Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Preschools - enlighten me please!

I really should know this by now. This whole preschool, kindergarten business in the US has me confused. I'd appreciate some insights from experienced parents.

My son is now 2y3m, goes to a toddler program, which is actually part of a private school. Today we saw his school overflowing with applicants for preschool registration, and it got me all panicky - was I supposed to fill out a form and stand in line? Since he is enrolled in the school already,I suppose he'll automatically be moved to the next class next year? I'll check this with his teachers. But what if I wanted to change schools? Should I have already prepared for that? And some general questions -

What age does preschool start?
What kind of preschools do you look for? Private or public or it doesn't really matter?
I have seen preschool programs in churches, local community centers - how are they better/worse than the private ones?

This makes me feel so unprepared! Any suggestions and advice welcome!

UPDATE: So it turns out I panicked unnecessarily - how typical!
I called the management office to figure out if we need to register, and we didn't need to. Because we were already enrolled in a full time program, he will automatically be moved up to the next level, as he grows older. Only the part timers need to re-register every year. This explains why I never got any kind of notice!

Thank you, Asha, Dotmom, GTN, Indosungod and Seetha for explaining the preschool
process in great detail. It will come very handy should I choose to change schools next year!


Asha said...

In US, nothing moves forward on it's own! You have to renew or re-register every school year even in public schools,so they know your kid intend to continue in the same school next year as well, even though kids do graduate to the next class. Ask his teacher about it and fill the form to enroll him for preschool(from 3 to 5yrs).
Usually, public schools do not have preschools and in some states they do. They enroll 4yr olds to preschools, since K starts when kids are 5yr old and yes, there is a deadline for everything!
Private schools are always competitive, so earlier the better to apply. Public schools send a form to fill to the parents every year, so we can tell them that kids will continue in the same school. Public schools cannot reject any kid who applies for any reason unlike private schools.
Both my kids go to public schools and are doing well. It depends on how we raise our kids rather than reputation of a public school in your area.I love the public school teachers who are well qualified. You have to make a decision of course and soon!:)
My daughter went to preschool in UK but my son in US didn't go at all due to our country hopping but he did very well in K without any problem.
For Public school K, there are Charter schools which expects regular parental involvement and Magnet schools which specializes in particular area and expect you to stay in that school for atleast for that year, but you can always move after that year. Regular Public schools are very flexible, can move anytime. Private schools have their set of rules. Make sure you talk to them about moving out of school once you commit yourself.
Hope it helps!:)

DotMom said...

asha did a fantastic job of explaining the system... but i'll add my 2 cents anyways. preschool (and pre-K) in our county starts from 4 yrs of age. some private schools do label programs for 3 yr olds with a preschool tag though. If you are enrolled in a private program for toddlers (Chip is 2.5 and he is in a program that is a part of a private school). I am not required to formally enroll him. It is understood that he will continue until I give a notice of withdrawl. So he will automatically graduate to higher classes. check with your school. Every private school has a different set of rules.

As far as public preschools go, some states/counties do have part-time programs, but VA does not. As Asha says getting into public schools is easy, since they cannot by law refuse any child. Private schools and especially those that have stellar ratings can be very, very competitive and their enrollments start as early as feb. for fall.

GettingThereNow said...

Asha and Dotmom did a very good job explaining this so I will skip that part.

You can call your town's City Hall and ask them to send you a list of all pre-schools that are registered with them. The list they send has their phone numbers, hours, programs w/ages, cutoff dates for registration etc. Some even provide references so you can call other parents to see how satisfied they are with the pre-school's program. Mostly, pre-school starts at 4 but some start at 3 or even 2. The younger age groups will ususally have a shorter day.

I agree with Asha that ultimately what matters the most is how you raise them and kids who don't go to pre-schools aren't any worse off (academically) than kids who do. But one advantage to sending them to preschool is that they learn coping skills for being away from you and they get some much-needed social interaction which helps develop their social skills. But you already know all this, I am sure.

Don't panic. In my opinion, if you can't get Kodi in a pre-school this year, you can just sign him up for some mommy-and-me classes and then try for the pre-school when he turns 4. He won't miss out on anything. And Asha is right - most pre-schools don't re-register you automatically. Heck, I just paid 200 buck to re-register baby M for the summer and fall 2008 sessions! Some of it is legitimate (like they need to know who is returing in the next session so they'll know how many seats are available) but it is also a money-making tactic in my opinion :P

indosungod said...

Kodi's mom, if you are already registered in a school and the school has higher grades/programs you do not have to submit a new application but like the others have pointed out you have to re- register for the next year. The forms are sent home during Feb/Mar and have to be returned with a deposit which is usually deducted from the tution for that year. So in effect you have to react unless you want to change schools. If you do change schools it is best to start the appliction process as early as possible. Nov 2007 is a good time frame to start for admissions in Sept 2008. Most schools make the decisions by late Feb/early March. I am talking about the ultra competitive DC area, it might be better or worse in your area/county :)

Preschool starts at 3 years of age and in the Montessori system 3-5 yrs is considered a complete preschool/kindergarden program.

Most Public Schools in my area do not have a preschool programs, some schools do have programs called Head Start for kids from households below a certain income level and usually for kids who do have English speakers at home.

Lot of kids stay in Private school through KG or till KG and than move to a Public school.

It definitely is a good idea to check your son's school if you have to reapply if you have to do it now :)

Seetha said...

Preschools in US: Ages 2, 3, 4, 5 (Sometimes)
Preschools in the US are mostly private and they come in all price ranges.
Choices of preschools in each US town are offered by:
1.Local church communities
3.Montessori schools (Special system of ages 3 to 5 in the same class)
4.Few other National chains: Goddard school, New Horizon, Kinder care etc depending upon the state you live in.

Some preschools act as Daycare/Preschool. Others offer just preschool programs, which usually are weekly 2 or 3 days with a school time ranging from3 to5 hours.

Criteria’s in choosing a preschool:

1.Student teacher ratio should be 10: 1
2.Visit the preschool before hand to make sure it is clean and well maintained. Most of them offer tours before registration.
3.Some Local church communities have really good preschool programs and they do not preach their religion. My 3-year-old son attends one and it is very good.
4.If you can manage with just half a day of school twice or thrice a week try to choose a preschool, which is just a preschool and not a Daycare/Preschool.
5.All preschools have registration starting in Jan/Feb with a Deadline Dates or the applications. So call them up and check the details.
6.Some preschools have lottery systems depending upon their popularity in your area. So it is important that you register ASAP.

Public schools usually start at the Age 5 with Kindergarten and you can choose a Public or Private school depending upon the neighborhood you live in. You can get a review of the schools in your county/neighborhood at

I hope this helps.

Kodi's Mom said...

Everyone: Thank you SO much for your very detailed comments explaining the whole process to me.

Seetha - you broke it down as if to teach a preschooler! And I totally appreciate that.

I have updated the post with what I found about Kodi's registration. I am saving the rest of the comments for future referral. once again, thanks a lot! You guys are the best :)