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Your child has finally hit the preschool age range but you just aren’t ready for him to head off to school. He’s still just a baby!
To be honest, I never had that dilemma. Mainly because I taught my children’s preschool class. In fact, I directed the whole preschool. Year after year, I remember watching parents cry as their babies headed off for their first day of school.
At the time, I really struggled to understand the issue. “He’ll be fine,” I would assure them repeatedly, knowing it was true.
And then my daughter graduated from preschool. The time for kindergarten had come. As August progressed, I grew increasingly more uneasy. I had never sent my daughter off into the world without me. I had never been separated from her life, her friends, or her learning.
The morning she began school dawned beautiful and bright, contrary to my gloomy mood. We lived directly across the street from our elementary school which gave me a small measure of peace, knowing that I wouldn’t be far.
We walked together up the front lawn of the school building. I watched as children from grades Kindergarten through 5th poured off of busses, walking themselves down the sidewalk toward the main door of the school. The tiny kindergartners looked confused and nervous as they were hustled along, swept up in a crowd of big kids.
I was instantly grateful that we lived so close. At least I could usher her directly to her classroom. But much to my surprise, I was stopped at the door by a gruff looking security guard.
“Sorry Mom, You can’t come in,” She said.
I was preparing to protest, when she reached for my daughter’s hand. “She’ll be just fine.”
She’ll be fine.
Hadn’t I said those same words to the parents of my preschoolers. Wouldn’t I be saying them again in just a weeks time when preschool began for the year?
I watched her walking away. She was confident. Ready. Just once, she looked back at me and waved. Then she was on her way.
At that moment, I was never more grateful for preschool.
I knew that she would know exactly what to do today. She would know to raise her hand if she needed to use the bathroom. She would know to ask for help is her shoe was untied. When the teacher flashed the lights to get their attention, she wouldn’t be afraid of the brief darkness.
As parents, sometimes it’s easy to forget that preschool is about more than just academics. The MOST important part of preschool is learning how to be a part of a classroom. It’s about learning how to “line up” or “get in a circle.” Learning not to leave the classroom without a teacher.
When your child gets to kindergarten, there will be just one set of eyes managing all of those children. Preschool, on the other hand, is made specifically for teaching little ones how to be in class. Each classroom should be prepared with at least one teacher and one assistant to monitor the class as they move through the halls. At least two sets of hands to unbutton little jeans for potty breaks and to help them wash up afterward.
Even if your child already knows how to read, going to preschool before kindergarten is an important step in preparing him/her for “real school”.
Will it be scary? Probably. But just remember that in preschool, your children still get to play a lot. They get hugs from their teachers and lots of patience.
Kindergarten is a much more formal atmosphere where your child won’t receive the same individualized attention. Looking at this perspective, skipping preschool will leave your child feeling fearful and unprepared!