Is Preschool Important for All Kids?

photo: wakeforestmontessori.com

How the heck did we get the idea that all three-year-olds need to go to preschool? Now that I’ve had two sons waste a year at age three in preschool, I really started to think about this question.

Three years ago, my son Marco, now 6 and doing very well in kindergarten, floated around in his own world for a year at a renowned play-based preschool, Bing Nursery School in Palo Alto, CA. He didn’t really engage with any other kids. He didn’t seem to care about any other kids there. He claimed to like school OK, but we couldn’t really detect that he got any measurable benefit out of it.

Now, my second son, Nico, is three, and he’s been attending another well-regarded play-based preschool. He’s a very different kid than Marco in many ways, but he shares one thing: he’s gotten nothing out of preschool at the age of three. Zero. In the meantime, at home, he’s a very happy, social kid who plays very well with Marco, with his younger brother Leo, and with many neighbor kids.

Over the past few years, I’ve spoken to quite a few parents who have had problems with their three-year-olds or four-year-olds – both boys and girls – at preschool. The problems aren’t identical to those of my boys, but in each case, the child wasn’t getting much out of preschool or was actively disliking it.

Who should we blame? The schools? Us parents? Our kids?
I’ve got a new culprit for you: educational researchers. I know a fair amount about these folks because I studied at the Stanford University School of Education for a year back in 2002-3 and got an MA in education there. Practically every piece of research we studied focused on low-income kids.

This research focus on low-income kids is largely responsible for the current conventional wisdom that preschool is essential to prepare all kids for kindergarten. For instance, consider the Rand California Preschool Study. The name certainly sounds like it’s focused on preschool for all California children, but if one looks more closely, it’s clear that this study is really about “closing the achievement gap” so that the low-income kids of California can catch up to the rest. The first report alone mentions the word “gap” 199 times in 134 pages.

It concludes that for closing this “gap,” preschool is very important. In other words, preschool is very important for low-income kids.

I applaud the effort to increase the academic achievement of low-income kids, but educational researchers like the Rand Corporation do other kids a great disservice when they author research that looks like it’s about all kids, when in reality it’s just about low-income kids.

So, given the fact that there’s little or no research on preschool for middle or upper middle class kids, how can we parents of these kids make a decision on whether to send them to preschool?

I think we parents of middle and upper middle class kids need to consider a few things to make this decision:

  1. What was our own preschool experience, or lack thereof? Yes, our experience decades ago is relevant to our kids today. Our kids share our genes, and genes certainly play an important role in determining a child’s temperament. Neither my wife nor I went to preschool, yet we both adjusted to kindergarten quite well.
  2. Do our kids have quality social interactions with other kids in their daily lives? Many people believe that the most important impact of preschool is on a child’s “social skills.” If a child has no siblings and doesn’t encounter many other kids daily, preschool may help that child start to feel comfortable with other kids. My boys don’t have this problem. We have three little boys in our family, and they all have an active neighborhood life with lots of other kids here. I do not believe that a three or four year-old can only learn social skills in a class of a dozen or more kids. Frequent quality interactions with one or two siblings, or one or two friends, is absolutely fine for kids at that age.
  3. What would our kids be doing if they weren’t in preschool? If a child would be watching television all day, certainly preschool is a better choice. However, if the child would be doing fun and interesting activities with a loving mother or caregiver who can teach things, it’s not immediately clear that preschool is advantageous.
  4. If we are considering skipping preschool entirely, can our kids get the kindergarten prerequisites without going to preschool? My son Marco’s elementary school told us entering kindergarteners should be able to read and write the letters of the alphabet and numbers, and be able to count to 10 or 20. (I don’t remember exactly.) We taught him all of this and more at home in his preschool years.

For those of you middle and upper middle class parents who send your kids to preschool, and are happy with it, by all means keep doing it. Preschool won’t harm your kids, and it might just do some good.

This article is really for parents who are considering preschool for their kids and for parents of kids currently in preschool who aren’t getting much out of it.

