Preschool: What are the benefits of preschool?

My wife and I recently had a discussion regarding the necessity of enrolling our daughter in preschool. It seems to be a given that children enter preschool prior to kindergarten these days. It seems to me that society is rushing children into adulthood these days and that preschool will soon be preceded by pre-preschool, and so on and so on. Other than simply "keeping up" with all the other children, what are the benefits of preschool?

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Of course, it is not necessary to send your child to pre-school. The concept probably originated for two reasons: first, research shows that children learn easily and well at the ages of three and four. Second ( and most important), many parents are not around to teach their young children. Because of the necessity of two parent incomes, many parents are at work. I always tell the parents in my class who question a full-day program for four-year-olds that I'd rather have their children with me than with a babysitter, often home in front of a TV. No one disagrees.

The social benefits of pre-school are also undeniable. Young children learn to live in a classroom community; they learn to follow a routine, and to get along with people who aren't their relatives. (Sometimes this is a difficult task!) With the advent of educational television and computer games for the very young, our children are "ready to roll" at a much younger age than ever before. Most kindergartens I know of now take advantage of this new preparedness to begin some kind of formal learning process which was reserved for first grade only five years before. But the tasks of fitting into a classroom community remain as important as ever. It is much easier for a child to have this piece of behavior resolved as he or she enters kindergarten.

This is not to say that you can't provide an enriched and loving environment for your young child. If that is your choice, then go ahead and do it. If you have the time and energy to attend parent-and-child courses at a local museum or "Y," your child will certainly have stimulation. Frequent visits to the playground will expose your child to the give-and-take of social activity.

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