“Oh, no. She’ll only be four in August.”
This is how many conversations have gone over the last year about our daughter. But after enough confused looks at my response, I finally started to realize something. These days, it’s normal for kids in North America to start school when they’re four. Even when moms stay at home with the kids.
I honestly didn’t know that before this summer. I thought five was still the standard age to start formal education (that’s when I started school), and that preschool was just free daycare for working moms if they wanted to take advantage of it. What confused me most, then, were families who did something called “home school preschool.” What? What does that even mean?
I imagine the only difference between “home school preschool” and “just being at home with mom/dad” is the addition of some formal lessons to the daily routine. Worksheets and the like. Probably primarily in reading and math. That sounds all right.
I just don’t plan on doing it.
Here are a few reasons why we’re not going to bother with preschool for our four-year-old.
- I’m planning on home schooling. I’m planning on being at home with my kids regardless. So there’s no pressure to start anything official this year. And if I don’t need to go through the effort of planning and organizing a curriculum for another year, I’m not going to. I’ve got enough going on this year. (To be fair, I’m interested in unschooling, so I might never do a curriculum or formal lessons. I haven’t decided yet. But I especially won’t be doing them before our daughter is at least five.)
- Kids in some of the highest-ranking countries for educational outcomes don’t start formal lessons until the age of seven. In fact, some researchers believe that pushing children to read too early (i.e. by five) can be detrimental to their academic outcomes. At the very least, it can’t hurt her to wait. I’m going to follow the lead of educators in Finland and elsewhere and wait a few years with the reading and math lessons. (Though I’ll definitely explore reading and math with her, casually, if she’s interested.)
- Instead, kids (of all ages but especially before seven) need plenty of free play time. Time for running around, climbing things, dressing up their dolls and teddy bears, dancing, drawing, painting, and listening to stories. I can provide all that at home. (And in order to make sure she gets time to play with other kids, I plan on doing lots of outings with friends, trips to the park, and hopefully swimming and music lessons, too.)
- Through informal games, activities and conversations, Lydia already has lots of fundamental reading and math skills under her belt. She knows that letters make sounds which form words, and she knows what a lot of those sounds are. She can count and do some basic adding and subtracting (“I ate one of the three bananas. How many are left?”). Anything academic she’d learn at preschool she already knows. So I’m not worried at all that she’ll fall “behind” her peers academically (although that shouldn’t really matter. Life is not a competition. But she’s my first child, so of course I secretly kind of care.)
So we’re just going to skip the academics this year. I am not even a tiny bit worried that she will miss out on learning opportunities. She can learn all she needs through play at home.
P.S. – I just happened to stumble across this article on Slate before publishing mine and thought I’d share it: If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool.