There’s a fundamental principle that governs Focus on the Family’s perspective on almost every aspect of early childhood training: our primary concern is to encourage the maintenance of a strong parent-child connection. When it comes to deciding questions like the one you’ve raised, we prefer let parents evaluate their own unique situation. Does preschool have the potential to enhance or enrich the bond you enjoy with your child? If so, we’d suggest that it may be a good choice for your family. If, on the other hand, you sense that it might compromise that vital relationship in some way, we’d probably advise against it.
Motives are another important consideration. What is your purpose in sending your child to preschool? Are you simply looking to give yourself a break? This can be a legitimate reason, provided you’re not using the preschool (as some moms and dads might be tempted to use day care facilities) as a way of escaping basic parental responsibilities. Here again, the key is to maintain a strong connection with your child.
Are you hoping to provide your child with a healthy and age-appropriate introduction to the joys of learning? If so, there are probably a number of preschools in your area that can help you, particularly with respect to language skills, cognitive development, and educational readiness. We recommend that you research your options thoroughly and find a school that emphasizes a high degree of parental involvement.
Are you merely trying to get a leg up on the competition – attempting to turn your child into a precocious genius or position him strategically in the academic pack so that you can keep up with the Joneses? In that case, we’d urge you to stop and think again. Self-interest or vanity has no place in a decision of this nature. This phase of your child’s life needs to be characterized by a strong emphasis on relationship, and you can seriously jeopardize that connection if you give in to the temptation to push too hard too soon.
In sum, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that children reap the greatest benefits, both educationally and socially, when they are protected from peer pressure and a formalized educational setting until they are mature enough to handle it. But there are also situations in which parents may decide that the services of a good preschool might be extremely valuable for their child. As we’ve already said, this is not an issue that we are able to resolve for you. Instead, we encourage you to come to your own conclusion by applying the principles we’ve indicated and seeking the Lord’s guidance in prayer.
If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family’s counselors would be happy to listen to your concerns and help you with some practical suggestions.
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