If you've been reading the past several weeks of these Monday posts here at The Amateur Financier, you've noticed that I've been covering some of the choices you need to make as a parent. I've been particularly focused on the choices that parents of infants need to make, largely because my own daughter is not even two months old yet. There's a lot of decisions that you need to make before your child reaches their first birthday, many of which will have a major impact on your child (and your pocketbook) well into the future.
Of course, those are hardly the last choices that you'll make about how to raise your child; there's eighteen years of decisions that you'll need to make before your child reaches adulthood. (Let's be honest, it's not like your connection to your children magically disappears on their eighteenth birthday; you'll have more than a few decisions to make when your children are technically adults, from paying for college to helping with house down payments. But that's for future articles.) One of the choices you will need to make well before your child hits eighteen is
Preschool or No Preschool
It's the first school experience your child may have, officially putting an end to their days of carefree frolicking, sleeping, and eating whenever they want. Of course, it might also provide them with some of their first interactions with other children their own age, a chance to spend some time with future schoolmates before they get into school proper. Plenty of considerations on both sides, so let's look at them closer, this time with some of the negatives:
Cons of Preschool
–You Have Less Time With Your Child: One of the biggest disadvantages of putting your child into school earlier than absolutely necessary is that you will have less time to spend with them. Admittedly, depending on the schedules of your work and your child's preschool, you might not be missing too much (if any) time. But if there is a stay at home parent in your household, you do need to consider if it is worthwhile to lose time to interact with your child, as well as give up full control of their learning.
-It Can Be Stressful on Your Child: If your child is particularly young or otherwise not prepared for interaction with other children, putting them into preschool can add undo stress. Being away from you, or otherwise having to interact with people when you aren't present, can add a lot of stress to young children, which may overwhelm any positives preschool can provide. Preschool should definitely not be pushed on children who are too young or otherwise not ready.
-It Costs Money: Last (and least), preschool does cost money. The particular expense will depend on the nature of the preschool (I went to a preschool run by my church, for example), although the general cost will not be terribly high (a few hundred dollars per month, if not less). While not what I would recommend as the main factor in the preschool, no preschool decision, it is something to keep in mind.
Pros of Preschool
-First Chance to Interact With Other Children: In many circumstances, the first chance your child will have to interact with other children of their own age, at least outside of your supervision. Given that they will need to be able to go off to kindergarten not long afterward, getting your children used to having to learn and play with other children without you being present is a necessary skill. Your children will learn how to share, manage their emotions, and interact with others their own age.
-Provides Learning to Prepare for Kindergarten: Whether your child goes to preschool or not, they will need to go kindergarten eventually, and then elementary school after that (and middle school, and high school, and (probably) college, but I'm getting ahead of myself). Going to preschool provides a means to learn all the basics of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic to aid your child when they get into higher levels of school, starting by preparing them for kindergarten. Granted, you can (and should, while we're at it) help your child to learn all those basics at home, but having someone else to help with the teaching is always a good thing.
-Gives Your Child Time Without You: Now, don't think that I'm trying to say that you are bad for your child. But, being away from you gives your child a chance to build their social skills without being able to rely on you, learning how they should respond to everything from insults to being hurt while playing. I know that you want to protect your child from everything (I know I do), but at some point they need to be able to function away from you.
I'll be honest, I went to preschool, and I think it benefited me quite a bit. On the other hand, my two sisters didn't go to preschool, and both did very well in school, themselves (one was valedictorian, one was salutatorian). I don't think it is vital for success, but I think it would benefit my little Elaine if it is at all possible, and she's ready for it. Of course, one of the advantages of having a father with a Master's degree in Chemistry is that you will get quite an education well before you ever step foot in a classroom…But that will have to wait until she can at least talk.