In his last State of the Union speech President Obama proposed that we have universal preschool in the US. It’s appalling to me that he wants to pour money into preschool programs that are so out of sync with what families need.

Women have been very vocal about not wanting to work full-time while they have kids. And we have recognized as a nation that our school system is out of date and a waste of time for kids. So why are we dumping money into an institution that does not meet anyone’s needs?

Women don’t want a preschool system.
Most women want to stay home with their kids or work part-time. But some women don’t have enough money to do that and they need to work full-time. Other women who can afford to work part-time have huge difficulty finding rewarding, engaging part-time work because most of the exciting work in our economy is full-time.

Women going back to work full-time is not good for the kids when the women themselves feel they are gone from the kids for too much time.  But women working part-time is good for young kids for a wide range of reasons.

This means that universal preschool does very little for working women. It doesn’t allow women to work full-time, because preschool isn’t full-time, and it doesn’t provide part-time jobs for women who want them.

Preschool does not help most kids.
Kids with educated parents do not need to go to preschool. So preschool primarily benefits kids with uneducated parents. Preschool can help those kids start out on equal footing with kids of educated parents.

Children who have educated parents should be playing when they are preschool age. They learn through play. They do not need to learn to sit still and stand in line and play only when the teacher says play.

The idea that kids should learn to read, write, and add when they are very young has been thoroughly disproven, and in fact, this sort of structured evinronment is so bad for boys that it puts them on an early path to being labeled low performers. This is why the rich don’t even bother with preschool—they know their kids will be fine without it. And almost all the research to support preschool is based on lower-income statistics, like preschool keeps kids out of prison.

Kids want to be with their parents when they are young, and given the choice, 84% of women would rather be home with their kids than work full-time. The universal preschool proposal ignores the needs of both these constitutent groups.

We do need good childcare.
What everyone wants is good childcare. That’s why they send their kids to school – because school is our state-funded babysitting system.  Parents who are home with their kids want to have a break from their kids. Parents depend on school to provide that break from parenting duties, but we have no system for giving parents breaks when kids are not school age.

At best, universal pre-K is a babysitting service. Middle-class parents can’t afford good child care, which Obama says in his speech, and he says that preschool is a childcare solution more than an education solution. The real issue here is that he wants to give good childcare to the parents who want it.

That’s really different from saying that all kids should go to school.

The Harvard Business Review cuts to the chase and goes so far as to say that this discussion is not about school. It’s about whether kids are better off having early child care from a family member or a preschool. You have to have a pretty bad family life to think that a stranger, with a 15 to 1 ratio, is better child care for a young child than a mother or father.

Universal pre-K is a throwback to pre-1970s feminism.
Feminist site Jezebel also goes straight from universal pre-K to universal child care, pointing out that more women can work. Which would be a useful discussion if it weren’t that most women with kids do not want to work full-time. But we know they don’t.

Bryce Covert, writing at Forbes, says, “Working parents, particularly the mothers who still do the majority of care work for young children, can’t be expected to take three years out of their careers to stay home with young children until they’re ready for preschool.”

WHAT? We know that kids benefit tremendously from being home with a single caregiver during this period. We know that most women cannot earn enough money to pay for quality childcare, which they would still have to pay for if they had full-time jobs.

Putting universal pre-K on the table is taking away the very idea of choice that women have been fighting for. Women should have a choice to work or stay home with kids. Women should be able to choose parenting. Today we raise girls to think they are in school expressly to get a job that is not parenting. That’s as damaging to girls as telling them they are going to school to stay home and have kids.

We do not need our politicians to use their federal funding to denigrate the job of parenting any more than so much of society already does.

We need to acknowledge that school is a waste of time.
This country is already an absolute mess because we funnel kids through an education system for fifteen years to get to a college system that is a ponzi scheme. Even the research that supports preschool concludes that an all-around lousy school system undermines the positive impact of preschool.

We need to admit that kids do not need to go to our schools to be educated. One of the largest education trends is middle class parents taking kids out of school. The most expensive private schools model a homeschool environment because kids can learn through self-directed exploration. They don’t need school.

Middle class parents recognize this and don’t want their kids to suffer through an antiquated education system that was established to educate kids to be factory workers.

Obama is pouring more money into the idea that kids need to be in classrooms in order to learn. In fact, kids learn better outside of classroomsWe already know this, we just don’t have the money to fund it.

Focus on deadbeat dads instead of universal pre-K.
Here is my proposed solution. First, promote marriage. Yes, it’s judgmental and pushing cultural values onto individual citizens. But so is universal pre-K. Marriage, however, is much more successful at giving kids a good chance in life:  keeping a marriage together decreases the chance of a child living in poverty by 80%.

And let’s go after deadbeat dads. The majority of low-income kids are not living with their dad.  I do not believe that low-income moms are different than high-income moms; I think l0w-income moms also would choose to be home with their kids over working full-time.

