Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Preschool debate continues...

So our daughter just turned 3, which means this Fall she is eligible for 3-year-old preschool programs. I don't know how it is in your state, but in North Carolina preschool is not required, which means there are no public programs and no consistent requirements. Every private program is different, so we have been looking into the different options offered at each church and daycare center in town. It's becoming a bit overwhelming!
Part of the difficulty is that I can't even make up my mind if I WANT to send her to pre-school in the Fall. The main trouble? A deployment starting sometime in July, and a new baby coming at the end of August. With all that going on, I wonder A) will it be too many changes for her to adjust to without feeling neglected? and B) is it too much for ME to handle transporting her back and forth with her little siblings?
I went on my first "tour" earlier this week, of a program recommended by a friend who had even offered to carpool, so I went there expecting to like it and be excited. Unfortunately, even though I think it is a very nice facility, it doesn't seem much different than daycare to me. Out of the 3 hours she would be there each morning, 1 hour is spent getting settled in the beginning and packed up in the end, and 1 hour is spent eating snack and playing outside. The remaining hour they have crafts and music and story-time, which is very nice... but is that what we would pay over $1,000 a year for? She already goes to daycare one morning a week, which is just supervised indoor/outdoor play. And we go to playdates 1-2 mornings a week, which is where she learns to share, take turns, play nicely, etc. Some of the playdates are crafts or field trips, but I willingly admit I don't spend much time doing the hands-on creative stuff with her. I take her to storytime at the library every other week. And during the deployment she will get one additional morning of daycare (playtime) each week. Plus, we are starting gymnastics classes this summer to get used to following directions, waiting in line, respect for a teacher, etc. So with all that, I am starting to wonder if there is room or a need for Preschool???
I guess it all depends what you expect school to do for your child. At this age, I'm not worried about academic development. She already knows her alphabet, colors, shapes, and can count to 10. I was excited about the hands-on activities she would do at a school-- learning to use scissors, glue, paint a picture, etc because I lack the energy and time to do some of the messier activities with her, and we can't do them when her little brother is toddling around. But I guess most of what I was looking for in a school was discipline and respect. I want her to learn to follow directions, be polite, ask for help, etc. It would be nice to have the encouragement of a professional teacher to do that, but she could also learn that from her 2 consistent daycare providers, and her gymnastics teacher, and me.
I think I have to make the decision myself, but I'm curious-- what are your thoughts about Preschool? What age did you start your child? And what do you like/dislike about their program?

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