Parents will eventually encounter the pre-school question. Should I send my child or not? Will it give them any advantages or additional preparation for elementary school? Is it worth the cost? Is it better for them to stay at home? Below I’ll describe how we answered the pre-k question and give you some things to think about.
Let me first clarify what I mean by pre-school. I am not talking about daycare – I mean a pre-kindergarten program with an intentional curriculum. Each of my kids attended at least one year of pre-school. Both of my boys attended pre-school programs that were part of the public school system where they lived. My daughter attended both 4K and 5K at our church and took the A-Beka curriculum. When the boys went to school the classes were held Monday-Friday but Ashley’s program went Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 am – 2 pm. None of the three seemed to be impacted by the length of time they were in class. We paid a monthly tuition for both Ashley and Nick’s 4K pre-school programs and for Ashley’s 5K year; Will’s 4K program was provided for free by the state of Georgia. Because Will and Nick went to public kindergarten, there was no tuition cost for that year.
For Ashley, we were concerned that half-day kindergarten would not prepare her adequately for school. I can’t say for sure how true that might be because my wife did such a good job with her at home. All three of my kids excelled through all years in elementary school. They were happy and well-adjusted when the first day of first grade rolled around because they had been through the process before. Their pre-school years were cute, fun, and memorable.
As for the logistics of pre-school, some programs offer a structured curriculum as early as 3K. There are offerings affiliated with the public schools, with churches and other private schools, and through traditional child-care facilities such as Montessori. Many programs have waiting lists and affiliation requirements, such as church membership, for discounts and registration priority. Unless you tie in some after-school care these programs do not provide full day child care so don’t depend on pre-school alone if you are planning to go back to work. Usually there is no state educational accreditation for pre-school programs so your child’s teachers may or may not have teaching credentials. Meals and snacks are generally not included, and in some cases not even available for purchase so if your child attends through lunch then you’ll have to pack a meal each day. At this age there is usually nap time so you’ll have to send a nap mat and blanket for your child. Many pre-school programs will not take children that are not potty-trained, so if your child is in that situation then be sure to check with your program in advance. Finally, most programs do not offer bus transportation at this age so you will need to get your child to and from their pre-school program.
All in all, pre-school might be the best way to introduce mom and child to the school routine. It certainly offers socialization opportunities for your child, a fun and safe place to get comfortable with the classroom, and a healthy option to more television or other electronic babysitters. However, Mom can provide all of this and more at home if she will put in the time and effort. Whatever you decide, be sure to ask questions of administrators, teachers, and other parents to learn more about the program.