New York City increased the amount of child-support collected by 50% in the last ten years. We can use the same tactics across the country. This will help low-income kids get out of the low-income bracket, and then they won’t have to go to preschool or any school. (It’s possible, really: The Economist reports that the average income of a family with a stay-at-home parent today is no more than those same families had in the 1970s, on one income.)

School in the US is for poor kids. Underprivileged kids are the kids who have to sit through standardized tests when they should be playing. The movement in this country to get kids out of the standardized tests is solidly middle-class. Let’s have universal protests about the stupidity of school instead of universal pre-K. Let’s enable lower-income kids to have the benefit of being told their time is too precious to sit in school all day.

In light of the overwhelming evidence that kids and parents are better off without preschool, let’s use the funding for universal pre-K to help parents create safe, stable environments where they stay home with their four-year-old kids.


205 replies
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  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    Universal Pre-K is a step towards Universal Childcare which is the last step in allowing/mandating that the government play the key role from birth to death.

  2. Will Collier
    Will Collier says:

    I could not possibly disagree more with the assertion that “The idea that kids should learn to read, write, and add when they are very young has been thoroughly disproven.” I was reading at three, and tested out above junior-high level the day I walked into the first grade. That capability, as it carried through the rest of my education, was the single greatest advantage I’ve had in my life and career. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like (I’m in my forties now, and male) if I’d had to wait until grade school to start reading.

    The notion that children ought to “wait” until they are under the thrall of an “educator” to begin reading (and learning, and thus more amenable to the state-employed “educator’s” notions) is perhaps the most pernicious of John Dewey’s malicious works.

    • Margaret
      Margaret says:

      Apparently you were ready to read at 3. That’s wonderful.

      No one has to wait till grade school to start reading. Parents can start gently leading their children to reading from birth, and those that have the ability and desire to learn earlier will do it. I would change that assertion to “The idea that kids should be forced to learn to read, write, and add when they are very young has been thoroughly disproven.”

      My children were not ready to read at 3. One was not ready till 8, despite my efforts to get him reading sooner. The other was not ready till 6, at which point she taught herself. They are now high school age, and are great and enthusiastic readers, and have consistently tested out well above grade level. There is no reason to think they are at a disadvantage despite their late reading. In fact, they probably have an advantage over many kids who were forced to learn to read early, as they still love it and don’t view books as the enemy – as so many of their early reading peers do.

    • D
      D says:

      Anecdote != data

      Further, your situation does not examine the counterfactual. What if you had not learned to read until you were 6? Would you be less of a success in life?

  3. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    With you most of the way on this. I have homeschooled my kids from the beginning. But I got hung up here:

    “… we have no system for giving parents breaks when kids are not school age.”

    What kind of “system” are you looking for? My system when my kids were little was… friends. Friends to come over with their little kids to talk while the kids played. Friends to watch my kids sometimes so I could get a break, which of course meant I’d sometimes watch theirs.

    Other “systems” include “mom’s morning out” programs found at municipal recreation centers and some churches.

    By complaining that there is no “system” you sound as if you want the government to give you one. A government-provided system for respite care for young children would be… government preschool.

  4. pduggie
    pduggie says:

    the actual pre-school argument (for the poor at least) isn’t reflected in the objections

    1. Its not to teach reading and math per-se. its to teach “soft skills” like knowing colors, thinking books might even be a part of your life (being read to, which most parents in poverty don’t do), having some kind of ordered life with people who will treat you as if you mattered (which some poor parents dont do)

    2. Even the poverty moms at home with the kids aren’t involved in a suitable way with their kids.

    3. If we paid poor moms to stay home with kids we’d hear about ‘welfare dependency’


  5. HarriedandHopeless
    HarriedandHopeless says:

    Once again, Penelope, you have hit nerve! I fear this preschool proposal is intended to rip apart the family unit and, dare I say it, indoctrinate our kids as early as they (the govt) possibly can. Why? Family is a strong, motivated unit, yes? They care and they are willing to fight. Without families, govt has carte blanche, no opposition, control of everything. Too far?

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      this is not North Korea. The opinions represented in evil evil government are about as diverse as the opinion of voters in this country. And, no not all teachers, educators, kindergarten nannies or professors are horrible left-leaning democrats whose only goal in life is to indoctrinate children and young adults. And democrats in the US are actually a very far cry from the real socialism as it is has been played out in Russia for a few decades.

      • HarriedandHopeless
        HarriedandHopeless says:

        I am not saying teachers are indoctrinating using n philosophy that they do not believe in…they DO believe it, fiercely so. As well, many Dems and Repubs for that matter believe in a socialist system as in a Socialist European model. Take for example our new Healthcare Law. We may not be Korea, yet, but we are well on our way. Folks may not want to believe that following a European model will lead to complete socialism but if you look at history, that is exactly what will happen. Goodbye freedom.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          not sure I follow: the number of states which were truly attempting to live socialism has decreased dramatically in the last 3 decades. The historical trend is opposite as what you are predicting. And please get some more information: the diversity in terms of political systems in western, and central Europe is substantial, there is no such as thing as European socialism.

  6. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    “So why are we dumping money into an institution that does not meet anyone’s needs?”

