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Finding the Right By STACIE L. MARTIN


parent is a child’s first, and most important, teacher. From the time our children arrive in this world, they are constantly learning from us: how to speak, how to play, how to navigate this big world of ours. But at some point, parents begin to share these teaching responsibilities with teachers at daycare, preschool, and school. Kentucky law requires children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend school. Preschool, however, is not mandatory. It is up to parents to decide if they want their children to attend preschool and if so, where to send them. There are so many decisions to make in this area: keep a child at home or send her to preschool? Half-day or full-day program? Church-based program or a preschool facility? Where does a parent even begin? 26

June/July 2012

The first question parents may have is about the difference between a daycare and a preschool. Unfortunately, there is no definite difference between the two and Kentucky provides no accreditation for preschools. I asked several people involved in the preschool and daycare field and received the same response from nearly all: any good daycare is a preschool. Both should support children’s development, provide their need for movement, teach self-help and social skills, and employ caregivers who interact with them. However, the “preschool” curriculums for children getting ready to enter kindergarten do tend to be more academic and prepare children for what they will be learning in kindergarten. Research has proven that a high-quality preschool education can significantly enhance a child’s social and emotional development. Multiple studies demonstrate that “early education programs have found greater commitment to education, lower rates of involvement with crime, greater likelihood of delaying parenthood, better health behavior, and higher rates of civic participation among children who have attended the [preschool] programs.” According to Susan Vessels, director of Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) in Louisville, preschool lays the

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