Benefits of a Preschool Education
Making the choice to send a first child to preschool is an emotional experience.
In today’s society, it is often necessary for one or both parents to work; preschool, therefore, is often an essential part of childcare. In other cases a stay at home parent or families with flexible work schedules make it an option to consider. While it may be a difficult to decide whether or not to enroll your child in preschool, early education has many benefits. Before we go further, we will attempt to draw a distinction between preschools and daycares. This can be murky since most day care centers provide some education and preschools provide child care.
A true preschool spends most of its class time on education, not entertainment. It has a staff that is trained and oriented toward teaching children. Preschools are typically 3 hour long programs, daily. They may provide additional school care or after school care and/or enrichment programs. Younger children may go 3 days a week, but we recommend 5 days a week for most children. At Evergreen Montessori House, we have 3 hours a day program. On most days, 2 1/2 hours is academic.
Young children naturally want to learn. During the longer days in most day care centers, the education component gets diluted if not completely lost. The staff is charged with keeping the children happy, not measuring and planning their educational development.
Evergreen Montessori House is an academically oriented preschool, not a day care center. A parent evaluating a day care centers will have to make a careful selection to ensure their child gets all of the benefits of an early education program.
In the United States we have had a history with Head Start, a program that has educational, day care, and family social services for low income families. When the funds come up for renewal in Congress there is always some opposition based on the benefits being transitory. The funds are renewed because the program works and the educational benefits remain with the children into adulthood. Research has shown that the negative effects of poverty can be reduced by participation in high quality preschool programs.
Boston Globe writer Jordana Hart covered the debate over whether some parents over-achieve by paying for tutoring for preschool aged children. The article cites a study at Stanford University that concluded brain circuits for math and logic are wired before age 4. Neuroscience results cited in a government report “Building Knowledge for a Nation of Learners” from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement state, “… if some pathways are not formed during the first few years of life, learning new things later in life can be more difficult.” This study finds that the quality of early childhood experiences can affect not only a child’s self-confidence and sense of security, but also their learning and reasoning skills later in life. It points out that most children are locked in achievement trajectories by age 8. It does not make any sense to ignore the first 5 of those 8 years.
In my classroom I find that children are naturally eager to learn if confronted with a stimulating and well-designed learning environment. Children are, as one study found, “biologically primed for learning.” As children learn, their self-confidence and thirst for knowledge increases. My parents report an almost immediate improvement in their child’s behavior at home, which benefits the child, parents, and the family unit. The children enrolled in preschool are, often, better spoken and develop more self-discipline. If a child can spend some of his or her boundless energy in a learning environment, they return home more relaxed and are more likely to listen and follow direction.
As a full time teacher my job is to develop and present a wide variety of stimulating materials to the child. Most parents do not have the time to develop the breadth of materials a full time professional can create, which can lead to a lifetime of interest and enjoyment.
Montessori preschools often observe their students progress into self-confident, cooperative, responsible, contributing, focused, problem solving, decisive, self-reliant, resourceful, challenged, generous, caring, and respectful individuals. This is a long and impressive list of immediate benefits of a high quality preschool education. In my experience as a teacher, it is achievable and stays with the students for a lifetime.