To these parents, I say, don’t sweat this one too much. If your kid’s doing OK socially, if your home life is good, and if your kid can pick up the minimum kindergarten prerequisites at home, preschool’s not going to add much to your kid’s life. People tend to underrate the value of your home life and to overrate the value of preschool for your kid. Decide for yourself what’s best for your kid, and don’t think that you’re putting your kid at a disadvantage for not sending him or her to preschool when practically every other parent you know is.

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24 Responses to Is Preschool Important for All Kids?

  1. monica says:

    Ummmmmmmmmm…I sent NONE of my boys to preschool. Kindergarten was started cold turkey. Got a lot of funny looks and a “you can’t register your 4 year old for bible camp if he doesn’t go to preschool because he will not know how to act in a social setting” from the church lady. (Not been fond of her ever since) I did however get wholehearted approval from the principal of one of the local Catholic schools in the area (which is where my boys all ended up going to elementary school.) And I have to say, she was a very insightful, educated and beloved principal, by kids and parents alike.
    My 3 boys are now 15 (honor roll student), 17 (high honors), and 19 (hh and has been on the deans list 2x so far in college for engineering.) So…I’m not sure they missed out on much. They are all voracious readers, the oldest could read at 3. We had lots of play dates and fun in the hood!

  2. Linsey_Krolik_FB says:

    I have to say that I think the most valuable thing our family got out of preschool had a lot to do with the parents, not the kids. Yes, our kids loved preschool and made measurable progress in many areas, but the parent education (we have gone to a play based coop/parent participation preschool) has been invaluable. We don’t have all the answers and parenting is a continuing challenge. I would recommend THE RIGHT preschool to middle and upper middle class parents. I do love the notion, though, of providing rich social and exploratory opportunities to preschool aged kids outside of school as well. Sometimes us parents don’t have all the great ideas that teachers and other parents do. Whatever you do, draw upon a community and you can’t go wrong.

  3. mamasteph says:

    As a preschool teacher and family child are provider here’s my opinion.

    Children who are read to frequently, have the opportunity to color and write at home, and get to play with other kids won’t likely need preschool.

    Two of my four kids went. My oldest got nothing from it, but had fun. My second hated it. My third and fourth were home with me. My youngest starts KG in the fall and he has all the skills he needs and his sister is doing just fine in first grade.

    Programs like Head-start do help those kids who are more likely to benefit preschool.

  4. concernedparent says:

    Age three is when children begin to move from parallel play to social play. My kids loved preschool. Socially they blossomed at preschool, as they socialized without a nanny or parent present, learned how to negotiate with other children and did it without parents or guardians there. Interact with siblings is not the same thing. Interacting with neighbors children, assuming they are at home and not in preschool with a parent or guardian present is not the same thing.

    Academic readiness means nothing in Kindergarten, what will make Kindergarten more fun and enriching is the ability to socialize well with all children.

    The other aspect of preschool is it gets children away from the constant one-on-one attention that they get with parents or other care givers, unless the caregivers have multiple kids in the house. Independence and social interaction with their peers suffer from too much one-on-one attention, a few hours a day or week will give them time to grow.

    Of course, if children are used to constant one-on-one attention, playing and socializing with other children is harder, you can’t always win or get your way with other children, but you usually do with an adult. I think three is a great time to learn to be a little independent, stop one-on-one constant attention and learn to negotiate with other children.

    Again, academic preparation for the parents on this blog is not what you should view this about.

  5. RobertH says:

    Our two kids (now 11 and 8) went to a play-based preschool and loved it.

    But had we lived in a neighborhood with lots of other kids around – like the one Mike lives in – I am sure they would have had an even better time right here. All they wanted and needed, after all, was play with other kids in as unstructured a way as possible.

    So, I definitely don’t think that preschool has anything to offer that a lively neighborhood wouldn’t. Unfortunately, that is just not what most families are looking at. Most families (though not ours) have two working parents, and most families live in neighborhoods that are virtually dead (ours does), with most kids locked up inside their own homes.

    The thing is that now that our children are older, we are asking us exactly the same question about school. Is school really as good and necessary for kids as we have been led to believe? After much research, we have come to the conclusion that at least academically, we could do a much better job right here at home. My wife is a science teacher and I used to teach college for a bit, and, well, we just don’t think that the standardized academic fare served in school nowadays is really what a child needs either while in school or after graduation.