    To grow government jobs, indoctrinate children and strengthen the Unions which equals more Democrat voters and the march toward Socialism.

    Anyone who thinks government schooling is about what’s good for society and the children is worse than naive and part of the problem. Over 7,000 students drop out of high school every day in the U.S. The literacy rate in our inner cities hovers at 50% while costing the taxpayer $20,000 per student per year; unconscionable.

    Strengthening the family is the answer to a strong, healthy society. However, a strong family would not be dependent on the Government and as Chris Rock said “Obama is our daddy.”

  7. SGT Ted
    SGT Ted says:

    The reason we are having this discussion is women wanting equality but not truly taking responsibility for their bodies.

    It is NOT the obligation of the rest of us to provide endless financial support due to the consequences of irresponsible behavior of females when it comes to sex and babies.

    The arguments for early government subsidized child care and pre-school, which are just taxpayer funded babysitting services, assumes that the rest of us are to always be on the hook financially in some way for your unilateral decisions to have a family or not. Men are expected to fund their own families. It is high time that women need to do the same thing and not expect a husband substitute in the State transferring wealth to them for their convenience in raising a kid.

    Far too many women want family planning choice with any bad consequences mitigated with other peoples money, instead of living with the man they chose to take to bed.

    Honey, if you didn’t want to marry him, or he didn’t want to marry you, don’t sleep with him. That way, the rest of us don’t have to provide funding for your mistakes. That used to be called “personal responsibility”.

  8. Mika Terry
    Mika Terry says:

    Thank you for taking the time to create this article Penelope. I gt so …so..SOOO very sick of trying to answer questions from ridiculous non-home schoolers’, who always want to throw around these ill-based theories. I appreciate your dedication and you make it easier for me to remain in my confident place. I am educated and my 3-year old can count, no pre-school… Thanks

  9. ari
    ari says:

    You are the greatest.

    I spent three years working a night-shift, sleeping during the day, to put my sons in a high-quality daycare. Three years later, they remember that I slept all the time, not that they had great teachers.

    I kept my daughter home until it was time for kindergarten. She’s happier.

    President Obama would probably have been in better care in preschool. I’m sorry he is a grown man trying to fix everyone else’s mother. His was enough of a trainwreck, as it is. I’d rather he were in therapy, than writing laws.

    Pen, thank you for using your considerable prestige to defend mothers and children and marriage.

    • millbrae
      millbrae says:

      Daycare isn’t the same as preschool. My son gets bored of daycare(where he goes one day a week), but he really enjoys preschool. Although if you were working the night shift, you might have a hard time taking him to preschool because it’s typically just 3 hours a few days a week.

  10. Alyosha
    Alyosha says:

    What a bunch of rubbish. Public education one of the single greatest social movements in world history and has made literacy possible for the general population.

    Your generalizations and prejudices are astonishing.

    • RJ
      RJ says:

      Did you mean to say “public education” or “compulsory public education”? The goal of this policy is not to improve literacy rates among the nations pre-schoolers. It’s subsidized daycare, let’s at least call it what it is.

  11. RJ
    RJ says:

    Preschool has done wonders for my oldest son, primarily because he is speech delayed. He’s very active but has always been a better social learner than independent. On the other hand my younger son would probably be broken by a preschool environment.

    This policy isn’t derived from a desire to better educate and prepare the future of our society but instead help low to middle income parents pay for daycare.

  12. tim johnson
    tim johnson says:

    One little language deal would improve the discussion of this issue:
    The term “child care,” really means “paid child care,” and often, “government-funded child care”: why do parents’ and families’ child care operations not get included when “child care” is discussed???
    Parents still are the primary providers of “child care.”
    Thank God.

  13. Larry
    Larry says:

    This stood out to me:

    “So preschool primarily benefits kids with uneducated parents. Preschool can help those kids start out on equal footing with kids of educated parents.”

    That says that we should focus our preschool efforts on Head Start kids. That program is ineffective, although apparently there are better alternatives.

    This also struck me:

    “The idea that kids should learn to read, write, and add when they are very young has been thoroughly disproven, and in fact, this sort of structured evinronment is so bad for boys that it puts them on an early path to being labeled low performers. ”

    So what is the best form of preschool for boys, especially boys with parents who don’t know how to help them?

  14. Awesome G!
    Awesome G! says:

    I really enojoyed this post Penelope and even the comments are really interesting…

    While I agree that women should have choices about whether to work or not and that children shouldn’t be made to follow a set curricula, I do think the overall context of your post seem ‘elitist’ and could only be successfully applied by educated and / or rich parents.

