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Should I send my child to preschool ? Thoughts on education, family and community from a Christian perspective

Should I send my child to preschool Thoughts on education, family and community from a Christian perspective 2

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I’ve been finding interesting reading here and there online over the past week that has helped me as I’ve been processing the whole preschool thing.  My gut tells me not to send Caroline to preschool, but I am also trying to be open to God leading in another direction.  She belongs to Him and He has plans for her. So I’ve been talking, reading, researching and praying to see if God might lead us in another direction.


Like many parents, I think I struggle most with the idea that she needs friends and a social outlet. With her being an only child, I think about it even more.  The academic part of preschool doesn’t faze me in the least. I have no doubt we can do a great preschool for her academically.  It is more about the learning to interact with other children that I think about.

Like many only children, Caroline is very comfortable with adults.  The biggest mistake an adult can make with her is to come on too strongly.  If you do that, she’ll back off and it takes her a bit to warm up to you.  But the more casual the approach, the quicker you become her friend.  Last week we had some electrical work done in our bathroom.  The guy who came was probably in his late 20’s.  He said hi to Caroline and got down to work.  She really took to him.  She spread out her blanket in the hallway outside the bathroom door and was enthralled with everything he did.  She chatted with him, she ran and found (pretend) nails for him.  She had a ball. She is not intimidated by adults, including men.

She also has no problems interacting with other children in public.  If we are somewhere with a lot of kids, she isn’t afraid at all to go up to another child and start chatting. It is usually the other child who doesn’t know what to do.  Caroline likes people of all ages and likes to be friendly.

So when I see her in action I think she’ll be fine.  But even though I’ve read a million articles on homeschooling and socialization, I still think about it.

Setting a Precedence

One of my concerns about sending her to preschool is that of setting a precedence.  If we send her to preschool and we get her started in the “schooling” context, will it be that much harder for her if we don’t continue?  This has more to do with her personality and reaction to change than anything.  Yes, she could adjust, but why make things more difficult than necessary? So I think about that.

Temperament and Personality

This is a large factor for me and one I could not have foreseen when I wrote that post a few years ago.  I cannot see Caroline in a structured, sit down and shut up atmosphere.  Granted part of it may be her age, but she is busyShe wiggles and move and chats and leaps and bounces and shrieks with delight.  Part of it is age three, but part of it is her personality. I don’t want to put her in a place where she has to constantly suppress those things that make her, her.  When I read to her, she rarely sits on my lap any longer. She prefers to stand next to the wingback chair, lean on the arm and wiggle around while I’m reading.  She is also an explorer and notices  This will be corralled and stifled in a traditional classroom setting, even preschool.

Long-term Vision

God has graciously answered our prayers to work at home.  It certainly has its ups and downs, but we would not trade it.  It was our vision and prayer to have both of us work part-time so between the two of us we would have the equivalent of a 1.5 salary family.  This would allow us to both be hands-on with our children and neither one of us would carry the full burden of supporting the family.  We have just about reached that point now where we both work and we both parent throughout the day.  It, too, is not without its challenges, but we would not trade it.  So God has given us what we prayed for many years ago and I think that is a significant piece of the puzzle to consider.

There have been many times in the past few years it would have been easy to lose sight of that vision.  Exhaustion and sleep deprivation do not make for clear thinking.  There have been many times I have had to remind myself – I’m not going to be homeschooling a two year old or a three year old.  She will be older and it will be completely different.  And so I’ve reminded myself over and over again when things were tough that there was a bigger picture in mind.

Building a Family Culture

Brandy recently wrote about something like this when writing about the fact that their children don’t watch TV and how it has impacted their family.  You’ll have to read the whole post which is very good, but hopefully she’ll indulge me as I post some of it here (bold mine):

This really isn’t a rant against television. You see, just the other day, when we were all gathered around the dinner table, and something funny had just happened, and there was scattering of giggles, I had this strange thought. We have succeeded in building a family culture.

When I consider that we started with this innocent rule made almost purely out of concern for our son’s intellect (as compared to his soul–concern for that came a bit later), I find it almost ironic. In learning to live without television, we learned to live on our own terms, on our own schedule, in our own way, according to our own interests, and in a way that suits us just fine.

In avoiding television, I now don’t see anyplace where it would fit into our lives. We have moved on, and living without it is the most natural thing in the world.

