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Reality Check: The Pros and Cons of Preschool

Q  I'm feeling pressure to put my 3-year-old in preschool. But I don't think she needs school yet, and I like having her home. Am I wrong?

A The fact that your daughter goes or doesn't go isn't likely to make an earth-shattering difference in her life. After all, until recently, most kids in this country didn't attend preschool. So if you're feeling conflicted and guilty about keeping her home when everyone else seems to be sending their kids to school, don't. If you're happy to have your daughter home with you, and you give her the chance to play with other children, she's a lucky little girl and you're a lucky mom.

If, on the other hand, you sent your child to preschool, where she had fun playing with new friends and learning from caring teachers, she'd still be a lucky girl and you'd still be a lucky mom. As you know, being a mom is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, permanently-on-call lifetime commitment, no matter what. My friend Suzanne, a preschool teacher as well as a mother and grandmother, is quick to point out that while she may be fortunate enough to occupy a warm spot in the hearts and lives of her little students, it's not the place reserved exclusively for Mommy and Daddy.

If you're wondering whether a child who doesn't have some preschool experience under her belt may have a rougher adjustment to kindergarten, it's true that this could be a future downside of your decision. You might make it easier for her with some tried-and-true methods: taking her to see her classroom a few times in the weeks leading up to school; seeing if you can find other children in her class and arranging a playdate; and setting up a time to have your child meet her new teacher, if only for a moment. Of course, preschool experience doesn't guarantee an easy transition, as my husband and I found out last year when our happily preschooled daughter Ellie had trouble adjusting to kindergarten.

As for your own daughter, she'll do fine if you continue to enjoy her as much as you do now, whether you send her to preschool or not.