    Firstly, most middle class families wouldn’t know how to homeschool – in fact in my experience it is rich or highly educated friends who have homeschooled and with the set up they have at home, it will rival the best private schools.
    Secondly, most kids from poor, uneducated or lower income families would never have a chance in life without the public school systems. They need to start early preparing for the standardised test to give them a chance at college cos the rich will be admitted anyways but these poor guys will never have a good job if they don’t start working hard from the beginning. Not many pple can afford to just play, it will only perpetuate poverty in their family.
    While I agree with a lot of the research you have cited on this blog, I’ve come to believe upon further research and life experience that they would most likely suit the elites….pple who can get into Stanford or Harvard easily

    The best of your advice though is about marriage…that is undisputable! Whether you’re rich or poor, you stand a better chance when both parents are living together and responsible for raising the kids

    • Margaret
      Margaret says:

      What do you mean by “most middle class families wouldn’t know how to homeschool”? How do you think anyone learns to how to homeschool?

      I am a middle-class homeschooler and so are almost all the homeschoolers I know. We all learned the same way – by watching our children and how they learn, researching and finding materials for them, and facilitating their desire to explore and learn.

    • Stacy
      Stacy says:

      I was unable to get past ” most middle class families wouldn’t know how to homeschool” to finish your post. Maybe it’s because I live in the Midwest, but I doubt it…I know of no wealthy families who homeschool. Every family I know, and I’ve been doing this for five years in two different states, is either middle class or less wealthy. I know families who really sacrifice financially to homeschool. They usually give up one income source…which makes it hard to be wealthy :)

      Most of us find ways to cut corners in our budgets and make use of the things we have. It’s also an important skill that we’d like our children to learn.

      There are challenges, but it’s not as difficult as you clearly think it is and maybe that’s because you think it’s just like school. It isn’t, and that’s the beauty of it. Homeschool families aren’t trying to manage a classroom, we only have our children. We help them learn the same way we have since they came into our lives and we’re with them everyday. We know what’s going on with them. We pay attention to them everyday. We do not have a classroom of 25+ children to distract us from our own.

      We research curriculum, use the library and internet, schedule field trips, form coops, make connections with those in our communities, and find alternative methods to public school classrooms so that our children can learn.

      If you believe most of us sit around in a classroom-type setting five days a week with our children at desks, I bet you’d be wrong. Yes, some of us do “school at home”, but most of us aren’t trying to reinvent public school in our homes. We take advantage of the freedom and opportunities that homeschool gives us. It’s one of the primary reasons our family homeschools and will continue to do so.

  15. tim johnson
    tim johnson says:

    To Larry and others: One alternative is to quit thinking of “school” as so necessary to education: the idea that education should be based mainly in getting 20 to 30 kids of the same exact age in one room for the whole day is rather wrong-headed and against nature, for kids under , what, 10…; 12?
    Going back to kids running around, having some trees, a garden, library and parents around during the day with some siblings, cousins, or neighbors, and some animals to care for… until the kid is, well, let’s say 8… would be better than cramming 4-year-olds into rooms together for the day, so Mom and Dad can get away from them and make more money….

    As several others have mentioned. “rich people,” or people who are free to live as they wish, generally tend not to want to do this to their own kids……
    so, let this be a lesson to us all…

  16. Gigi
    Gigi says:

    I stay home with our kids so they there is no need for them to attend pre-k. But, I heard great things about the school so we decided to try it and yes I admit, it is a kind of babysitting service. The school is play driven. I would say it is 90% free play. The kids go at their own pace. Our kids are always excited to go to school just as they are excited about going to the zoo, ice skating, gym, swimming, soccer, the symphony, and the park. This particular pre-k has been a positive experience for them. It is fun time, just like many of the things we do at home are fun for them.

    However, the school is feeling pressure to change and “prepare” the children for K. It is unfortunate. Many of the teachers are unhappy about the changes and some are choosing to leave. I think relaxed free play is going to go out the window and had it been that way several years ago, I wouldn’t have enrolled our kids there.

    Also, although I like(d) our pre-k that does not mean that I like the public or private school systems. I am of the opinion that my education from k-12, (both public and private schools) was a waste of time. I am sure that there are good schools out there somewhere, but there aren’t any that we can afford. So, I prefer to homeschool our kids but my husband is not supportive of homeschooling. We will send our oldest child off to public K next year and he says that if there are issues we will cross that road when if come to it. My stance is that there are already “issues” because I take issue with the whole system. I am not happy but I hit a brick wall with my husband so I will deal with it the best I can and hope that maybe he will come around.

    In my opinion, Universal pre-k is going to be born broken just as our current school system is broken.

  17. D
    D says:

    Just curious, how does this square with your thinking that parents have almost zero impact on their children’s future values and success? Or am I misstating that?

  18. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    In the interest of adding something that hasn’t already been discussed here in the comments – I like the “alphabet horse”!

  19. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    This post just reeks of privilege. Really, the rich don’t send their kids to preschool? Only poor people need preschool? Children of middle-class families don’t need preschool because their parents are “educated”? My child is lucky enough to attend a very good private preschool, and many of her peers come from wealthy families. It’s a crime that all children can’t access quality education like this. Not attending preschool would never be an option for us, because it is an invaluable way for kids to learn and grow.
    This post is also truly sexist: the idea that most women of young children would choose not to work is just not true. I’m not sure where you live, but even in my conservative Midwest city many mothers of young children enjoy working.
    Not everyone can or should homeschool their children. Many parents want to work. All children deserve access to quality preschool education- AND quality childcare. The US is behind just about every developed country in terms of providing early childcare and paid parental leave- and posts like this prove why.