    But like preschoolers, elementary school, middle school and even high school aged children need a vibrant social environment. In fact, we think that’s much more important than academics. As so-called free schools like Sudbury Valley in Massachusetts have repeatedly shown, children can learn ALL 12 years of math in less than a year’s time, once they are old enough and IF they decide they really want to learn the stuff (yeah, I know it’s hard to believe, but a documented fact).

    But social skills are different. You can’t just pass on them for 10 years and then decide to pick them up later. Nor would it be much fun for a child to be around the parents most of the time. Few things would have distressed me more when I was that age 😉

    So, there are no easy, straightforward answers to schooling vs. homeschooling. Our ideal setting would probably be a free school like Sudbury. They have their issues, too, of course. But they graduate extremely self-motivated, responsible and goal-directed kids, who ultimately turn into successful and happy adults (as documented extensively in a series of books and a longitudinal study about SV).

    For you folks in the Bay Area, there is actually a Sudbury School, Diablo Valley, in Concord. As for us here in LA – there isn’t a single one within 300+ miles 🙁

    Robert

  6. gramomster says:

    For us, we were both college students when our kids were preschool age. It wasn’t an option to put them in or not put them in. It was a university preschool, and it was wonderful, and our closest friends to this day, 14 years since our youngest was there, are still the parents from that preschool, who were also students like us. They got a lot out of it socially, as did we, and I’ve carried that place in a special, lovely place in my heart all these years.

    My grandson, whom we are raising now, has been in preschool, a Reggio based program, since he was 2 and a half. Because he came to us rather suddenly, and we both work, it was necessity, rather than choice. We love his preschool. And, while we’ve never made much money, only rising out of official poverty in the last few years despite advanced degrees (read ‘low income, highly educated’), both our kids were, and our grandson is, read to a lot, played with, provided with blocks for building, paints, puzzles, musical instruments, all the good stuff. BUT. He is a super-social kid, and his only interaction with other kids is at school. He absolutely loves it! First thing out of his mouth in the morning… “Gramma, is it a school day?” When it is not, he is disappointed. He loves his teachers, he loves his friends, and we just don’t know anyone with kids his age.

    So, in our situation, he has gotten a lot out of it. He’s more than ready for kindergarten, and really, most of his more ‘academic’ stuff comes from home. But being with other small people just makes him incredibly happy. He has had a lot of chaos in his short little life, Mommy not being exactly, ahem, competent, so his school has also offered stability for him through the storms for the past 2 and a half years. That’s super important. Where he lives has changed at least 3 times, who he lives with has changed at least twice (he’s always stayed with us, but his uncle moved out at 17, Mommy came back, Mommy left, Mommy came back, Mommy left, Mommy came back, Mommy left… repeatedly, both just leaving our house, and leaving the state, uncle broke up with his long-time girlfriend (since middle school… they were inseparable but not official when grandboy was born), so his ‘pretty girls’ vanished… Overall, just a lot of instability, other than Gramma, Papa, and ‘MY SCHOOL!!!’

    We’ve gotten so much support from the staff, too. His teachers have actually come and taken him out for entire days when things have gotten particularly iffy around the house. They know that it is very difficult for us to keep things calm, and keep positive, and so they have given Papa and Gramma a day to chill, nap, be together in peace and calm, and given boyo the gift of an awesome day with 3 teachers all to himself, to do fun stuff.

    We are soooooo lucky, and so is he. I don’t know what we would have done, or where we would have been without those people and that school. It has shoved HSU Children’s Center over, and moved into that special place in my heart.

  7. Bryce says:

    For us, preschool was about babysitting. Yes, we needed a break.

  8. Mike Lanza says:

    There are a couple comments (@Bryce & @gramomster) about how preschool is necessary because parents can’t take care of kids. I want to distinguish between the need for some sort of daycare and the need for bonafide school. A daycare need could be met in all sorts of ways.

