As a parent, you want to do the right thing. You want to make sure you make all the right decisions for your child, so they turn into well-rounded, independent individuals. When Mairead was an infant, we made the decision together for me to stay home with our children. I had attempted briefly to go back to work as a labor nurse, but my heart wasn't there anymore. I wanted to be with my baby.
Now, Mairead is almost 4 (in May), and we are facing ourselves with the decision to send or not send her to preschool (pre-kindergarten). We made the decision last year to not have her do two years of preschool. For one, we just couldn't come up with a good enough reason to do so. Mairead is a very social, independent little girl. Instead of school, we decided to put her into extracurricular activities, like dance, gymnastics and swim class. Mairead is socialized several times a week with children her own age in addition to her classes. I guess I also thought that when I made the decision to stay home with our children, I also made the decision to socialize and teach our children, which in my opinion, you do not need preschool to do. As difficult as it is some days to be home with 3 little girls, it's my job, and I love it. Another reason we decided to keep her out this year was because I was due to have Clara in September/October. We knew this would be an adjustment having a new baby in the house, but it would have been an even bigger adjustment to send her to school at the same time. We also knew Clara would most likely be born premature, and we wanted to make sure she (Clara) stayed as healthy as possible without bringing any extra germs into the house from school.
So, here we are. It's February, and time to decide if Mairead will attend pre-K or not. She wants to go, and I think it would be good for her to learn to take direction, praise and reprimand from someone other than mommy and daddy. I also would love for her to make some more girl friends her own age. It seems many of our friends have boys her age, and girls Lilah's age. While Mairead loves her boyfriends, she also yearns to play with other girls her age that want to play dolls, house and dress-up. Mairead is a girly-girl, tried and true, and she needs friends who are, too. I am certain Mairead does not need to go for the "academic" portion of preschool if there is such a thing, she is very much on target, and even ahead of most.
The things that make us not want to send her are: cost, need and the fact we won't be able to afford to put our kids in all the extra-curricular activities they are in now. Preschool is expensive. Period. The school we visited today costs $378/month for three, three hour days per week. That is expensive for a glorified day care, I just can't justify that when I am home here with Lilah and Clara. There are a few other places that are cheaper (Great Portland Christian, Holy Cross and Casco Bay Montessori), three are in South Portland, 15-20 minutes out of the way. Yes, Kevin can drop her off in the mornings, but I would have to go to the other end of South Portland to pick her up. Not exactly convenient when most of our activities are in the other direction! The other school up the street from us is a Church program. I have yet to visit yet, but I am not sure I even want to. They don't have any outside play equipment for the kids! That is pretty much a deal breaker for me. For $300/month there better be outside toys to play with!!!
You may ask "why don't you homeschool her" - well yes, I have thought of that, but to be brutally honest with you, I don't think I could do it. I don't think I have the patience. Kevin and I are planning on sending our girls to public school (if we live in an area that has good/decent schools), and if we are living here in Maine when Mairead goes to kindergarten, it is 5 full days per week. If we didn't send her (to preschool) next year, I am afraid the shock of being away from home full time would really be a huge adjustment, and I don't want to regret not sending her to preschool.
It's a tough call. Everyone has their opinions on preschool. I think the majority of the population feel preschool is a necessary thing. I am pretty sure I am not a true believer of preschool. Our children will more than likely spend the next 13 years in a structured school system, where we will be at the mercy of the schools. How will 3 hour school days make that much of a difference in how well my child will do in Kindergarten? I feel like we (Americans) are too quick to rush our children out of the house, and even make them grow up faster than they should. Nowadays, schools are limiting recess, and gym time - some of my favorites in school, and these are the times when children are allowed to be children!
A friend of mine who lives here in Maine told me her children are not allowed to run outside!? Really? Has it gone that far?
I don't know what the right answer is, and since I feel preschool can only help my child gain confidence in social settings, and dealing with real-life situations, we will most likely send Mairead, and suck up the outrageous cost! She wants to go, and we will let her give it a go.