After writing about preschool yesterday, I heard from a number of people who wanted to know: What about socialization? Isn’t preschool valuable because it socializes 3-4 year olds?
Of course this isn’t just a challenge to those who keep their kids home from preschool, it’s a challenge that homeschoolers at all levels hear all the time. But for now, since preschool is the topic we were addressing, I’ll address this at the preschool level:
Of course socialization is important. And the best place for a 3 year old to be socialized is in his own home with his own family. Consider this: In his own home, a 3 year old learns to respect authority (his parents), get along with others (his siblings) and interact with society (at the grocery store, post office, or Grandma’s house). And he does all of this important social learning in comfort and security as he is surrounded by unconditional love and familiar surroundings. To me, that sounds very appropriate for a 3 year old. A kid who just barely (if he has yet) learned to use the potty. Who maybe still sucks his thumb. Who still takes a nap. Who still throws an occasional temper tantrum. A kid who needs his mommy.
A 3 year old who goes away to preschool for the sake of “socialization” may very well learn some valuable social skills, but he will learn other social skills too–ones of a more questionable value. He might learn to make fun of children who look different. He might learn that what you wear is more important than who you are. He might learn that it’s not cool to love your mother or your brother or your sister. He might learn to call names. He might learn that some children’s parents no longer love each other, no longer live together, or never were married in the first place before he has fully come to appreciate the significance and permanence of his own parents’ marriage.
I say this not to argue that sending children to preschool is evil, but to challenge the idea that preschoolers need a kind of socialization that only preschool can provide. Socialization is important for children of all ages. So important, in fact, that many parents don’t entrust their school systems with the job.