    The question remains – do these kids who don’t have parents available to take care of them need preschool? Or, is some sort of daycare or babysitting arrangement sufficient?

  9. gramomster says:

    I would argue that for those who don’t have parents available to take care of them, starting at around 4, they do need more ‘school’ than daycare or babysitting. A child going into kindergarten who has been in a daycare or babysitting situation, without perhaps a group of children, or regular reading, or any exposure to letters, numbers, colors, etc is not only going to be at a disadvantage, but creates difficulty in the classroom. A kindergarten teacher with students who have not developed the skills to listen to a story will do more crowd control than reading. Likewise with letters and numbers. If 3 of 18 children don’t know their ABCs, it will be those 3 children who will require more of the teacher’s time. This also can lead to a situation in which the children who have a grasp of basic early academics become bored while waiting for their classmates, begin acting out, and are labeled with negative terms.
    I do firmly believe that yes, if children don’t have adults available to care for them at home, adults who will read to them, build with them, maybe take them to reading time at the library etc, then preschool is necessary. Babysitters are for little bitty kids, and after school, or for parents’ night out. Babysitters aren’t adequate for a 4 year old who will need to interact and be prepared to learn in a more structured setting in kindergarten.

  10. celticwoman says:

    I think it’s a little unrealistic to say that your child got absolutely nothing out of preschool…. it’s highly unlikely that you were able to “measure” or determine that for sure. They have to get something out of preschool, this is your perception and not necessarily the true outcome.

    When they are playing with other children in a loving environment, it has to be a good thing, be that, at home, preschool or in the park.

  11. Mike Lanza says:

    @celticwoman – If we need to “measure,” then we can’t figure out if our kids get anything out of sitting in a car seat staring at the backs of our heads for an hour, either. We must make judgements about what’s good for our children every day without being able to measure precisely. I agree that “playing with other children in a loving environment” is a very good thing, but my boys at three hardly ever played with other children at preschool. They both kept very much to themselves, unlike at home.

  12. jtherond says:

    I think my daughter actually got a lot out of her preschool (French Immersion, and my husband is French) not only for the culture/language…but also be to in a group of her “peers”. Prior to that she had gone part-time to a family based daycare and she was one of the oldest…so it took some time for her to adjust to the new environment. However, I think this made the kindergarten transition easy for her since she had experienced a “reset” a year prior.
    Also – this great place was small (less than 12 kids), friendly/play-based, AND they did tons of craft and cooking with the kids almost every week. (I was a bit jealous!)

  13. Daniel says:

    Just wanted to throw this out there (very briefly – and then walk away since I only have a few minutes to comment right now):

    In some respects, this discussion skirts around a more periphery, macro function of preschool – one that may be equally important, if not more so, in the long run. @CelticWoman alluded to this slightly, but allow me to expand on it: in essence, for many families their child’s preschool in fact comes to function as a de facto social center of community and support around the child.

    While a child may or may not receive some direct benefit from being in a preschool (in terms of being in a stimulating, social environment), the way the institution of preschool often makes a bigger difference in some families’ lives is the fact that they are now taking their child outside their house and routinely visiting another social setting, where they are expected and welcomed, and – at least to some degree – supported in their parenting and family life. In essence, preschool serves as a setting of community for children and families.

    We see this with many populations, including (and often especially, though I don’t mean to generalize) with lower-income, fairly uneducated families. This is often in fact the stronger driver of positive outcomes that we see with lower-income families when their child attends preschool (and I believe the Rand studies demonstrate this, if you examine it from this different perspective). For these families, preschool is sometimes the only opportunity their child gets during the week – given the sociological erosion of the localized extended family that’s occurred over the past four decades – to visit with other caring adults. For parents as well, preschool is sometimes the only opportunity they get to learn about parenting and receive regular training and support from somebody knowledgeable about child development. It isn’t that uncommon, for example, for many Head Start families to report that their child’s teachers, and the school support staff, over time become a sort of proxy extended family – not unlike a network of caring grandparents and neighbors. Quite frequently, Head Start teachers will in fact be given familial names like “Grandma” or “Auntie” and so forth. Sometimes preschool is the only outlet for families to receive this kind of positive communal relationship. (On a more cynical note, this is also often one of the few chances where another adult can make observations about whether a particular child is being fed, clothed and taken care of regularly – and take the appropriate action if not.)