  20. mirka
    mirka says:

    Perhaps I’m different but I actually love my work. I think that taking care of kids is a lot more exhausting than writing software, and so does my husband. I don’t mind working full-time if full-time mean 8 hours/day on average, not 12. Daycare and alternating long/short working days works well for the whole family. We live in USA, so of course, the daycare is very expensive but still worth it. In Europe where we come from, this model (minus daycare cost) has been in use for a long time, and I don’t think there’s anything with it.

    Perhaps the idea that one has to “fed up with working” to start a family is the reason why educated people (that you’re mentioning so often) have their kids later and later, which also has its drawbacks.

  21. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I read the post (link) related to the fact that kids learn through self-directed exploration. It had a bullet point for what happens in public school vs a bullet for how home schooling is better. The home school bullets also describe a Montessori education, which is self directed as well.

  22. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I do not understand the issue.

    Increasing access to pre-K would not force anyone to enroll their children in preschool.

    Pre-school is glorified play time. Additionally, there’s Montessori schools which largely offer what it seems Penelope endorses as ideal.

    Dead beat dads is such an overstatement. The research indicates that poverty programs offer little support to “deadbeat” dads who want to provide support – and incentivizes the opposite – most rational people will realize it is smarter to not pay formal support under the current poverty system.

    As an adult who has has an attention deficit for her entire life and falls on the spectrum – I agree rigid curricula aren’t always best suited to learning and later success. But what is – navigating systems that are set up the opposite of how you function – is critical to most people’s success in life. I adopted all sorts of useful compensating factors from my primary/secondary years. They’re invaluable to me as an adult. I think that adult life is largely unaccomodating (well, many professions) to individuality. Their is no IEP in the workplace. So…I think there’s that.

    Last, I think set curricula often impart discipline above all else. You’ve said often that math is useless (largely) and I agree it is. But the discipline of math is very useful. I see a huge lack of discipline in my generation – and it’s unfortunate. Some of the most rewarding pursuits require a formulaic and rigid training initially. I hesitate to harken to Tiger Mom – but she had some good points about the virtues of discipline. I know the easy argument will be that creativity is stifled and alternative methods of learning are equally useful – maybe, but habit is virtue.

    Last, I agree with an above comment that this reads terribly classist. Acknowledging that certain children will benefit from access to pre-K, you proceed to argue the theoretical merits against the concept. And sure, in theory, your arguments are persuasive. But theoretical/philosophical debate is surely a luxury for the rich in this country. If you’re low income and can’t stay home, or “uneducated” (and note, you use a distinction that perpetuates/acknowledges a bias toward formalized education), you might appreciate the very opportunity to evaluate whether pre-K is right or useful for your child – currently, most poor/uneducated individuals don’t have to consider the pros/cons though because they could not send their kids to pre-k even if their parental prerogative was to do so. And while I appreciate that taxpayers can have opinions, it might behoove us to exercise our civic duties in a way that uplifts/improves the world our children will have to be a part of.

    There obviously is room for advocating serious reforms to the “education” system. But I don’t know if this was the right platform, and I fear some of your rhetoric will only divert (or be used to divert) attention/resources from a rather deserving population.

    Ramble end.

  23. Mick
    Mick says:

    I think even more beneficial than preschool, would be to add a required child development course to all high school ciriculum. Even educated parents can not understand or know about how their child’s brain is developing at a specific age.

    The radio program, This American Life, featured a story about Baby College, a course for expectant parents, which taught just that. Very interesting and worth a listen.

    (Also, Penelope, I really enjoy your blog. It’s always interesting and thought provoking, but I read it on my phone, and it takes a really long time to load. Probably 3x slower than any other site. Maybe you could have some techie take a look? Big images? Not optimized for mobile?)

  24. ernie
    ernie says:

    First time reading this blog and thought I’d chime in and hopefully get some view from others to broaden my own.

    First off, I completely disagree with the college is a ponzi scheme statement. Universities “were” not designed to land someone a job. College is for higher education; not vocational. Please please please goto college/university to learn, not to think that the result is a job. If you take that approach then the entire ponzi scheme article does not apply. college=education NOT job

    The only problem I see with the way the US education system is going is the silly concept of one size fits all. It doesn’t matter what plan they come up with, if its a single plan, it will fail.

    Giving money to stay at home parents is a horrible idea as well, its impossible to regulate and will be abused more than insurance fraud. There’s a huge gap between ideals and reality, costs are associated with everything and cannot be ignored or just tossed aside.

    Another thought is that while educated, not all parents are fit to be educators. I’m the average NY’er, working for a financial firm, college grad etc… but I can assure you that when it comes to educating my child, the teachers at the pre-school my kids goto are way better than I am. They just have more experience and know how. Do they love my kids more? No! But are they better qualified to educate? Yes.

