What if I don’t send my child to preschool?

       Stay-at-home parents feel pressure to send their child to preschool since most children go to some sort of program and child care professionals generally recommend it. Parents who keep their child home until elementary school often face the disapproval of friends and relatives. People ask, “How will he learn to socialize?” “Isn’t he ready?” “How can you get anything done with him around all day?” “Aren’t you afraid he’ll miss out?” “How will he be prepared for kindergarten?”

       There are a number of good reasons why a child might not go to preschool. When there’s a new baby in the family, some parents keep their older child home so he won’t feel rejected or pushed out. The expense of nursery school deters other families, either because they can’t afford the fees or don’t think the experience is worth the cost. Some parents are unable to find a nursery school that seems appropriate for their child, and some want to be with their child full-time until elementary school begins. Finally, some parents keep their child at home because they welcome the freedom: when there are no school schedules to follow, parent and child can wake up when they want, go on outings together, and stay outdoors as long as they like.

       A child who stays out of nursery school will not be harmed socially. He’ll have chances to play with siblings, neighborhood children, and friends who attend part-time or half-day programs. His parents also can enroll him in once-a-week recreation classes and set up a visiting arrangement with other children who don’t attend nursery school.

      When a child does go to nursery school, his parents often marvel at how he changes. He seems more cooperative and knowledgeable, and they attribute his growth to the school. But Parents whose children stay at home also see these changes. Young children naturally mature and develop as they get older, and a four-year-old who stays home will have the same interest in learning and playing as a four-year-old in a preschool.

       A child who stays home will be busy and involved, especially if his parents provide an environment in which he can explore, play, read, go on outings, and create—all the things done at school. He’ll learn about his world because, like all young children, he’s curious. Preschool can be a very positive experience, but it isn’t a necessary one.

       If you decide to keep your child at home for the preschool years, you may wonder how he’ll adjust to kindergarten. As long as you prepare him by visiting the school ahead of time and talking about kindergarten activities, he is likely to do just as well as a child who attended preschool. Kindergarten is a new experience for all children, and they all go through a period of adjustment.

       During the years that your child is at home instead of in preschool, people may ask him, “Where do you go to school?” and other children will tell him about their schools. Your child, particularly if he is four or five, may wonder why he isn’t in school, and may feel somewhat alienated from his friends. Many children, however, are not affected by the questions and comments of others and confidently announce, “I don’t go to school,” or, “I learn at home.” If your child does express a desire to go to nursery school, you may want to look for a program that meets your needs as well as his, or you may decide to tell him that he’ll go to school when he’s old enough for kindergarten.

       Although the decision to keep your child home may be a difficult one, you might be surprised by unexpected support. One mother, expecting a lecture, reluctantly told her pediatrician she was not sending her child to school. The doctor shocked and delighted her by not only praising her decision, but telling her that he and his wife had kept their children home and that the experience had been very positive.

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