The Lived Experineces of Parents and Their Perceptions of Preschool in one neighborhood in Eastern Virginia
According to the United States Department of Education, approximately 4,172,347 four year olds are eligible to attend publicly funded preschool programs. Of this number, only 1,709,607 of those eligible are enrolled in a publicly funded preschool program (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). Because of a lack of quantitative and qualitative data regarding parents' positive and negative attitudes and beliefs about preschool, misconceptions arise regarding parental decisions to support or not to support their child's academic, social and emotional development prior to kindergarten. In a large urban district in the southeastern part of the United States, this qualitative phenomenological study investigated the perceptions of 12 parents, six of whom elected and six of whom did not elect to send their children to preschool, and the lived experiences that contributed to those decisions. Unanswered questions linger about why so few children attend preschool. Further, the study examined the relationship between parent attitudes and beliefs about preschool and whether or not their lived experiences contributed to their perceptions of the values of preschool.
The conceptual framework for this study was based on Glasser's (1998) concept of an individual's quality world. Data were collected from initial and follow up interviews. Moustakas' (1994) modified van Kaam (2011) method was used to analyze the data, including listing and preliminary grouping, reduction and elimination, clustering and thematizing, and for a final identification of the invariant constituents and themes. Findings from the study revealed that participants encountered both positive and negative experiences that contributed to their decisions about preschool. Participants also believed that academic readiness skills, social emotional development, and parental involvement were values of preschool.