    To clarify, educate to me at this young age could be items such as saying please and thank you, tying your shoe, asking for something before just taking it, and on top of that, waiting for an answer before just taking it, learning and loving to sing (I am a horrible singer), learning and loving to scribble, hand paint, stack blocks and knock them down, counting, grouping etc…

    I am personally not able to handle my children painting at home, if they get paint on my ceiling or sofa or worse, somehow into the bedroom, my patience would absolutely be tested and likely fail. Now is this a shortcoming of my own? Yes, but I’m pretty sure at least 50% of all parents fall into this threshold of patience somewhere. The preschool teachers are just better than I am in this aspect, and I believe better than the average parent as well.

  25. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Hmm, the way I understood the gist of this column was that you want to support women’s rights to choose (to stay home or not) by having less options (reject universal pre-K)?

    Why can’t we view Obama’s universal pre-K proposal as a step towards the direction of France’s progressive child care policies? The French government provides:
    1) inexpensive municipal day care, 2) tax breaks for families employing in-home child care workers, and 3) universal free preschool beginning at age 3 (taken from link below from Slate article)

    My child has been in daycare since 3 months, but I was fortunate to have a daycare on my work campus, and was able to continue to breastfeed him at my lunch break till he was 12 months. Now 18 months, he visibly loves going there daily and the socialization with his peers. This daycare actively tries to educate parents about the importance of unstructured “play” especially as they continue on into the higher age groups of pre-K.

    On the other end of the spectrum, my sister is a stay-at-home mom with a 15 month old and 2 other school age children. She possesses advanced degrees and understands the importance of early childhood development. She read all the childhood theories and absolutely loved her time spent with her firstborn. But with her 3rd child, she lamented the fact that she is often too tired for her 15 month old. She wonders if it makes better sense to have enrolled baby#3 in daycare, which would allow her time to complete all her other Mom-of-3 tasks, and let her devote better attention to baby after daycare.

    Either way, more options will better enable women to choose the right options for themselves.

  26. Caroline
    Caroline says:


    I am glad you are posting ideas that help break down the prejudice that exists against young women these days. It seems like there are a lot of comments from readers that regurgitate the same 1970’s feminist theory we always hear. “Women must maximize their economic potential!” “Women do not want to be forced to stay at home!” La-ti-da! Is it really all that wrong that some or most women want to stay at home and work part time? As women, could we just unite and respect the fact that some women, ENTJ’s and others, might care about their economic potential at that some other women do not?

    I find it disheartening that this separation exists. I, myself, am a young career oriented mining engineer and an ENFJ. I want to stay home with my kids eventually without having all my peers judge me for it.

    It is ironic that most of the women who judge other women’s choices probably have probably spent most of their time stuck in an education system that teaches the ways of judgment in the first place. Less systemic education for children would probably mean a society filled with more open-minded and less judgmental adults….. We never really leave school, it seems (

  27. Andi
    Andi says:

    Penelope, your hyperlinks are extremely educational and interesting, but they stress me out. I try to click as I read and then go back to read the linked articles in another window, but my curiosity gets the best of me and I end up jumping back and forth between your post and the linked articles. It takes everything I have to stay with the blog post from start to finish and then go to the extra stuff. I’m curious to know: do you hyperlink as you write, or write a post and then hyperlink? Or do you pay Melissa to hyperlink?

  28. redrock
    redrock says:

    As to the learning of executive function: it is not an inborn trait as of itself- it is certainly easier for some then others, but everybody has to learn and develop strategies. If it comes easy it just looks intuitive because the person sees more clearly how to do it and is faster at developing strategies. And i assure you, the executive function I need in the workplace is at a much higher level then anything I ever needed on the most hectic days in school.

  29. mysticaltyger
    mysticaltyger says:

    The real agenda with universal preschool, as Penelope and others have alluded to, is to create a generation of drones for purposes of power and control. The younger they can get to children, the more they can indoctrinate them.

  30. A. Garamond
    A. Garamond says:

    More and more, these posts sound like fundamentalist, anti-government, anti-education, anti-intellectual ranting. We get it. You want to drop out of society. Suit yourself. But don’t try to dismantle the society that everyone else is trying to build for humanity. We like schools. We trust our teachers. Our children our thriving in public school just like we thrived. So we don’t want to tear down what we’ve built just to suit the paranoid 0.5% of the population who doesn’t trust teachers. If public education is so bad, then how come all of the countries that are beating us in education have public school systems? …maybe because we’re diluting our public education with taxpayers’ money spent on vouchers for private schools? Luckily people are wising up, and we’re looking at ratcheting back the money spent on vouchers for anti-education penny-pinchers and their kids.