One of the side-benefits is that our children are untainted by marketing professionals. I never anticipated this. Shopping at a place like Target makes me weary, especially when I see small children begging for Dora this and Cars movie that and whatever else Disney or some other corporate giant convinced them they must like. I am so tired of companies defining children not as a persons but as consumers. Our children were not born for the purpose of buying things, but Disney wishes this were otherwise.

The bold part is the big picture item for me.  We don’t watch TV either (although we do watch DVDs).  But I think of this statement in terms of signing away so much of our own family and our own freedom if we go the traditional school route. Whether it is Christian school or public school, the result is the same.  Something else begins to drive much of what will happen in our family life. And when I think of the long term big picture in that context, sending Caroline to preschool just is not appealing to me.

Do Schools Destroy Families and Communities?

Someone on another blog mentioned this article by John Taylor Gatto, the former National Teacher of the Year who no longer teaches and has become an outspoken critic of education as it exists today.  We Need Less School, Not More is quite thought-provoking.  It is lengthy and not a quick read. (I had to paste it into a Word document to read it because light text on dark backgrounds are near impossible for me to read comfortably.) But he make some really interesting observations about the way that schools destroy families and community as well as the significant difference between communities (good) and networks (not so good).  I’ll close with a few excerpts (bold mine).

As we approach the 21st Century, it is correct to say that the United States has become a nation of institutions, whereas it used to be a nation of communities. Large cities have a great difficulty supporting healthy community life, partly because of the coming and going of strangers, partly because of space constrictions, partly because of poisoned environments, but mostly because of the constant competition of institutions and networks for the custody of children and old people, for monopolizing the time of everyone else in between. By isolating young and old from the working life of places, and by isolating the working population from the lives of young and old, a fundamental disconnection of the generations has occurred. The griefs that arise from this have no synthetic remedy, and no vibrant, satisfying communities can come into being where young and old are locked away.


In recent years, I’ve given much thought to the problem of turning the compulsory school network into some kind of emotionally rewarding community, because a move seems to be afoot to do the reverse, to enlarge substantially the bite that schooling takes out of a young person’s family time, community time and private time. Trial balloons are floated about constantly in the press and on T.V.; that means that some important groups are preparing to extend the reach of compulsory schooling in the face of its genuinely ghastly record. My Jewish friends would call that chutzpah, but I take it as an index of just how confident these people are that they can pull it off.

Schools, I hear it argued, would make better sense and be better value as 9-to-5 operations or even 9-to-9 ones, working year-round. We’re not a farming community anymore, I hear, that we need to give kids time off to tend the crops. This new-world-order schooling would serve dinner, provide evening recreation, offer therapy, medical attention, and a whole range of other services, which would convert the institution into a true synthetic family for children, better than the original one for many poor kids, it is said; and this will level the playing field for the sons and daughters of weak families.

Yet it appears to me as a schoolteacher that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities. They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives. Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any sound idea of family to develop – then they blame the family for its failure to be a family. It’s like a malicious person lifting a photograph from the developing chemicals too early, then pronouncing the photographer incompetent.


The heart of a defense for the cherished American ideals of privacy, variety, and individuality lies in the way we bring up our young. Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community, interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important, force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association, shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

On the other hand, individuality, family, and community are, by definition, expressions of singular organization, never of “one-right-way” thinking on the grand scale. Private time is absolutely essential if a private identity is going to develop, and private time is equally essential to the development of a code of private values, without which we aren’t really individuals at all. Children and families need some relief from governmental surveillance and intimidation if original expressions belonging to them are to develop. Without these, freedom has no meaning.

Should I send my child to preschool Thoughts on education, family and community from a Christian perspective


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  • Stephanie loved being part of a day care center but she was (and is) a very social person who needs to be surrounded by likeminded people. I always found it odd that she loved the daycare but despised going to a babysitter after school. (Which was the time I decided God was calling me to leave corporate life.)

    Christopher attended a daycare at the church where I was on staff. As I looked back, it was not a good thing for him at all. Being an ADHD boy, the atmosphere of a daycare where they want all to be the same, sit still, nap in the afternoon, etc. did not work for him. Also, he was very much influenced by those who were on the naughty side, I think he learned lots of bad habits (and he was good at creating his own).