    But this positive communal benefit of preschool is also often true for upper-class families as well. Sometimes especially for wealthy families, who may have moved away from extended families in to serve their careers, and who may be too busy to establish firm local connections, their child’s preschool can come to serve as an excellent outlet for building up a strong support network around their children. They meet other parents, develop strong relationships with their child’s teachers, even swap babysitter references and plan out-of-school events together.

    So while it’s easy to question whether preschool is having some sort of positive impact on your individual child directly, don’t forget about this larger, macro effect the preschool institution asks. For families facing this decision, the question maybe shouldn’t be so much “Is preschool important for my child?” Instead, a better question might be:

    “Does my child have a strong, vibrant and supportive community around him, no matter the form that community takes?”

  14. Mike Lanza says:

    @Daniel – Thanks for your very insightful comment. It articulates very well some things that I left implicit in the article.

    The truth is that my boys are in contact with a very rich community of people every day, and for that reason, preschool isn’t very important to them, particularly at age 3. What’s most frustrating for me is that people don’t have a very good understanding of this issue (what home conditions make preschool valuable or not), so they make preschool decisions for the wrong reasons. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is the most common one I see – i.e. parents send their kid to preschool because the parents they know are doing the same for fear that their kid will be left behind.

  15. celticwoman says:

    @Mike …. a couple of questions please.

    1. You mentioned your first son went to Bing and didn’t get anything out of it. Why then do you send your second son to “another well regarded” preschool if your first son’s experience was so futile? Just curious?

    2. You mention about ‘keeping up with the Joneses”. Isn’t that why people send their kids to Bing in the first place? Bing is all about keeping up with the Joneses and being in the “perfect preschool”. If selecting a preschool wasn’t an important one for you, then why did you pick Bing???A low key preschool down your street should have fit the bill…. It’s a double standard here and quite contradictory. You are kinda saying not all kids need preschool, which I quite frankly agree with you, but my kids need Bing…

    I think many kids can do just fine without preschool, I support your argument but I’m just not convinced you believe in it yourself, when your actions tell me something else. Thank you for the article, it’s been food for thought.

  16. Mike Lanza says:

    @celticwoman – I’ll respond to your questions.

    1) Every child is different, and in fact, Marco (our oldest) was much less social at age 3 than Nico (kid #2) is. So, we thought Nico’s social skills would translate to preschool well. What we didn’t anticipate was that Nico would have no interest in preschool because he likes the rest of his life so much. Also, the schools are different – Nico’s preschool was (we took him out of there) more intimate than Bing is.

    2) Well, some people send their kids to Bing to keep up with the Joneses, but I happen to believe there are many good objective things about that school. I’m a Stanford grad (lotsa degrees including an MA in Education) and am a believer that they draw great teachers and implement an impressive research-based approach. What I realized once Marco was there was that all those great teachers and their research-based approach was wasted on him. He just needed lots of hugs and warmth. See my write-up on why a particular Italian Reggio-based school would have been better for him: http://pamp.playborhood.com/site/article/a_reggio_emilia_preschool_italian_style_or_why_bing_nursery_school_may_not/

  17. Games We Played says:

    IMO, the best pre-school for a child is the pre-school with mom or dad at home. I do realize, though, that pre-school placement is considered important in some social circles, in the same way that private schools are.

    I suppose pre-school for others is akin to no-pay internships taken prior to working at a job.

    For many parents, pre-school is simply a good option when neither parent is able to be home (or, I should say, chooses to be home) during that stage of a child’s life.

  18. allboys says:

    Interesting debate. I’m generally all for preschool for the following reasons
    – social skills
    – new experiences
    – experience w/o parents around
    – some academic prep
    – more socially enriching than hanging at the park with a nanny
    – out of the house so we can get work done
    etc.

