It is a truth universally acknowledged by every parent of a toddler: small children are extremely curious about the world around them. Toddlers are naturally driven to learn about everything, asking question ranging from how fish breathe underwater to why eggs are shaped that way. In answering their children’s never-ending questions, parents may feel that their children will be perfectly ready when kindergarten comes. But are they right in believing this?
The implementation of the Common Core Standards in states spanning New Jersey to California has thrown some parents into a tizzy. The nostalgia of their kindergarten days is no more; the bar has been raised. Kindergarten teachers advise parents that new students will transition to school better if they have some experience in key areas. Forewarned is forearmed, they insist. It raises the question, what are the benefits of academic preschool? And if so, what are the things to look for in a preschool?
An academic preschool curriculum will differ from a daycare center or a play-based preschool. It really comes down to the facility’s teaching philosophy. A daycare center is pretty much a nice baby-sitting facility. A play-based preschool puts an emphasis on child-directed learning. And the benefits of academic preschool is a teacher-directed learning plan, which coincides with what the children will be expected to learn when they begin school.
Of course, parents need to also consider the cost, location, scheduling, safety measures, disciplinary methods, teacher credentials, and school accreditation as well when deciding on a facility. But knowing which learning method they prefer for their child can help narrow things down from the start of the search. When deciding, it will really come down to one thing: what do they value?
The benefits of a play-based preschool versus the benefits of academic preschool are not vastly different. Children do well when they interact with other children, learning to share and communicate. Making a friend at any age is an accomplishment. It is important that they learn to follow the teacher’s directions, and how to listen. These are skills they will acquire at either type of preschool. This may be why about 75% of toddlers are enrolled in some type of preschool program.
The benefits of academic preschool do more than simply prepare a small child for kindergarten. There was a study that found a link between children who went to preschool who later enrolled in college; roughly 60% of at risk kids were unlikely to continue their educations at college if they had not gone to a quality preschool program. It seems unlikely that the education progression of a child could be predetermined in this manner, but the evidence is there.
The requirements for preschool are simple: the child must be potty-trained and they must play nice with the other children. The curriculum is not rigorous, but is designed to introduce small children to the topics they will be covering later in school. As teachers like to warn parents, be prepared. The educational expectations of children today are not the same as they were. The best thing you can do is help your children be ready.