-year-old loves all the DK (Dorling Kindersley) books: Ocean, Shell, Reptile, etc. They are usually available in libraries. The Lawrence Hall of Science has an overlooked biology room downstairs with turtles, lizards, frogs, chincillas. The docents take the animals out and let you feed and hold them.

The authors of The Well-Trained Mind say that early childhood is a time for amassing information, ''pegs'' to hang other information on later,and a basis for analysis and critical thinking which comes later. I like this idea and young children do seem to be amazing fact sponges. So just find a topic that appeals and dive in. My daughter loved tidepool creatures for a while, so we learned all about periwinkles, starfish, hermit crabs, etc.with library books, videos, trips to the shore (Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Half Moon Bay), Steinhardt and Monterrey Bay Aquaria, etc.

The Ooey Gooey Handbook is a great resource. If you get a chance to hear the Ooey Gooey lady talk, GO! She is a marvelous inspiration and a very entertaining speaker. She has ideas that I remind myself of all the time: ''Control the Environment, not the child'' is a great one. I also like ''Artwork is not a receipt for childcare'' ie, the artwork should be about material exploration for the child and not about producing some recognizable thing that the parents will appreciate!

Develop critical thinking as well as have fun by reading your child's favorite books ''wrong''. Say the wrong colors, wrong names, objects, feelings, etc. and let her catch and correct you. Kids usually love this (sometimes they get mad, though!).

Have fun! susan

Pressure from family & friends to do preschool

October 2002

Hi, I am a parent of two preschoolers and have received soo much pressure to enroll them in a preschool from family and friends. I am also a teacher but have taken the past three years off to be at home. I spend maybe a half an hour a day sometimes not even that, on fun activities that promote learning the pre-k skills. If done in fun and games they catch on soo quickly. I believe parents are the best teachers and role models for their children at this time and if given the opportunity to stay home why not spend the money on dance or gymnastic classes instead. I make sure we are doing things in the community and are involoved in a mom's club for the social interaction that I agree is neccessary. I was wondering if there are others who feel this extreme pressure to enroll their children too? It's kinda funny because a girlfriend sent her daughter to a good preschool and now that she is in kindergarten and the teacher informed her she doesn't have all the pre-k skills needed and what to work on at home-it would not have taken but minutes to teach those skills earlier. Plus it is fun to have an active part in their learning- I do believe those first years children are like sponges and as parents we should take every opportunity to fill thier minds with intrique.... please let me know if you have felt the same way. I understand working parents need to have child care but maybe a fun, nuturing environment is just as good as one that is strict and makes our children grow up to soon. Just a thought. frustrated mom

Kudos to you! I think it's great that you're staying with your kids for as long as it feels right to you!! My older child is now in kindergarten, after 2 years in preschool, and looking back I have to wonder if it did that much for him. It was fun, and it gave me sanity time, which I needed, but if he hadn't gone it would have been fine for him, I really believe. Do what you're doing!! You go! Susan

I can certainly understand your frustration at feeling pressured to put your child in preschool. It sounds as if you are doing a very good job of parenting. On the other hand, I think you might want to take a look at the reasons behind why your friends are bringing the issue up. I'm sure they mean well and aren't reflecting at all on you parenting or decisions, although they may be trying to tell you something about your child that could be worth listenting to.

Preschool is as much about socialization as it is about learning and being a day care type of option. Is your child well socialized? Does she get along well with others? How is she in a group? Is she really getting as much exposure by spending her days with you as she would be by interacting in a group situation with kids her own age? Does she seem to make friends easily? Rather than it reflecting on your parenting skills, it might be a hint that perhaps your child would do well to be in more group situations, and preschool can be a very good option. And it's really quite fun for the children, once they get used to the new routine, that is.

I found that when I finally put my child in preschool, he was genuinely happy about it, even though we had to give up our together time. He was just as loving and delightful as he was before we made the switch, but had even more people and activities in his life to make him happy. I was the one that had the tough time, frankly.

