Is Preschool Worth the Investment?

Laura St. JohnFor the first time in eight years, I can sit back, take a deep breath, and gladly say that all three of my kids are in school. Don't get me wrong -- I love spending time with them -- but I am just not one of those moms who's sobbing in the car after dropping off my preschooler. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I am walking out that door, with my hand motion of "Yessss!" (...is that terrible?)

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Any parent knows, or quickly realizes, that kids cost a lot. My husband and I tossed the idea around whether to invest now into monthly tuition for my youngest, or wait until he is older. Since I often work from my home office, he has gotten in the groove of playing and hanging out while I try to conquer the to-do lists sticky-taped all over my desk. But after much discussion, we agreed it would be good for him, and we considered what we would all get in return.

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The Return On Your Investment: Socially, Emotionally, Financially and Academically
Socially and emotionally, we felt exposure to interact with trusted adults and with other kids his age would benefit our preschooler. It was a wake-up call for me when someone recently called him my barnacle! When placed in a loving environment outside our home, kids can build more confidence and independence knowing they can survive a few hours without us. It's so rewarding at pickup time when he proudly shows me all the paintings and other "big-boy" work he accomplished.

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Financially, there's no doubt that preschool is worth it in the long-run. According to a recent NY Times article, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce, found in a 2010 report that "for every dollar invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead." No wonder why Obama called for making universal preschool available to every 4-year-old in the US during his State of the Union Address. As much as we spend now, we'll gain it back later with a prepared workforce.

Academically, nobody can deny that the gains that children make early on provide us with a more prepared society later on. The connections to high-quality preschool years have clear effects on reading rates and high school completion. When children arrive prepared for kindergarten, it has a huge impact on their long-term academic success.

It's exciting that for first time in eight years, I have all my kids off to school for at least a few days a week -- and dollar for dollar, it's worth every penny. My next hurdle: How many more years until I can actually sleep peacefully through the night? With teenage years coming -- from what I hear, maybe never.

This post was written by Laura St. John.

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