A formal preschool program is not the right fit for every family. Parents in expensive urban areas who cannot afford $20,000 or more in tuition for nursery school want reasonably-priced programs to teach their child the skills necessary to start school. Similarly, while most schools require children to be fully toilet-trained, many three-year-old children are not ready to use the toilet independently.
Young children do not have to attend school to learn new things and experience independence, socialization, and proper classroom behavior. There are wonderful alternatives to preschool that will teach these important skills in a more relaxed setting.
I am a stay-at-home mother, and my children do not attend daycare. When my older son turned two, I wanted him to experience separation from his parents in a supportive setting. I found some schools that accepted children starting at two, but I did not want such a strict program for my young son. I also did not want to pay for an entire year of classes, as I was not going to take my son to school during the worst of winter.
Luckily, the YMCA in my area offers separation classes. The classes are twice a week for a little over an hour. The children sing songs, make art projects, and have a snack. Most of the little ones, my son included, cried for the entire first session of the program. After a few times, my son gleefully ran into the classroom without as much as a glance back at me.
Parents will find that organizations in their area offer similar separation classes. For example, the Gymboree in my area also offers independent classes for young children.
Separation classes offer benefits for families looking for preschool alternatives. Children enrolled in separation classes do not have to be toilet-trained. Separation classes are often much cheaper than a formal school program, and parents do not have to commit to a whole year of classes.
Young children can also gain independence by taking short classes. The YMCA, churches, synagogues, and other community organizations offer enrichment classes. These classes cover fun topics such as art, music, martial arts, and sports. Children often attend the enrichment classes in an independent setting, away from their parents. Enrichment classes are less expensive than a formal preschool program, and the classes normally do not run for the entire year.
Educational activities for young children do not have to take place in a classroom. Informal activities are a great way for children to have fun and learn in a less structured environment.
The children’s museum in my area has hands-on exhibits that teach children about animals, construction, and geography in an enjoyable setting. My children love the children’s museum and do not realize that they are learning while they play. Virtually all museums offer memberships, so parents do not have to pay separately each time they take their children for a museum visit.
Young children can learn and thrive without attending a formal school program. Inexpensive, fun and educational activities abound for young children who do not attend preschool.