Monday, February 4, 2008


Note: Update at bottom.

I've been starting to stress about preschool. Most of her American friends here are in preschool. Her cousin attends a Montessori school. Most started by age of two or two and half. She's older than most of her friends by six to eight months. Matt refused to allow Olivia to enter preschool when we arrived. Looking back, he was right. I was used to hourly care several hours a week at Ft. Wainwright and had a hard time adjusting to not having a "break." Olivia did ask to go to "school" when we first arrived, however, she adjusted and we moved past it. Instead, joining Mums and Tots on Monday's.

We did, however, visit one "school" a while back that I really liked. The kids are involved in cooking, gymnastics, music and gardening. An added perk is that it's a Portuguese school and we've been told that she'll, most likely, speak fluently in about six months (while she won't maintain her Portuguese when we move back to the US, it could enable her to pick up languages much more easily in the future). Preschool enough for me, though, official preschools, English or Portuguese, are just over $700/month (not in our budget). Olivia left the place, after our tour, kicking and screaming and asked to go back for a few days after. I've looked at two places and this one is my top choice thus far.

If I remember correctly, it's about $455 US dollars a month and we're able to get 20% of that back (we get the 20% VAT tax back because it's not considered an official preschool. Offical schools are not applicable for VAT refund). Included in that price is lunch and the option for her to stay all day, every day (we'll send her three mornings a week). This is still too pricey for my DH. Though, he has, relucantly, agreed to send her next year as long as I (we) scope out other "schools" beforehand and make sure I (we) pick out the best one in our price range.

Here's the dilema. My DH believes that preschool has little to no impact on future education. He thinks one year of part-time preschool is more than enough. Therefore, he'd like to wait until we're back in the US when Olivia is four and a half. He'd rather put the money we'd be spending on preschool this coming year into Olivia's 529 plan instead.

His thought (and he's slowly convincing me) is that if parents read to their children, travel with them, teach them, to some degree, on their own and involve their children in group activties (read: play groups, some type of group lessons, etc.) with other children their age on a weekly basis, they'll develop the social skills and knowledge they need to enter Kindergarten without being behind. He also feels that a bright child will catch up (and, possibly, surpass) very quickly to kids who had more time in preschool than they did.

Does anyone want to weigh in on this? Any educators out there who think differently? As I mentioned, I have convinced him to send her to "preschool" in September and a "real" preschool the following year before she enters kindergarten, however reluctantly.

America is becoming obsessed with the importance of preschool. Are there any books or articles we should be reading to help us out? We've spent so much time out of the continental US that we feel a bit "out of the loop." Any thoughts and recommended reading would be welcomed.

Update: Okay, I guess my biggest dilema is this: Do kids need two years of an official preschool? As of right now, I'm not to concerned about the quality of her first year of preschool. I think a daycare with a preschool program is a good start. Am I right? For her second year of preschool, the year before kindergarten, do we throw down the big bucks for an official preschool (if we're still here Portugal - meaning about $700 US dollars/month)? If we're back in the US by that time, I think we'll have better options at fairly reasonable prices. Though, if anyone wants to weigh in what we should look for in the US, feel free. Can you tell I'm a bit confused?!


Trish said...

We are going through the same preschool search now. Larry was in the same mindset about not going to preschool, but after talking to LOTS of people, he has since changed his mind.
Basically what changed his mind (and mine) was talking to kindergarten teachers. They pretty much summed it up by saying that kids that don't go to preschool can be spotted first day in kindergarten. They take a much longer time to pick up on things and the worse part is that they are the kids who get picked on and bullied around by the other kids. By no means am I saying that this would happen to your children, but the landscape has changed today. It's not the same as when we grew up. There is a book that I'm getting through the library called The Sandbox Investment. The author talks about the reasons why preschool is important. I haven't read it yet, but look forward to sharing insights with you after I do. Good luck!

brenda said...

Is there an on-post pre-school? I personally think that as long as kiddos are interacting with others, that you are supplementing at home (crafts, reading, outings) and taking her to swim, dance, ect. preschool is not needed. I think that kids have enough time to be in a formalized setting. School starts at 5 and really never ends....

Natalie said...


Thanks for the comment. We don't live near a post. We live totally on the ecomony. The only thing we have is an exchange, 1/2 drive hour away, the size of the mini-shoppette on post. It mostly sells old meat and junk food. It's really quite sad.

The Dunns said...

Sorry, have to agree with your DH here. Studies have NOT shown daycare or preschool to have a positive impact on future schooling. There may be a short-term difference at the beginning of kindergarten, but not much past that. In fact, a lot of early day care (full-time as an infant) has been found to be a detriment in the long run.

Daniel is 4. I have decided not to do any formal preschool option outside our house until at least next school year (he'll be 4 1/2 then). If we do anything then, it'll just be half-days, 2-3/week. But I'm not concerned about doing preschool then, even.

The most important influence in a child's life is his/her parents. Children are emergent learners, meaning they learn by watching other people and incorporating learning opportunities into their everyday life. This is fairly easy to do as a mom. I routinely cook, count, read, draw, clean with my boys, encouraging them in learning as we do each one. I have found free printable letter and number worksheets online that Daniel & I do together when he's up for it. I'm am more concerned that my kids learn from me about my values and my world view than send them out for some "culturally approved social experience."

I think that a lot of the push for preschool in the US is because mom wants the kids out of her hair. No one wants to admit that that is the reason, so there is all kinds of talk about early learning & socialization, all of which my kids can get from and with me. Yes, I would love a break and I need "me" time and I do prioritize self-care. But my biggest priority is raising my kids according to my standards and values. This stage is so important. It sets the mood for the rest of their life. And it won't last forever. Pretty soon they will all be in school under someone else's control and agenda ... for 12+ years. So, I'm going to do what I can with the time I have.

Sorry if this sounds preachy. I've done a lot of thinking about this lately. :) I love it when you raise these controversial topics!

House Dad said...

Ellie's almost 3 and a half and I can't imagine having her in pre-school yet. Kids this young really aren't ready for any kind of controlled atmosphere. Playing as much as possible, doing arts and crafts with you, reading for fun with mom and dad and just the daily structure you can provide at home is enough for them.

At this point, I can provide a lot more hands on learning experiences for her than she could get from a couple of hours a day somewhere else.

Katie said...

I am sure that your kid can be pretty well prepared for school wihtout ever attending preschool....but for me? IT IS A BREAK. It is like paying a babysitter who doesn't turn on a TV. That is all. The end.

However, I do think they learn stuff at preschool that they can't really learn well at home--like standing in line, etc!

Angie said...

I meant to comment on this earlier, but didn't have time.

I agree with those who said that they didn't think preschool was necessary. According to my Mom (a retired teacher) kids who are ahead in Kindergarten from being in preschool (and pushed to do many things,) don't stay ahead. Things even up after a few years. The biggest difference I saw in kindergarten kids was not preschool, but the age difference. A child who is almost 6 was way more mature than one who just turned 5.

Ashlyn does learn stuff just from going to hourly care that she doesn't at home. I think it is good for her (and ME) to play with other kids. I don't really think it is as important for her learning. And, I don't want to call it school, because kids get plenty of school later. I do plan on putting Ashlyn in German Kindergarten (starts at age 3) as preschool. I would like for her to learn German, and she won't learn that with me. I'm struggling as it is. I won't put her in for that many hours or that many days.

So, really, my thought would be to save your money and don't pay a lot for preschool.