    Given that our 3 day a week preschool is 12 hours, or about 13% of his total awake time, I’ve never presumed it’s going to substantially affect readiness for kindergarten or future admission potential at Stanford/Cal… getting into the most chi-chi school was not my objective. Rather a fun, warm, welcoming environment where he can develop more friends and experience new things was the primary goal.

    I actually think it is important for my children to be a preschool. One had a language delay and needed to ‘have’ to speak more with people that couldn’t interpret his every gesture or sound. Now he’s right on track.

    And to the poster who tries to differentiate between parents that are ‘able to be home vs. choose to be home’ let me just say wow. Staying home is a true luxury that only wealthy parents can afford in this community. Maybe a few others can scrimp and save and handle it for a while, but I certainly had a choice: work or use my retirement savings for rent/food.

  19. Games We Played says:

    @Allboys – I don’t agree at all about staying home being a luxury that only wealthy people can afford.

    My wife and I CHOSE to have only one of us work while our three daughters are not in school full time. We still have a 3 year old, so it will be at least three more years before my wife goes to work Our eldest is 10 so we’ve been on one income for 10 years.

    We are certainly not wealthy. We have one car which is not a new car, do not eat out too much (but who does with 3 children?), don’t take big vacations (airfare for 5 is not an option), we don’t spend too much on new clothes, we use the thrift stores as much as possible, etc.

    The choice is one that anyone can make. It will, of course, mean that you may not have a lifestyle that you prefer, but that’s where the choice part comes in. It may mean that you can’t buy the best cosmetics or go out to eat with friends so often or out on the town with abandon or buy lots of unnecessary gadgets or household items or new furniture, etc.

    For us, the decision was a response to the questions, Do we want to be the primary influence in our children’s lives between the ages of birth to 6 or do you want a caretaker to be the primary influence in our childs life during those ages?

    We also chose to put our daughters in a Waldorf school and sold our house (opting to rent) to afford the private school (as an investment for our kids). These choices weren’t easy, but we thought they were the right ones for us.

    I’m not insinuating that what we chose is what others should choose. It is a personal decision and there is no right or wrong choice. It’s a subjective matter. For us, it seemed right to have one of us stay home. We are very happy with our choice thusfar (and will also enjoy that time when our household income will get a nice boost when a second salary is added! It’s like we’re waiting on a big raise – very exciting!

    Most importantly, our daughters are happy, well adjusted, kind and thoughtful children who seem to thrive in all areas. Because of this, we are reminded every day that we made the right choice (for us.)

  20. Games We Played says:

    BTW, you only get once chance at those important formative years (0-7). Nobody should take the decision lightly (or selfishly). As long as we make the decision based on what will be best for our children and not be best (or more convenient) for us; then our decision will be a good one generally (for them.)

  21. allboys says:

    My point is that some can choose to have 1 parent stay home, but many families (me included) will resent being told we are selfish when it’s really not an option.

    Be careful what you say.

    I guess we could ‘choose’ to be homeless, if you think that would be better for our children. at least 1 of us would be there. 🙂

  22. Games We Played says:

    That’s why I said “For many parents…”

    Obviously, there are some parents (and most single-parent households,) who simply cannot be at home with their children before the primary school years because the primary earner (or sole earner) is not making enough money to pay the basic bills even with a second job.

    For “many” though, it is a choice made by desire, not real need. Nobody “needs” 2 new SUVs. And it is this “many” that I was referring to. The “many” who are not willing to compromise on their own needs. I even know some parents personally who chose to return to work shortly after having a baby because they just wanted to be with their friends at work and not “deal with a baby all day” (their words, not mine). This “many” make the choice that I was referring to.

    When I was growing up, less than 1/3 of households were dual income. Today, over 65% are dual income. This is why neighborhoods are quiet today. When I was growing up in the 1970s, neighborhoods were full of play after school, because children came home to their homes after school. They did this because one parent was home. Times have changed.

