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Benefits of a Preschool Education

Making the choice to send a first child to preschool is an emotional experience.

Benefits of a PreSchool

In a family with two working parents or a single working parent, it can be a necessary ingredient in a child care mix. 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 decision to reach, it 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 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours programs a day. 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 programs. 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. For this article we are referring to academically oriented preschools, not day care centers. A parent evaluating a day care center will have to make a careful selection to get all of the benefits mentioned in this article.

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.” The 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, well designed, learning environment. They are, as one study found, “biologically primed for learning.” As they learn, their self confidence and their thirst for knowledge increases. My parents report an almost immediate improvement in their child’s behavior at home. This has benefits for the child, parents, and the family unit. The children are 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 easier to control.

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. Some of this breadth can lead to a lifetime of interest and enjoyment.

One of the Montessori preschools in the area describes the profile that emerges as their students progress as self-confident, cooperative, responsible, contributing, focused on tasks at hand, problem solving, decisive, self-reliant, resourceful, challenged, generous, caring, and respectful. This is a long and impressive list of immediate benefits. In my experience, it is achievable. It stays with the students for a lifetime.