  31. laura
    laura says:

    I have a baby who I can’t wait to homeschool. I have been daydreaming about it since before I knew homeschooling was a thing. My husband thinks it sounds like a bad idea but I have 4 or 5 years to convince him, and honestly, I think he hasn’t thought about it too much. But I guess we will see what happens. That is just one of the things on my mind at the moment. I am typing this on my phone, so i will try to make it short. But i am so excited for the future and I am just realizing that really I am also so scared for the future and this blog is one of the best ways I have found to make myself feel confident and in control that I realize I am having imaginary conversations with you to try and pep talk myself. But it is frustrating because at some point in a regimen of self pep talks, you begin to wonder if you have lost objectivity about the whole situation. So I wish I could really talk to you. I think we would get along even though i know you don’t do listening, and that is what i just said i wanted. Listening, but also mostly other things like making plans and being remarkable. Anyway, I thought this might make me feel better and it kindof did. Also, some of these comments are awful. But if you wonder if your writing makes a difference, it does.

  32. Erica Peters
    Erica Peters says:

    “You have to have a pretty bad family life to think that a stranger, with a 15 to 1 ratio, is better child care for a young child than a mother or father.”

    I offered my kids a decent family life, but I was selfish enough to appreciate having 4 hours a day to myself while they were in daycare. Personally, knowing I had a few hours off-duty each weekday kept me sane and non-abusive.

  33. Julia
    Julia says:

    This information makes my head and heart hurt. My husband and I trimmed (axed with a machete) the daylights out of our budget so that I could come home and raise our children. I wonder why, if women want to stay home when the kids are young, more of us aren’t speaking up. Myself included. My four year-old is in preschool now, and they are literally treated like first graders (at least the first grade I remember from my youth). It’s sad, and I agree that it’s unnecessary. When I enrolled her, the they handed me a form that asked what I hoped my daughter would get out of it. I answered that I hoped she would simply get used to being in a classroom (because she’s faced with all-day kindergarten next year). I didn’t know we’d be getting Pre-K bootcamp. Whew – where did all that come from? Thanks for letting me vent lol!

  34. Byzcat
    Byzcat says:

    Why are you suddenly blaming “deadbeat dads” for the problems? Last I checked, it was the women who initiated most divorces, the women who are able to extract, time and again, draconian sums of money from the fathers (who in many cases are left with little or nothing), attorneys who pocket huge sums of money whenever these conniving feminists run them back to court for additional fleecing, and the fathers who are denied their legal right to visit their children because, in actual practice, unless they have the money to contend with the woman who denies them visitation, they are often left with little or no time with their children. Oh, and did I mention that the fathers also have to often work 2 jobs to support their former spouses in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed, while living near poverty themselves? You know nothing of the actual trials of most men who lose their children to divorce and the wreckage in their lives.
    Do you really want to change something? Get rid of no-fault divorce laws, remove the tax incentives for having children unless they conceived in wedlock, do not allow non-married couples to receive the same benefits as married couples, and have some charity for the men who suffer because of a legal system that discriminates against men.
    By the way, I agree that universal pre-K is bad for everyone, but it is the agenda of those who wish to collectivize this society and ensure state control of each citizen from conception to death.

  35. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope’s perspective is so refreshing and resounds a truth that many, including myself, have come to discover on our own. I too have home schooled my sons for a duration of fourteen years. I worked part-time and was active in the community while doing so because I worked when my husband was home with the kids. Sending children off to school to be assembly-line citizens is futile. And the pre-K aged students are the most vulnerable. Children have an inherent understanding of exploring the world around them and of their need for early parental nurture. Somehow the system squelches true potential and natural intellect.

  36. James
    James says:

    Parents need to be more proactive in teaching our children from the time they are born. Furthermore, anything with the name “universal” in front of it, I’m automatically leary of. I’ve raised 3 children from home and they are all very smart. I read books, sing educational songs, got them reading well before any type of schooling. It can be done!

  37. Kathy Schrader
    Kathy Schrader says:

    I am from Ontario Canada. We are rolling out a government initiated program where JKSK kids attend school everyday, all day. It is hitting the Daycare system very hard; which may or may not be a good thing. The good thing about this is that the cirriculum mirrors the play based learning environment in our Daycares. The bad thing is that some schools here have an enrollment of 200 + JKSKs…crowded. Makes for plenty of unproductive play. Over here our government subsidizes Daycare quite extensively. In addition to this a new precedent set by our judicial system states that employers must allow for flex time for families with small children. It all seems like a baby step in the right direction. But I still think school is dumb. Id like to reccommend a book by David Gilmore called The Film Club. Its about a father and his highschool son and how they negotiated the turbulent adolescent years by not attending school. I think you might like it.

  38. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    It also makes me angry that there is so much attention on Universal Preschool but none of the fact that there are 1000’s of preschool teachers that have only the bare minimum education that is required to teach young children. We require teachers that work with children 5 and up to have a DEGREE IN EDUCATION but we let people care for our younger children or “educate” them, and require no more than a couple of college courses from a junior college. Some school’s even allow these caregivers/teachers to complete the required units in a two week intensive course.

    I’m a former preschool director, I left because once I had my own child I realized just how crazy it was to leave them in the care of someone else who knew so little about what they needed. You are right, kids need their parents, not someone who makes $9.00 an hour and has a two week intensive course which supposedly has now taught them “all they need to know about young children”.

