Starting Preschool Early: The Beginning of Educational Controversy

7 years ago

Today was our youngest son’s first day of preschool. I was hesitant about this first drop-off, worried that the first time away from his older brother would be difficult for him. Instead, he hung up his backpack, walked into his classroom and never looked back. Any worry I had about sending him to preschool early was erased as I watched him make his way across that room.

As parents, my husband and I have taken some flack for starting both of our late fall babies in preschool before they were three. Our youngest will turn three this November, meaning that he was one of the very youngest children in his classroom today. Like one mom, I have felt bullied for our decision -- though not to hold back, but for starting them in preschool “early” by some magic number standard. We have been told -- to our faces -- that it will be our fault when our boys are diagnosed with ADHD. Oh.

Like most of our decisions, deciding whether or not to send each boy at this age was not one we took lightly. First and foremost, we didn’t even consider the possibility until they were both potty trained. They both did so shortly after they turned two, finding that massive amounts of snow leaving us stuck inside left us with nothing better to do than promote potty awareness anyway. After that milestone was fully achieved, we factored in other readiness considerations as well as things that they each needed. What they needed most? More active learning and, mostly, socialization.

Our oldest son was painfully shy when we sent him to preschool. Perhaps that’s why some people balked. But not his teachers. He immediately won them over and eventually began to make friends. He learned a lot, but he also learned how to interact with people. He stopped hiding behind my skirt and, uhm, growling at people. He became himself.

Our kids are not magical geniuses, though that’s our oldest son’s favorite vocabulary word right now. They did know letters and colors and sounds and shapes and all that jazz upon starting preschool. They both still color outside the lines and think that being Buzz Lightyear is infinitely more interesting than writing letters. But watching our oldest son come out of his shell that first year of preschool was an amazing thing to witness. He is now overly friendly -- a problem when it comes to strangers -- but I know it’s because we sent him to preschool when we did (and because we chose the preschool that we did, one that meshed with our goals for preschool). Had we kept him back another year, well, I don’t know if he’d be the bubbly little dude he is now.

Our youngest is much more laid back, though he has his shy moments. He’s pretty easy-going and will talk to most anyone. It was easier to make the decision on whether or not to send him at this same age. He thinks that if his brother can do it, so can he.. and probably ten times better. I imagine that this year of preschool, his first of three as we miss the cut off for Kindergarten with each and thus don’t have to deal with the redshirting issue, will be mostly about making friends, learning a few things and coming home with stories.

Our decision worked for us today. He had a fabulous first day. Here’s hoping for a great first year!

Other parents’ take on preschool readiness and the age thing:

What about you? Did you start your child in preschool early? Or begin a homeschooling course with your not-quite-three-year-old? Or skip preschool all together? Maybe the question I want to know the answer to is: did you take flack for your choice? How did you handle it?

Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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