I'm sure that whatever you do will be fine with your child, but there really is a lot to be said for broadening her horizons by giving her even more than you already are. Best of luck! Been there

My opinion is that unless your home environment is impoverished there is no reason you ought to send your children to preschool against your wishes. There are many fine reasons to put your child into preschool: your child is very outgoing and loves to play with large groups of children, you need some time off. But I really cannot believe that preschool can provide children with anything that a loving parent cannot. I think the arguments about socialization are crazy. In developmental psychology (this is straight out of a textbook) socialization is: The process by which children acquire the standards, values and knowledge of their society. If you keep them at home and teach them your values and enrich them with your knowledge, you are socializing them. If you meet with families whose values your share or respect and let your children play together, play with other children and help them to learn to share, be respectful and not hurt each others' feelings, look out for younger children, say please and thank you, or whatever it is that you think is important, then you are socializing them.

At preschool they learn the standards, values and knowledge of preschool society. I am not particularly impressed with preschool society, as preschool knowledge seems to consist of rhymed taunts -- here's one my friend's kids came home with: ''Babies drool and big kids rule.'' Their values are ''Lord of the Flies'' where even the sweetest kids at the best schools (another friend's daughter) come home saying, ''I hate you'' and ''I am going to kick your butt.'' Of course, they do come out of it ready for school in the sense that they know how to stand in line, raise their hand to talk, and learn that the world is full of rules.

I have had bouts of sending my 4-year-old to preschool (because I want some time for my own projects) and I looked around at many options and tried two that seemed to be among the best. Some of the very best programs are full time and I was not interested in full time. THe first was very Lord-of-the-Flies. There were lots of sensory tubs, free crafts, playdough, manipultives, but the kids ran wild and the full-time kids ruled the roost, pushing smaller kids down and throwing sand in their face, not letting new kids into the clique.

We took a year off preschool. My daughter is now going to preschool that is ''more structured''. She says she enjoys it, she likes the ''crafts'' (teacher makes sure they come out pretty so the parents will be pleased with their children's art --- ugh.) The other day my daughter listed all the rules at her preschool: No throwing sand (fair enough). No playing with sand on the jungle gym. No playing under the jungle gym. No toys on the jungle gym. No climbing up the slide. Only good kids get a treat. Bad kids don't get a treat. I just hope that 6 hours/week there won't squelch her independent spirit!

I think both kinds of socialization (by kids a la Lord of the Flies) and by teachers (follow the rules, raise your hand, don't do this, don't do that) can easily wait until kindergarten, or, actually, forever. susan

Are we the only ones who haven't signed our kids up for preschool?

February 2002

We are feeling like we're the only parents in the Bay Area who haven't signed our kids up for preschool. There is so much talk of preschool in these newsletters, on the playgrounds, and in the Mothers' Groups. Are there other stay-at-home parents out there who plan to give their pre-kindergarten kids the basics at home? My oldest daughter is 24 months, and speaks in 5-7 word sentences, knows the alphabet, colors, counts to 20+... I know that socialization is a big reason to send kids to preschool, but with all the classes & activities available in this area (kindergym, music, Habitot, etc., at the Y, libraries, etc.), I feel like she gets that without having to spend hundreds of dollars (some preschools charge more in tuition than my state university did!) every month. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, a Berkeley mom

Hi. Our daughter is three and we're just starting her in preschool. She is also very verbal and smart and knowledgeable. We're doing it for a few reasons. One, we don't have the time and resources to engage her in as many projects as preschool will. Two, we want her to make friends and learn to spend time with the same children on a regular basis. Three, we haven't been able to get her into all of the programs out there that we'd like to (like those that you mentioned) and want her exposed to all of those enriching things. Bottom line, though, is that you should do what you feel is right for your child and definitely not put your daughter in because you feel any type of peer pressure to do so. Good luck! Laurel