    I think that money, time and energy is so much better spent trying to do repair our horribly outdated education system. I homeschool my children and the difference between what they know and what their friends know is huge. It’s because I know my kids, I can plan activities and learning based on who they are as little humans. Universal preschool is not an answer, it’s a publicity stunt to try and show that our education system is being fixed.

  39. Dave
    Dave says:

    So far, my family’s experience with Pre-K (K1) in Boston has been great. My son is in a classroom with 12 other kids, a teacher, a paraprofessional, and sometimes a college intern. They spend much of the day reading stories, singing, dancing and playing. He is happy–especially because his older siblings attend the same school in first and third grade.
    Last year, he attended a great preschool which allowed my wife to complete a 2nd bachelor’s degree and start a new career, returning to work after 8 years of staying home.
    My son taught himself to read at 2 and he’s in an integrated classroom now–kids of all abilities. We are not expecting school to teach him how to advance quickly and be a prodigy; we think what he is learning socially now is more important…and above all that he feels like he is in a warm and supportive environment where he will be free to learn.
    I do not know if our perspective on Boston public schools will change as our kids get older, but I think universal Pre-K is a great idea for kids of all abilities and backgrounds. I cannot argue with all your data, except to say that it just doesn’t apply to us, so I have to disagree with your blanket dismissal of pre-K.

  40. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    You should research before you speak! I challenge you to volunteer in a Pre-K classroom with students having educated or “uneducated parents” (which I would say YOU qualify for the later). We have children in a single family household with very little income that are smarter than the “educated” family household! Pre-K is simply a jumpstart for preparing children for Kindergarten. It not only prepares them academically but socially as well. Learning to listen, follow simple instructions, learning self-control, playing well and getting along with others is just PART of what Pre-K is all about. I’m sure you also think it is the Kindergarten teacher’s job to teach YOUR child these essential student responsibilities as well. We have children who with speech problems that enter Pre-K to help them jump start Kindergarten…you see if a child can speak clearly they will be able to pronouce sounds and words…thus be a better reader. Oh and um the majority of the children in our Pre-K classroom with speech problems have very educated parents. It’s your prerogative to send your child to Pre-K. Any teacher can walk in a Kindergarten classroom and KNOW which children have been in a previous Pre-K class setting….usually they are smarter, more self-controlled, socially and academically on target! (with or without EDUCATED PARENTS!) Check with any Pre-K teacher and you will see that “play” is scheduled at least 2 hours of the school day.

  41. Robert Andrews
    Robert Andrews says:

    Really enjoyed your article. You state points of view that most women clearly feel but the government and society aren’t listening to. My wife expressed that she wanted to stay home with the kids. And we saw the benefits. They learned more. They got more one-on-one attention. They got sick less. Half-time preschool is good because it does give parents a break. And you’re right about daycare. Good daycare where your kids learn how to count, learn ABCs, colors, the things you need to be successful in kindergarden was $600 a month 17 years ago. Not including the pampers, milk, similac and change of clothes you had to supply for the daycare.

    Again, great article. Been a long time since I’ve last visited your blog. Great information.

  42. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    I’m seeing so many comments about preschool being good so parents (moms, mostly) can get a break. Just wondering – how much break do people need from their kids? Four hours a day, five days a week? Do the dads never let the moms out of the house when they’re home and available for the children? Evenings, weekends? Do the moms not have friends they can trade babysitting with from time to time? Or family members – grandmas, aunts? (I know not everyone lives near family, myself included, or has family members fit to babysit.)

    I can understand wanting a break from children. I can understand wanting to work at least part time. But I can’t understand just how much time moms of young children, who choose to stay at home to raise them, seem to think they need away from the kids they decided to give birth to and raise.

  43. asef
    asef says:

    Univesral Pre-K-yani çocuklar hiç bu ayartıcı muhafazakar (eww, ick!) Ebeveynleri tarafından etkilenmeden kreşe gelen Anaokulu ardından ilköğretim gidebilirsiniz! (Gerçeği söylemek gerekirse.)

  44. Ruthie
    Ruthie says:

    Wow! You are brave… This is a topic (preschool) I wouldn’t have dared write or talk about because of the number of disagreements….

    Schools in my current district try hard and the school we are in now has awesome faculty for the most part. We have the best preschool teacher.

    However, of 5 old enough to have attended preschool. My two who did not attend far exceeded my three who did attend.

    I did work with my oldest was a baby and young child, not by choice… If I could have a redo… I would have never worked, never used daycare or preschool…. My oldest came in while I was researching last night and said, “When you are older and we are not in the house you need to write and teach…. Help other moms.”. (sweet girl)

    Each has an opinion and theory for right or wrong… For us, I love having all six children at home and struggle, desire to find a way to totally enjoy them during their very few (hopefully) 18 years at home…

  45. Jane
    Jane says:

    I live in a community that is very wealthy. Everyone send their kids to preschool. Everyone.

    The link that you included to prove otherwise really says nothing about preschool.

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