    Steph excelled in the public school system while he flourished at home. Just two completely different ways of learning as well as different personalities.

    Having raised two kids as only children (and being raised as an only child myself with my half-siblings all gone by the time I was around age four), I say the whole socialization thing is over rated, too. As long as a child is not spoiled and made to be the center of the universe, spending long periods of time alone can often provide lots of opportunities for learning and creativity.

  • I don’t think it has to be an either/or kind of choice, really. Most preschool programs (or at least the ones we did) were two or three mornings a week, not full time endeavours like daycare?

    If your gut says no, I say go with the gut!

    As far as school running the family life, I can say amen. We are stuck with our kids in school right now as we both work full time. Most of our evenings are driven by hours of homework, dinner, bath, etc. I miss the flexibility of all of us being at home. That said, it’s a pipe dream that we can’t have either. Some people don’t have a choice. I guess at least you can rejoice in the fact you have the choice to make? 🙂

  • Can you arrange time for Caroline to play with other children? She won’t have the strictures of a preschool setting but will have the interaction with other children. Kids have thrived without preschool for millenia. If your gut says no, I’d go with your gut. What does David think? If his opinion is the same as yours, that’s definite confirmation. Another thing~you can always try preschool and stop if it’s not working out. If you’re like me, you may think that once you’ve made a decision, you have to see it through, but I’ve learned that sometimes you really don’t have to. Preschool is one of those times. Just a few thoughts.

  • On the Gatto article, he makes powerful arguments, as always, but I don’t believe that school is what is tearing families apart. We’ve had traditional schooling in place for a long, long time and families were still strong. I won’t go into what I really think is weakening families.

    Back to preschool, I’m in the same position you are in, mulling it over. I’ve come to the conclusion that preschool is not necessary in most cases, other than for children from the most impoverished homes. However, I don’t think preschool is harmful either (preschool meaning a few hours a day for a few days a week). It’s greatest benefit is that it can give the mom (or parents) a little break and the child time to play with other children. It is hard getting through the whole day with a preschooler, especially once naps end! Right now, I have hired a babysitter to give me a breather a few afternoons a week, so at some point I think I will transition from that to a preschool, but probably not until she is almost 5 (she has a fall birthday and misses the cutoff for K).

    I do think, that depending on the child, waiting until age 3.5 to 4 is best.

  • There was an article about a preschool program here that is offered through the school district. They have an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, and the four-year-old students were lined up waiting for their turn to “paint” on it, for art time. The teacher was all excited about the “engaging” presentations she could put together and play on the whiteboard. I was left wondering whether those kids were ever going to be allowed to play with anything concrete and real.

    We haven’t thought seriously about preschool, or even about homeschooling preschool. I suppose that makes us unschoolers for now; we have little spontaneous lessons here and there.

  • From my own observations and experiences with public school, it definitely controls much of our time. Where we live, kindergarteners are behind their desks at 7:40 am. (High schoolers aren’t behind theirs until an hour later.) This seems to be way early for my family. . . it just doesn’t fit my children’s internal clock even after months of trying to get used to the habit. My kids have to be in bed by 8 pm each night in order to feel healthy. That affects our family time in the evenings as well as church activities, etc.

    Furthermore, because we live in a culture of dual incomes where most parents aren’t available to cart their children to sports activities or arts lessons until after 5 or 6 pm, most of those activities are not available until the window of 6 pm – 8 pm. That eats into family suppers and as before, any family time. We are left to choose from limited activities/lessons offered in our area as hardly any teachers/programs offer those activities/lessons until then . . . there’s just not much of a market for folks like us.

    Public school controls us, and I think I most resent that about our public school experience. It’s hard not to feel some bitterness when your tax dollars are supposed to serve the greater good, but instead, you feel you have no control and are being forced into subservience.

    Just some thoughts about public school from me.

    I constantly ask myself about ANY schooling or educational matters concerning my kids: Is this a waste of my child’s time or is it a wise use of my child’s time? I can border on the uptight on this issue. There are times I’m convinced that my children are not really gleaning much from their school situations, I notice their enthusiasm for learning is waning periodically, and then. . . I realize my family is not in any position to serve our children any better AT THE MOMENT with a homeschooling experience. We also do not have the means for private school, and the charter school waiting list is in the two hundreds.

