Educational institutions that provide instruction to preschool children should be forbidden to use the term “daycare”. I am sure if you asked around, people would tell you that they associate “daycare” with babysitting. According to Dictionary.com, babysitting is “to take charge of a child while the parent is temporarily away”. Anyone can babysit. Sometimes, even a television can become a sort of babysitter. Once you use the word school, the mindset is different. It implies teaching and learning. After working in both preschool and daycare programs, I became increasingly frustrated with the attitudes of some of the families of my students. A good preschool program is more than babysitting. The primary goal of a preschool program should teach a child to be independent; able to do many life skills, such as using the toilet, hand washing, playing with a toy and returning it to its proper storage space, for himself or herself.
Preschool education is misunderstood by many. Every parent who wishes to put their child in a preschool program should be required to read the poem Just Playing by Anita Wadley. Originally published in 1979, it was meant to outline what happened when children “played” in Kindergarten. However, by today’s standards, a center based curriculum is the norm for preschools. Some adults look at the children and assume that they are “just playing” as the title of the poem indicates. Yet, when children work in different areas of the room called centers, each center has a different purpose; something different to offer each child. Ms. Wadley’s poem outlines what is accomplished, and what careers the children could be preparing for in their futures.
For example, when children use puzzles, they are learning to problem solve. If you scan the job boards, many employers list “able to problem solve” and “able to work independently” as necessary skills for their available positions. If children expand upon these skills they learn in preschool, by the time they graduate from high school, they will be “college and career ready”. These are the new buzz words which have prompted the latest revolution in education called the Common Core Standards.
To some parents, the getting into the “right” preschool is everything. When I was in college, I worked at a nursery school in an upper middle class neighborhood. It was so sought after that if you didn’t sign up as soon as you brought your bundle of joy home from the hospital, there wouldn’t be a space for him or her when he or she reached 2 years and nine months of age. It became so ridiculous; the director had to create a rule: no in utero applications! “They have to have a birth date!” she said. (To get around it one mother knew she was having a boy. He was going to be delivered by scheduled Caesarean Section. His name had been chosen. He had a birth date, so he was signed up before he was born!)
I am not trying to demean those who provide quality childcare. It just seems to me we use the terms “preschool” and “day care” interchangeably when there can be a huge difference. More has to be done to educate parents, as well as the public, on this topic.