On Preschool


Is it just me, or has our country gone slap nutty? Since when is preschool requisite to childhood? Do we all really think that our country has been turning out more intelligent people since we started sending kids to “school” at ages 5, 4, 3, and even 2?

I am truly surprised by the variety of people who ask me where we’re sending our kids for preschool.  First of all, we live 50 miles from civilization here at cow camp.  Second, I didn’t go to preschool.  My sister, who was smart enough to pass medical school, didn’t even go to kindergarten!

True story: not long ago, a lady who is my grandmother’s age (and Grandma is 90) asked me what I was going to do about preschool for my kids. She seemed genuinely concerned about my rural “predicament” and about the reality that my kids will “miss out on” the school-before-school-age phenomenon that is sweeping the country. Here’s what I wanted to say to her:

For real, lady? Did you go to preschool 85 years ago? Do you think your life would’ve turned out differently if you had? Did you send your own kids to preschool? Do you wish you had? Do you wish you could get those days back so you could send them to preschool?

When I personally first became cognizant of preschool, it was the 1990s, and back then preschool was called “head start” — as far as I can tell, a government program meant to give children from low-income (read: less-than-ideal) homes a “head start” or a “catch up” in life.  Fast forward to now — 20 years down the road — and the level of indoctrination is astounding.  American people, from the low-income to the well-to-do, have swallowed the preschool notion hook, line, and sinker, and by now the general public seems to believe that preschool is indispensable for the next generation of Americans.

Wait a second here. Why don’t folks stop to think about why they’re doing what they’re doing?  Truly, why are we Americans cutting those years of pure freedom short and sending our kids to school at younger and younger ages?  Are they turning out any smarter in the end?  If they can read and write before kindergarten, will they study trigonometry in fourth grade?  Pursue doctorates in high school?  Or is there a law of diminishing returns here?  How school smart do kids really need to be?  And what, are we trying to keep up with China?  Consider this: how are the high school graduation rates correlating with the rising preschool graduation rates?

Are we as citizens of this country even thinking about the direction in which we’re headed?  Why are folks just accepting somebody’s agenda (whose, I don’t know) that preschool is now the right thing to do?  This taking what’s handed to us without question — isn’t that the sort of thinking that’s gotten our country into trouble?  Where has common sense gone?

As for the Blake house, in which a 5- and a 3-year-old live, yes, we work on ABCs and counting and name-writing at the kitchen table.  And though we don’t do “worksheets” or “curriculums” or even much sitting down, my husband and I have always nurtured an environment of learning here in our home.  Since our firstborn was a babe in arms, we have read to him and taken the time to explain things to him.  Now 5 years old, he can recount for you the details of many a historical battle.  He can sing for you “I’m Proud to be an American.”  Because those are topics he’s interested in!  But if I ask him his full name or his birthday, his 3-year-old sister always beats him to the punch.  (Yes, she recites his full name and his birthday as well as her own.)  Because she’s a little firecracker.  Because she’s a girl.  And boys and girls are different.

Admittedly, my own thinking has developed a lot in recent years.  The closer we get to the socially-acceptable age wherein we are expected to herd our oldest kid onto the school bus like just another little lamb to the slaughter, the more my heart tells me NO.  When a homeschooling friend told me a few years ago that her little boys had spent the day watching an ant pile and that she believed that was the best education they could have received that day, I really thought she was goofy.  Today I believe that kids who have ant pile opportunities are the privileged ones, and that we parents raising them are molding future national leaders.

Yes indeed, we here at the Blake house are in no hurry to get started on the marathon years of official education.  I feel like our time with our kids will be short enough as it is.  That same successful home-schooling family we know tells us they believe in teaching kids to work, to love to read and to learn, and to serve the Lord.  That all makes a lot of common sense to us.

One more thought on preschool:  I believe that at its roots, preschool is basically daycare — a place for kids to be because their parents can’t be at home with them.  Or maybe you’re at home but you need a break from your kids so you can keep on loving them.  Fine, by all means, send ‘em to preschool.  But let’s be honest:  they’re not going to gain any superior intelligence there that I can’t provide for my own kids here at home.  Will the pre-schooled kids turn out to be smarter, more social, better adjusted, and more successful than mine?  I guess we’ll know in about 20 years. For now my bet is NO.

© Tami Blake

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