    I can be a perfectionist. And I have high expectations. Sometimes these facts about me accidentally preclude God’s plans.

    I used to believe that preschool wasn’t a bad thing. Then after a series of events and a bit of mommy guilt, I had a great distaste for it. I vowed I’d never send my children to preschool again and preschool was unnecessary. And now, I’ve come to the middle again. There are so many factors to consider, and ultimately, by the grace of God do our children come out of our caring for them intact. I’ve seen preschool successes, preschool failures and preschool so-whats.

    I think the biggest problem comes when we think one size fits all with this education thing. I love the idea of homeschooling because there are so many variations on it. Also, I think it’s problematic when we are afraid to make the necessary changes in the education route we chose initially because of, as you put it, “the precedence”. . . That idea of taking a different route after starting one way is scary. Trust me, I deal with it myself. When my two oldest started public school, I LONGED to homeschool them, but I couldn’t (half a year of bad morning sickness, 13 weeks of strict bedrest, 3 other children in less than 20 months, etc.). I knew my boys loved learning, and I worried that public school would bore them with it’s “teaching to the test” here in NC and the typical dumbing down that goes on aside from all the other issues. We’ve been blessed to have a couple of teachers who took great interest in making sure my boys were being challenged. But outside that, it’s been a struggle to make sure they were getting what they needed. The principal doesn’t like to have to worry with advanced learners before the 3rd grade – which I think is crucial to keep them enthused and making sure they do not grow complacent. It’s been hard, and yet, still they’ve done well and actually like school overall. But my husband and I still discuss the possibilities of homeschooling because we like the idea of taking a year or two to just enrich our family experience while they are young. But there’s that precedence that you mention. . . we’re on the path already, and how will our children take to a transition or sudden change?

    My older sister was going to homeschool this past year, but she said, “Lauren starts kindergarten, and she’s heard Sarah talk about public school so much. . . she’s so excited to start school, and it’s all she’s talked about. . . how can I tell her that I am not going to send her there and that we’ll be at home?” That precedent. Lauren and Sarah are still at the public school.

    I struggle with it too. But I think we can’t be afraid to make the change when we see it is time to make it. And sometimes, we just have to try it out if we aren’t getting a clear answer from God. This has been on my mind too lately.

    As a mother, I’ve definitely worn myself down unintentionally. . . I tend to say, “I will do this for the children at my own expense no matter the cost to myself (without realizing how it WILL eventually affect our homelife).” It’s good, but it’s bad too. That’s when a Godly husband is so needed. Sallie, I NEVER hire a babysitter. Even when I had preemie twins and a 19 month old running around with two other school agers in the house, I did not have anyone come in and help me. I would not leave what I saw as my duty to anyone else. I have toughened over the years with 5 children, but it’s not necessarily a great thing. I don’t consider myself a martyr type, but then again, perhaps my ways have not best served my husband and children. I would not take help – not because I was prideful, but because I so very badly wanted to do what I thought was right by my children. Even during the midst of this season, I was telling myself to homeschool my older two. My husband stepped in and said, “You can’t do it. Not because you’re not capable of doing it because I believe you would be wonderful at it. But because it’s just not realistic right now. It’s always a possibility, and I’d like it too. But we can’t do it now.”

    He was trying to protect my health and sanity.

    Perhaps I am reading your blog entries wrong, but I’m getting the feeling that you really need a bit of sanity/privacy time. And that is one of the reasons you are considering a preschool-type situation. While I know you want the best for your daughter and you are very very capable of giving her all the education she needs plus some, a little time here and there during the week spent under someone else’s loving care may be of as much aid to you as it is to her? I know there are some out there who would nay-say about how selfish this is, but I don’t think it is necessarily so. And it doesn’t have to be two or even three mornings of preschool. Are there any one morning programs? And if not, I know there are preschool program directors who will allow you to just send your child one morning a week or whatever you choose. . . If it doesn’t work out to meet your family’s needs, there’s no law about quitting the preschool.

    I’m curious what your husband David is thinking about this issue too.

    I agree totally about going with your gut feeling if you feel no clear cut answers from God. It sure would be nice to feel peace about these things, wouldn’t it? : )

  • Thank you for the thoughtful comments!

    Re: David’s take… I just asked him about that and he said he’s praying about it. He sees some pros and cons in both directions about preschool, but he says he feels like he hasn’t had enough time to think about it to even know what he thinks.

