I sadly learned that a local preschool closed this week. This particular school had wonderfully creative learning activities that students looked back fondly on for years to come. Unfortunately, too many of the students are now heading off to a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) instead and the lack of enrollment caused them to shut down.
It made me sad—and a little concerned honestly. I feel that children leaving areas of discovery for areas of academics (including TK) are a symptom of a wider mindset that fails to serve our children and adds stress to parents.
My son was born in mid-December. Everyone assumed I’d send him to TK when the school year rolled around. I was certainly tempted. The idea of having full days to myself sounded delightful. But in the end, I opted into a preschool for three hours twice a week. There are three major reasons that I made this decision.
1. Even though life as a mom seems unending, I only had a small amount of time to spend with him. I wanted to make sure to appreciate those moments before he left my full-time guidance. A strong relationship between us could only be a positive thing as he went into the world. Already, he was set to have thirteen years of education plus at least another four if he hopefully continued to higher education. I didn’t see the rush to add another year onto that.
2. His little brain wasn’t ready to process all the information given to children in TK—which is essentially a mini Kindergarten—which is essentially now a mini first grade. By that, I mean that TK and Kinder have become modeled on the paper and desk teaching of older grades. I didn’t want my son to first experience education as boring, or worse, too hard. Hammering information into a child’s head will teach more lessons than might be intended.
I’ll admit that I worried about the myth of “school readiness,” even into Kindergarten when the TK kids already knew things my son didn’t. My education and my gut told me he’d be fine but it’s hard not to compare your child with those around him. In the end, just like the kids that walked first as a baby or said their first word month before all the other babies their age, the students leveled out. In fourth grade, surrounded by peers, you can’t pick out who started school a year earlier.
3. Studies show that play is essential to early education and brain development. We should be expanding play in schools, not cutting it short with academic classroom pursuits. Play teaches kids so much about the world, how it works, and how it connects to them. Excitement and confidence in learning, a strong grasp on how the real world functions, and developed physical and social skills serve a child in much more profound ways than knowing their letters before their peers.
It’s important for me to acknowledge that this option isn’t always available to every family. Obviously, there are other concerns including schedules and finances to consider. I was lucky to be able to choose what I thought best for my child. I hope for your family that you will be able to make this same decision. I have never regretted that time!