Does your child need to go to preschool? This is a simple question without an easy answer. It really depends on your personal preference, your parenting style, and your discipline at teaching your child.

My wife and I have had two children go through preschool and we are glad we did for several reasons. However, I can see the alternative. It would be comforting to keep your child home with you for as long as you can because these formative years go by as quick as the snap of a finger.

Here are a few thoughts to consider before signing your child up for preschool.

1. Preparation

A big part of the preschool process is preparing your child for the routine of the school day. Getting them up, fed, dressed, and mentally and physically ready for school is a challenge. Preschool also prepares them for listening to a teacher, following rules, and doing tasks in a certain amount of time in the classroom. Enduring a year or two of preschool helps give them a head start for kindergarten when things turn a little more serious.

2. Socialization

Another key to the preschool process is teaching our children to socialize with other children. This skill will help them learn to share, work out problems, and handle crises as they arise.

They will also learn from someone other than Mom and Dad. I often hear parents say that their children are so much better behaved for their teachers or other adults than they are for them. It’s because our children know how to push our buttons and sometimes we may not have the most patience with our kids. In the preschool environment, our children are learning the basics from a skilled, trained teacher who deals with three and four-year-olds on the daily basis. They have strategies and lessons that we don’t.

3. Cost

One big consideration is the cost of preschool. It can be very expensive and you need to realize that the tuition is only one of the costs — albeit the biggest one. The school will ask you for donations and fundraisers throughout the year and there will also be an expectation, in many cases, that you will volunteer. If all this sounds like too much, you might want to consider skipping preschool.

4. Reality

Another question you should ask yourself is whether your three-year-old is ready for a preschool program. Does she behave well enough to handle it? Is he potty trained? Does she have attachment issues? In some cases, getting them into preschool might help with behavior or attachment problems, so it might be important to enroll them. Only you, as the parent, know your child well enough to decide.

5. Parenting Style

If you are the type of parent who is able to put aside a certain amount of time each day to work on letters, numbers, shapes, as well as arts and crafts with your children, then keeping your child home with you might be a good idea. You can probably accomplish as much, if not more, than a teacher in a preschool program. Plus, you will have a student of one, giving you and your child tons of one-on-one time.

The bottom line is that your child does not have to attend preschool. It’s not mandatory, but if you want your child to learn how to exist in a classroom environment and you feel confident about the quality of the education at the school of your choice, then you should seriously consider it. For many kids, it might be too difficult to begin school at kindergarten surrounded by other children who’ve had a year or two of experience in a learning program.

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