    Re: setting a precedence… This is a big one because of Caroline’s personality. I don’t want to say much more than that, but this has been one of our biggest sources of stress with her. Once we do something a certain way it is that way FOR.E.VER. or… you fill in the rest yourself. I have no problems changing what we do if God leads. But trying to explain that to her and live it out. Oy vey. 😯

    There are tradeoffs no matter what we do. Yes, sending her to preschool would free up some time for me, but it also adds in the driving her back and forth and all the other involvement that will be expected as a parent. I’m not sure it will gain me any time to be by myself in a meaningful way so I’m not counting that much into the equation. Just having the babysitter come a couple of times a week is a big help and I don’t have to mess with driving and all that.

    If we don’t do preschool, then we will definitely be doing some other activities. I almost signed her up for a pre-ballet class this winter, but decided to wait for the fall. But she’ll definitely be getting out and about either way. 😀

  • Sallie, I just love John Taylor Gatto. He has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about these issues, and from the inside, too. I definitely observe what he was talking about when it comes to the public schools. A friend spends literally HOURS in the evenings doing homework with her sons. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her homework time alotted is pretty much equivalent to our ENTIRE SCHOOLDAY. When it comes to school, it isn’t just the hours inside the classroom. There is the time spent transporting (via bus or car or walking or whatever), the time in sports, the after school projects, and the homework. School is an entire lifestyle.

    One of our local Christian schools is a firm believer in the family. So, they have a no homework policy. Children only have homework if they are defiant and refuse to finish their work during the time given them. Homework, in other words, is the exception rather than the rule. There are still the other things–the clubs, the sports, and so on–but at least the school isn’t dictating what the family will be doing with the limited supposedly free time they have together.

    Of course, I think a lot of things can take over a family. I have seen homeschool families that are completely taken over by sports the year round. The difference is, this is a choice they made, a lifestyle they want. I don’t know if everyone recognizes that school–and even different types of schools–are actually decisions about the kind of family you are going to have. That is why I love that you made precisely this point.

  • School is an entire lifestyle.


    I don’t know if everyone recognizes that school–and even different types of schools–are actually decisions about the kind of family you are going to have.

    Ding, ding ding! YES!!!

    This is the big issue. If we put Caroline in any kind of school (including Christian), our lives will change completely. It isn’t so much a matter of it being a wrong choice as much as it is a choice with huge implications. And I can’t convince myself that her need of friends and other children her age to interact with outweighs all of the other aspects of our lives.

    I have to run, but I did want to say an emphatic yes to this when I saw it! 😀

  • The whole disruption of family life thing is a BIG reason for us to homeschool. I have people say to me all the time “oh I don’t think I could homeschool that is so much work” I always respond “I don’t think I could do all the work that it takes to have my kids in school”.

    I am looking at options for something outside of the house (that I don’t have to stay at) for each of them (except the baby). I have a young man from my church come over on Fridays and helps out/plays and I go and do my shopping. And we have several social outlets, I do think it is important at some point. I don’t really get the need for young children to have “friends”. Our younger children have always been played with my friends kids, and they just have to make that work, and it does. 🙂

  • Amie,

    I hear you on the friends. The way you put it:

    I don’t really get the need for young children to have “friends”. Our younger children have always been played with my friends kids, and they just have to make that work, and it does.

    I have often thought that the way we do school in this country, especially having such large schools (as compared to smaller schools with combined grades, one-room schools of the olden days, homeschools, etc.) is what gives us the impression that we “choose” our community in the first place. Traditionally, we are born into our community. We live in a town we didn’t choose, belong to the church of our parents (and grandparents), live in the neighborhood our parents chose, and so on. And we learn to live with all of these people that God chose to put around us, both within our homes and out of doors.

    Personally, school was the beginning of my rejection of my younger sister. Once I learned that I could choose people who shared my tastes and met my needs, I had no further use for her. I think she pays for that to this day, and though I have apologized, I wish I could undo that.

    Because of this, I determined to raise my children to learn to live where they are planted, both by those in authority over them, as well as where God Himself has put them. This doesn’t mean that they cannot have favorite friends, but the emphasis on choosing friends is taking a back seat to the emphasis on living and loving one another in general.


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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