One would think that with the increasing focus on providing children a good grounding at a young age so as to allow them to learn and achieve more in school, preschool would be necessary and even mandatory in all states, including California. Surprisingly, this is not so. In California parents and guardians are not required to register their children for kindergarten or preschool because the children are not of legal age and so cannot be mandatorily enrolled in an education establishment. According to estimates around 50,000 kids, (10% of preschool or kindergarten aged children) skip enrolling each year because state law does not make education compulsory till the age of 6.
But while the law does not require parents to send their children to preschool, most of them do or at least want to. And finding the reason why is not hard. In a world that is getting increasingly competitive, giving a child the right grounding and start in the learning process is something that will stay with him or her for the rest of his or her life. Many educators find that first graders who have not been to preschool or in kindergarten are behind other children in the same age group when it comes to academic or social development. These children are also more likely to flunk a grade sometime during the elementary school years.
Starting Too Late
There are many reasons why children are not sent to preschool. In the case of California many are from immigrant families who are unfamiliar with the American educational system and cannot navigate their way through school district bureaucracies. Or parents’ work schedules do not mesh with preschool timings. In some cases children are put into day care when they are infants and when parents find that the children are happy there, they do not think of moving to preschool later because they are not aware of the differences between daycare and preschool.
But preschool does not exist just to provide parents with a place to send their kids before they are old enough for school. It is a place where a child is given the tools and encouragement to begin the learning process in a way that is pressure free and fun. The aim of preschool is to waken children’s innate curiosity and show them the satisfaction that comes from finding the answers to the questions they have. Thus the acquisition of knowledge, even at a very basic level, becomes an interest and not a chore that is to be avoided whenever possible. Children who learn because they want to are usually academically ahead of those who learn because they have to.
Just like adults, children can become set in their ways and if the concept of learning does not become part of their lives at a young age, the difficulty in accepting it as a part of life increases with age. Children are malleable, physically and mentally, when very young and this is the ideal time to encourage them to focus on learning. Unfortunately, many parents do not appreciate this or feel that by sending their children to preschool they are depriving them of their childhood. This is completely incorrect. In preschool there are no judgments or competition to see who is learning more. All that is done is that the children’s cognitive abilities are stimulated to enable them to want to learn. And being in a preschool with their peers means that the transition from home to regular school is not as traumatic as it can be for those who begin their education only from the first grade.
So even though preschool is not mandatory in California, parents who want to give their children the benefits of a happy and fruitful school life will be well advised to consider sending their kids to preschool.