Pre-K, or Head Start, as it was called at the time (and still is in some places), was first introduced to the U.S. by President Johnson in the 1960’s. It was initially a half-day pilot program that was publically funded for low-income families that included: education, wellness screenings, and support services for poor households. During this time only 10% of families across the US were participating in Head Start, but by the 80’s the demand for Head Start was so wide-spread States began funding their own programs. Currently, over 800,000 four-year-olds are participating in Pre-K and Illinois is the first state to expand their programs to three-year-olds.
The strong conclusion that pre-k supporters uphold is that children are inherently better prepared, socialized, and comfortable in kindergarten and the rest of their years in school compared to children who did not attend pre-k. Which, makes sense… but somewhere along the way pre-k became the “norm” and kindergarten became the new first grade, causing standards to rise and condemning the children coming into kindergarten without having attended pre-k, and labeling them as “behind.” Though some studies prove pre-k to be detrimental to childhood development and learning that affects the entirety of a child’s school career. So, is earlier really better? As always, I’m here to tell you how I feel. 😉 This subject could go on forever (don’t believe me? Look up some college thesis’s on the subject. Holy guac, y’all!) so I’m only going to touch on a few of my “hot” topics.
One of the long-standing debates of whether or not play-led, relaxed, and delayed learning (and sometimes homeschooling in general) is an acceptable means of education early on (or at all) is socialization. Is the idea that socialization can only be accurately achieved during early childhood in a preschool-like setting a solid truth, or is there some give? By definition, socialization is learning to actively mix socially with others, and learning to behave in a way that is socially acceptable. Children don’t have to spend an entire day away from home to achieve this. Social interaction with family, friends, and acquaintances at the park, church, or other places can easily prepare them socially. My natural inclination when I read the words “socially acceptable” is to roll my eyes. Who, exactly, determines that, and why should anyone live by “their” standards? In fact, one of my children is considerably more social now that she’s not in school, and my social butterfly (Hayden) was super social in school, and still is at home.
Another interesting debate that causes a lot of controversies is whether or not reading should be taught early on before, or in kindergarten, and that children should exit kindergarten as solid readers which makes pre-k necessary. For public school-goers, this is something to really consider…. hard. What we say to and about our children becomes their inner voice. If they’re labeled as behind entering kindergarten, that is what they will believe of themselves, too, for much longer than just the one year they’re in kindergarten.
The number one reasons we became an unschooling family is because I wanted to instill the love of learning in our children early on by letting them explore the world how they felt moved, and to figure things out in the most organic way possible. Pre-K stuffs them into a room of other children their age, and they’re required to sit still, listen, and retain a significant amount of information for the majority of the day, five days a week. I wholeheartedly believe at four years old a child is just not ready for traditional schooling at home or away. As homeschoolers, we have the option to let them be little regardless of the style of learning that is used.
Play is the best sport and if you’re blessed to be able to stay with your children during the week play-led learning is easily achieved. Count things, talk about the letters they start with, label stuff, read together, color together, sing songs. As parents we make decisions for our family that we feel are the best, no one should be able to tell us what, or what not to do. If Pre-K is something your family needs or would benefit from, send your children. If you feel Pre-K isn’t suitable for your family, don’t force it! What is right for my family, may be all sorts of wrong for yours. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can testify play is a reasonable means of learning for small children and why I’m now so solidly grounded on the “later-is-better” side of the fence.
What are your feelings on Pre-K?