  23. gramomster says:

    @ Games We Played
    The economy has changed tremendously from when I was growing up in the 70s. I have Sociology degrees, and have read extensively and taught in the areas of Sociology of Families and Social Problems for several years. Even teaching college, with my husband also teaching college, we could not make it on a single income. We are both adjunct, and, due to our age, we will never achieve a tenure-track position.
    Housing costs have increased a whole lot, as have costs for everything else. Wages currently buy LESS than they did in 1976. If minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $11/hr rather than the hard-won $7.45/hr. And here in MI, along with other states, if you are NOT a person with higher education, if you are reliant on lower pay jobs, as a food server, one of the better-paying jobs for someone without educational advantages, you may receive less than minimum wage. A lot less. Here, it is $2.65/hr.
    We have one old Taurus that needs work, and tires. We have never owned a home. We don’t ever buy new clothes, aside from my super-tall husband’s extra-long jeans. We eat simply, and almost never eat out. We don’t go to movies, we don’t have any expensive habits. In fact, we don’t even have cell phones. And we don’t live in an expensive part of the country.
    If you have the ability to have one parent stay home, do know that it IS a luxury. You have an income high enough to support that choice. Not everyone, even within a married couple, does, and as even high-earning people have lost jobs and businesses, and been out of work for literally years, the fact that you can still make that choice is truly fortunate for you family.
    Your wife can expect to have an incredibly hard time going back, if she chooses to, after 13 years out of the job market. My sister’s one child just started kindergarten. My sister cannot for the life of her find a job anywhere. She lives in LA, has a solid job history in finance. But, she’s over 40, and has been out of the working population for 6 years.
    The whole economy has shifted. And, plenty of kids still come home after school, but nobody is home. The parents can’t afford after-school care, but they can’t afford to lose a job either. Over 40,000 kindergarteners come home to an empty house, and are often there for several hours alone.
    So, please don’t make assumptions about people who’s experiences are so different from your own. You can have no way of knowing what circumstances or experiences lead people you do not personally know to make the choices they do.

  24. Games We Played says:

    Again, I am referring to those parents who DO make the choice to not stay home. As I said in my last comment, I do indeed realize that some people simply cannot afford to cover the basic bills on one salary. I am not referring to those people when I talk about choosing to stay home or not. I am referring to those people who could afford to have one parent stay home but [again] choose not to because it might affect their lifestyle or for personal preferences.

    That said, people learn to live on different budgets. I know some people say they have no money, but in fact they pay monthly into a high-interest savings account, stock portfolios, vacation funds, a Christmas club, etc. When I tell my friends that I have no money to go out, I mean that literally, not “oh, well, sure, I have the college fund and the retirement fund and the vacation fund and the investment fund, etc, but I just don’t have any cash on hand” like many of the people I know.

    Our family of 5 has been living on my salary of 50k for 5 years now. I haven’t received any raises for a number of years (and that job doesn’t include health insurance or other benefits – it’s an Irish company that I took with me to the States when we moved back in 2006). I took a 50% pay cut 5 years ago. That’s when we decided to sell our house in order to keep our children in their Waldorf school. We live month to month (have no 3 month savings in the event of…)

    But for us, we would rather stretch ourselves and have my wife stay at home while our youngest isn’t in school yet. That was our personal choice.

    Regarding my wife going ‘back’ to work, she’s not a career woman. She wants to get a job in a local bookstore or retirement home or cafe when the time comes. We won’t be getting wealthy when she gets a job. lol

    Also, what one makes is relative. The median house price in my town of Bellingham, Washington is three times higher than it is in Syracuse, New York. In some places, people can live for much less than in others. Metropolitan areas, of course, are much more expensive generally. So 50k in one area may seem like a lot when the median house price is 100k. In NYC, you’d be struggling to pay your rent.

    So, again, I am not making assumptions. I am describing my own experiences with parents that I have known over the years and the different “choices” they have made for their own particular reasons.

    Yes, there are some parents who can’t afford to not work and still pay the rent, gas, electric and grocery bills. I am well aware of that. I’ve been there and done that.

    I find it a bit laughable to consider my life luxurious, when I shop at the local thrift store, keep a spare change jar, walk into town when I can to save on gasoline (and the environment of course), avoid the doctor to save the $40 visit charge and use my tea bags three times before throwing them out 😉 But, regardless, I am happy and our children are happy, and that, in the end, is what matters most.