The Preschool Process

The process of searching for a preschool can vary widely depending on where you live. Even out here, in the Greater Boston Area, it varies quite a bit from town to town. Here are just a few tips to help you if you’re in the beginning stages of looking for a preschool.

1. Find Out When You Need To Begin Your Search: We live roughly 20 miles from Boston and needed to begin our preschool search process last October (almost one full year before Tiny and Buba would officially begin!). I suppose, technically, we could have waited until winter or even spring, but several school we were looking at had late fall application deadlines. However, just 10-15 miles further north, many friends of ours were able to register easily the spring before their children would enter the school. Sometimes it depends on the area, and sometimes it depends on the schools. So, it just helps to know ahead of time what you’re dealing with.

2. Know What You Want: If you live in an area where you have a lot of options, it can be tremendously helpful to know what type of school/program you want for your children. Do you need all day or do you only want half day? Would you like a morning program where you have the option to have your children stay through lunchtime or even the full afternoon? Do you prefer to have classes grouped by age or do you like the idea of multi-age classes? How many days a week would you like your kids to go? Would you like a program that is primarily play-based, or would you rather have a program that will focus more on academic skills. And how far are you willing to travel? Would you prefer a school closer to home, or, perhaps, closer to work? These are just some of the questions that you can answer ahead of time that may help you narrow down your search.

3. Know What You Can Spend (But Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Discounts or Aid): I’m not sure what it’s like in other parts of the country, but out here, preschool can be quite costly. (I was shocked to learn, while visiting family this summer, that preschool for 4 year olds is FREE in Iowa! Anyone else have a deal like that?) Knowing how much you can spend, or how much you’re willing to spend, can also be an important piece of information when deciding which schools to look at. However, some schools offer sibling discounts, alternate payment plans, and/or financial aid. Not all schools publish these possibilities on their websites or in their literature, so don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised by how willing a director might be to work out a plan that allows your children to attend the school.

4. Talk To Other Parents, But Trust Your Gut: Talking to other parents whose children are already in a preschool you’re considering for your own children can be very helpful. They may be able to talk more specifically about things, such as how the teachers operate their classrooms, how well the staff communicates with parents, and what they personally like about the school. However, your friend may love a school for her own kids that you feel is not the best fit for your own children. Trust your gut and do what you know is the right thing for your own family.

What advice do you give to friends who are beginning to look at preschools for their kids? Not ready for looking yet- what further questions do you have about the preschool search process?

6 thoughts on “The Preschool Process

  1. I would add….from my experience looking for daycares don’t be afraid to ask if you and your little one(s) can spend a morning/afternoon at the school observing. You will learn alot from having your little ones join the class for a day, while you watch. What you are told happens and what you actually experience can be two very different things. A quick hour visit doesn’t always give you a real picture!

    Also, in response to your question on free preschool …. in WI where I live some cities (mine included) offer a half day 4 year old Kindergarten (4K) program paid for by the school district. But, I wouldn’t exactly call it free since we pay some high property taxes! LOL!

  2. I definitely would give a hearty “second” to trusting your gut. Asking friends for recommendations is an excellent way to start. But you have to trust your own judgment of a place when you visit, not everyone looks for or values the same things.

    And really, be flexible on nearly everything when your search is getting started. I was sure I wanted a 3-day-a-week program for my kids, but fell in love with a 5-day school and have never regretted sending them there. While some criteria might be non-negotiable for you, I was glad that I didn’t necessarily rule things out before I started looking.

  3. In Oklahoma they also have Pre-K in the public schools (half day program). I wonder what other states offer that (besides Iowa)? We certainly don’t have it here in Virginia! My advice would be to investigate church based preschools, depending on your faith background. I would love to use my church preschool but the schedule did not fit my needs. However its highly rated and reasonably priced, a good combination.

  4. In South Africa, the prices differ vastly between cities. I’m in Jhb, the most expensive city and we easily pay double or triple what people pay in the smaller cities.

    I started looking earlier this year, was horrified at the prices and decided I’m keeping them home til at least 3 :)

  5. Trusting your gut is important – and trust your child/children’s response too. I also ask about the teacher’s experience and training. Anyone can open a playschool here, but they are not all necessary in their training and experience.

  6. Florida offers a VPK program. It is good for 540 hours (3 hours a day). So it doesn’t quite cover even the half day option that some schools offer (though there are some schools that will accept the VPK credit as payment in full for the half day program). But it’s better than nothing.

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