Put your children in preschool and they will succeed in kindergarten. If they succeed in kindergarten then they will do better in grade school. Grade school success means getting ahead in high school, and being at the top in your high school practically guarantees admission to the best colleges. Attend the best college, graduate and get a great job and you will make loads of money and live happily ever after. And to think it all started with going to preschool.

Sound too simple? It certainly does to me. In our state that is the theme of seven or eight different TV and radio ads. We are being led to believe that preschool is the necessary stepping-stone to succeed for the rest of your life. The commercials are trying to convince you once again that children are better off the sooner they leave home and interact with "professional" teachers and other children their age.

Most of us in the homeschool world have already figured out that the best "professionals" are mom and dad. We've also fought hard to dismiss the idea that children need to be socialized (as the world defines it). I have noticed, however, we are caught up in the idea that preschool is an integral part of a child's learning curve. One of my favorite authors on the subject of homeschooling strictly mandates that you spend at least 15 minutes each day doing preschool with each of your young children. Curriculum companies are selling preschool materials at the same rate as the elementary materials. My question is, why? Why do we feel the pressure to preschool our three and four year old children? Why do we feel the need to boost our own homeschool egos with a four-year-old who can read or a five-year-old who can say all the states and their capitals? Why do we start school so early that by the time the child is eight they have been going to school for five years? Why do we pump time and energy into teaching phonics and math at a painfully slow pace, when a five, six or seven-year-old child could learn that material in a fraction of the time?

I am not advocating a lazy and selfish way of life for the three-year-old little darlings--not at all. If you do that then you will have lazy and selfish grade-schoolers. I would just like you to consider the three most important things a preschooler should be learning. We'll call it "Preschool 101".

First, a young child should be learning the joy of being with dad, mom and their siblings. This lesson is learned through many laughs and shared experiences. Let them be in the kitchen cooking with you. Let them in the garage helping "build" a project. Go for walks, throw rocks and bring home great sticks. If your preschooler has older siblings, get them involved in any school experiments or projects. Our four-year-old loves to organize the math manipulatives while her older brothers are using them. She is listening to their studies, and learning great skills at the same time. If your preschooler has younger siblings, have them help you sing songs, change diapers, or play pat-a-cake. Your main goal should simply be to enjoy each other.

Second, discovering the importance of their contribution to the home is vital for a preschooler. Work ethic and strong character are lessons that cannot wait until a child is five or six. A baby old enough to pull toys out of a basket is old enough to help put them back in. By the time a child is two and three, they should have a short list of chores that they are responsible for every day. Most days, mom should do the chores with the child, having fun and stressing how wonderful it is to have a good helper. The attitude becomes contagious to the child, and pretty soon you'll have a four-year-old who can do thirty minutes of chores without complaining, without needing to be reminded, and all the time feeling very important to the running of your home. Keep the chores simple and specific. Instead of saying, "Go clean your room." try saying, "Let's go clean up your books first." After that is done, direct the child to pick up their dirty clothes. Then it is on to the cars or baby dolls. I'm sure you get the point.