Good for you for questioning the dominant paradigm concerning preschool. My son will be 3 this spring. About a year and a half ago I almost went crazy because every one I knew who had a toddler was totally preoccupied with getting their child enrolled, or on a waiting list for a preschool. Many of those moms were actually frantic about it, and I got caught up in the frenzy myself for a while. I spent a half a year researching and touring preschools, some of them co-ops, some not, about 9 total. I did not find any that even came close to meeting my expectations. They all appeared to me to be highly enriched and organized day-care centers for the middle and upper class, with prices to match! Some of the ratios were as much as 6:1, sometimes with a population of 24 children! To quote a teacher I once met at a playground who homeschooled her own children, ''children do not gather knowledge, or become socialized in a wholesome way when they are placed in packs!'' Or did she use the word ''herds'', I can't recall. This is a third grade teacher telling me this! She is not the only teacher I have met who chose to avoid government institutions when it came to their own children. So my advice to you is listen to your brain and your heart. You are your child's first and best teacher. I think that people are deluding themselves if they think that they are sending their child to preschool so that they can get properly socialized. My son meets with a peer group 3 times a week, has one-on-one play dates on a regular basis, and attends various short programs of gymnastics and music and movement. He has lots of friends of both genders, is very social, and easily shares things with others. Meanwhile, academically he's pretty much at kindergarten level. So who needs preschool?

I have a 30 month-old daughter and a baby on the way and I am not considering sending my daughter to preschool yet. I feel the way you do that with all of the available activities in the area she is getting plenty of socialization. I have been feeling the pressure since almost everyone I know is talking about preschool, but I am not ready. My feeling is that she is going to be in school for a long time, and my time with her is so precious that I want to take full advantage of it. From what I understand, one year of preschool will prepare most children for kindergarten, so if you are not in a hurry, then wait. Joan

I was a preschool teacher before my daughter was born, and I have no plans of sending her to preschool. I've ''tutored'' some other children, but really, see no need for preschool. Just my $0.02!

although we briefly enrolled our (now 7.5yo) in preschool for a couple months, we have not felt it necessary for him nor his siblings. Our 5yo has never been to preschool; nor his younger sister. So, if absolutely nothing else, you're not alone. Kathy

No, I don't think it is. I didn't go myself, and though I suffered in the socialization skills (I entered kindergarten only knowing how to be a bossy older sister. Took YEARS to re-learn social skills), I excelled academically. My son will be attending this year, mostly because it will be cheaper and more stimulating than his babysitter. Go with what suits you and your child.

Preschool is fun. I don't think there is a right or wrong choice, but I do think that my daughter (age 2 1/2) has blossomed in preschool. It is not that I cannot take her to gymnastics or to music classes, but in preschool children get the opportunity to trust adults who are NOT their parents, problem solve without the help of a parent, negotiate, bond with other children WITHOUT the help of a parent, and so on. My niece did not go to preschool, and my child did (they are the same age, 5). The way these two girls dealt with problems that arose was quite different. My niece's mother was always jumping in to work out her daughter's problems, or defend her, or simply remove her from a difficult situation because her daughter did not have the skills to deal with the issue on her own. Now that this child is in kindergarten, there is a huge change in her. She seems so much more confident (even her mother notices the change!).

Most importantly, for me, is the fact that my 2 year old LIKES preschool. She LIKES the music, the art, the mix of children and teachers, celebrating other people's holidays, and so on. She LIKES her friends, all of whom she chose for herself (rather than me choosing them for her and arranging playdates with the children I liked).

One last comment. Preschool doesn't have to be all or nothing. There are many half-day or part-time preschools around, co-ops, and so on. If you are interested in preschool, you can always find a balance that fits you and your child's needs.

With my son, pre-school was a good thing. It enabled him to learn how to get along with other kids and he needed the stimulation, plus the structure. He needed a lot of structure. He was a very active kid and needed limits. By the time he was five, pre-school had calmed him down and got him used to a school-like schedule. He could sit still and listen with the best of them.

Eight years later, we left our daughter in a home care situation so she did not start school until Kindergarten. She didn't need pre-school. She got along well with other kids and was very smart at an early age (very early reader). She had no problems with listening and was not as hyper as her older brother. If anything she was the total oppossite in that she would rather read than run around.

It all depends on your child. Pre-school is not a status quo thing. My son needed it, my daughter didn't. You can learn all the skills you mentioned in a non-pre-school environment (and I don't mean by sitting them in front of Sesame Street everyday either). From your description, your child sounds like she can already pass the kindergarden entrance test so I wouldn't worry about it. It sounds like you're doing a great job with her. a non-Berkeley mom