When should a kid go to preschool?

K writes,

"I wanted to ask you - or perhaps your readers, about their opinion on preschool and preschool timing/age. My son is turning two at the end of July. I quit my FT job to freelance and be home with him - which with all of its ups and downs, is finally beginning to feel normal and perhaps even (gasp) lovely. Of course there are days when I want to call my old boss back and beg for forgiveness, but more often than not I feel like our current situation is working. 

I live in a neighborhood where parenting can feel very competitive. At the moment, it seems like everyone I meet with kids my sons age is sending theirs to preschool. When applications were due, last winter, I did not apply. For one thing, I felt like my son would still be a bit young for 'school', for another, the cost in my neighborhood is a little crazy (part time, at the lowest I have found, is around $7500) and on top of it all, I had quit my job to be home with my son, not indefinitely, but for right now I don't foresee going back to FT work anytime in the near-future.

I felt confident about my choice, but now that school time is almost here and my son's friends are running around with backpacks and their moms are going on about the amazing Montessori educations their children will receive, I started panicking that I had made the wrong choice for my son - a social, funny and strong-willed little guy. I called around and found only one option with one spot still available that is remotely affordable, except that they don't offer half-days, only three full days per week (9-2). I have to make a decisions soon, but I can't for the life of me figure out if I am doing this for my son, for myself and having a little break, or because of what I am hearing from other parents and feeling like I am not giving my son an opportunity to socialize and learn in a way he wouldn't at home (because I selfishly want to be with him). I should note that we have a babysitter a few hours a week while I work, and attend several music and movement classes every week. My son has friends he sees at a playgroup weekly, but they will all be attending different preschools in the Fall.

If you have a moment and have gone through this much too-lengthy email, I would love to hear your prospective on a good age for toddlers to attend preschool and if full days aren't too much (or perhaps are even better?) for young toddlers.

Thanks so much!"

Personally, I think that this is one of those questions that you can't choose a wrong answer to. If you send him now (assuming you can afford it), you'll be happy you sent him now, and he'll love it. (Also, 9-2 as "full day" is hilarious, no? Once again, what are FT WOH parents supposed to do?) If you don't send him now, you'll put together some classes for fun and trips to the library and other stuff to do that organizes your week and it'll be fine, too.

Back when I was making this decision it was about money, and my kids went when they were 3, not 2. And it was fine, and they both loved preschool and we're still friends with their teachers and the other families they went to school with. If they'd gone a year earlier we'd still be friends with those people.

I do think there are kids who are very shy who take months to warm up to a group setting, but who knows if that's easier at 2 than at 3? And there are children who are strong introverts who find it enervating to have to deal with so much stimulus from other people, so if you have a strong introvert kid I'd consider waiting. But for kids who aren't strong introverts, preschool is largely cultural, in that parents send them when all the other parents send them, and it's fine. The idea that we should only make decisions about our kids "for them" and not for us is a little ridiculous, since we're the ones caring for them, so our needs (and wants) ought to be prioritized, too.

Readers? Did you send your kids to preschool? When did you send your kids to preschool, and would you have done it differently?