Recent studies have shown that preschool can provide an excellent head start to young children in terms of both social skills and academics. Indeed, new advances in neural development show that by the time that children are five years old, their brains have grown and developed 85% of their full capacity. The environment the child is raised in heavily influences their brain’s architecture and young child care and a learning environment for toddlers can be crucial. Voluntary preschool then, is a great advantage for parents and children alike. Voluntary preschool allows parents to decide at a local level whether they want or need access to high quality preschool classes that’s publicly funded. The state provides four-year-olds the opportunity to get ready for school at a high quality level, instead of asking families to enroll their children in private preschools, which may be a financial burden for at-risk or high priority communities.
What are Some of the Benefits of Voluntary Preschool?
Improved Social and Academic Skills
In just the first few years of life, 700 new neural connections are formed, amking it a crucial learning period. Indeed, from birth to three years of age, we have the fastest rate of brain development that we’ll ever receive in our lifetimes. A preschool can enhance this learning environment with educational games and interactions with their peers. Many preschools will read to children, which can help stimulate brain development. Statistics show that only half of infants and toddlers get read to on a regular basis by their parents, so a preschool can help fill in that gap.
Furthermore, the Ounce of Prevention Fund reports that a quarter of at-risk children are more prone to dropping out of high school without a quality preschool education, 40% more likely to be a teenage parent, 60% more likely to not attend college, and 70% more likely to be arrested because of a violent crime. Providing that basis of education and learning at a young age can have major repercussions for the rest of their life.
In most families, both parents are working parents. Less than one-in-three kids today have a full-time parent who stays at home, compared to 1975, where over half of all children had a committed stay-at-home parent. Almost a quarter of children who under five years of age attend some kind of organized child care center, like daycare or preschools. A preschool can help save parents babysitting money and the worry over who will watch their child when they have to work, while also offering an educational opportunity and time to play with other kids their own age.
Voluntary preschool may not even cost parents that much, since it’s state funded. This can also help alleviate the feeling that over two-thirds of Americans have — that the government or businesses should be chipping in more to help make child care manageable for working parents.
Voluntary preschool also works in the state’s favor. Even if two to four dollars are invested in a preschool program that’s open to all children, the return on investment for every preschool cohort can be as much as $150 billion over the lifetime of the cohort.
How Do I Know If My State Offers Voluntary Preschool?
Your state will most likely have a section for voluntary preschool under their Department of Education section on their website. You can always visit their website or call your state’s Department of Education to get more information, see how the program works, and how you can enroll your child. They’ll have an FAQ page and resources for how to get started, if you want your child to be enrolled.
Even if your state doesn’t offer voluntary preschool, it’s still worth looking into other preschool programs offered by private sectors tog give your child that extra boost.