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Fees and Neccessity

Hi - Does every child go to preschool - can they just go to kindergatren? Also is there a "free" preschool in CPS if so what are the requirements. Thanks

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No, I think technically you don't even have to go to Kindergarten if you don't want to. Yes there are free PreK's. Coonley School has one (Western/Irving Park). I think there just might be a waiting list at most free ones.

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I don't know of any free preschools, but I have some other info for you. kids don't have to go to preschool but it is very benefitial to them. If you need help with paying for it, try Action for Children. They help to pay for some if not all the tuition for school. It is based on your income.

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Here are some childcare resources for the State of Illinois. No you don't have to send your children to preschool, they can just wait till kindergarten. My sister just sent my niece to preschool though and she loves it. She has learned so much since starting so I think it was a great decision to send her.


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As others have mentioned, niether preschool or kndergartn is a mandate from the state. If you are "homeschooling" your child and he/she is progressing well, learning and developing, anything before 1st grade is a matter of personal choice.
That said, there are a wealth of reasons that educators encourage Pre-k and kindergarten as preparation for 1st grade. Most of them deal with developmental, social and adjustment issues. Some children will be greatly disoriented moving from a home learning environment to the regimin of 1st grade. Kindergarten classes are intened to slowly move children from the world of play into the rules and routine of the classroom. A good pre-k program will focus on social interaction, manners, and school rules.
CPS offers free Pre-K program for those who qualify. check out: http://schoollocator.cps.k12.il.us/ECE/index.htm for a list of programs. Any program based in a CPS school (vs. some of the private options that will be listed) should be free of charge. Qualifying is not too tough,depending upon the school to which you are applying, but there is an "assessment" that occurs usually in the classroom.

About me:
I am a mother of 3 (7,5 & 2), 19 years in education and youth minsitry.
I am a personal fan of State Pre-K programs. My daughter had an excellent teacher who had her reading at a 1st grade level when she was done.

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Preschool is not mandatory; however it's great for teaching them the socialization skills and etc. My daughter is taking Spanish, music, gym and they are reinforcing the academics I am teaching her i.e.: spelling and writing her name, colors and alpahabet. And she is only three years old. However; CPS does offer preschool your child must be three by September 1st of the year you would like to enroll him/her. Also they must be delayed in some area. You should contact your local public school and ask them what the requirements are for their school. Also there are some head start programs throughout the city that you may want to check out; there are income guidelines.

Hi Holly,

I'd recommend looking into your local high school (or surrounding high schools). Many now offer a preschool taught by the high school students, which is always supervised and regulated by the teacher. Many are offered 2-3 days a week, and last for 2-3 school periods. The cost is usually minimal (compared to actual preschools), and they are wonderful programs. I work at a high school with such a program, and I can't wait to get my son enrolled (he's only 6 months though, so we have a while to wait. . . :-)

Good luck with your research and I hope it all works out well for you.

In Illinois, not only is it not a requirement for children to attend preschool, it is not a state law that children attend kindergarten. That said, preschool is incredibly important for children's social and academic development. I've worked in early childhood and it's really hard for children to transition from home with mom to kindergarten where suddenly there are rules for everyone. The separation is also much harder fot kids who haven't ever had the experience of being away from their moms.

CPS does have free as well as tuition-based preschools. You may want to check out the NPN (Northside Parent's Network) or the CPS websites for more specific information. I also worked at a NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited preschool in the city that works on a sliding scale tuition (NAEYC accredidation is much harder to get than city or state) called Concordia. They have 2 locations: one in North Center and one in Avondale.

Good Luck!

Children are not required to attend preschool. Here is the site to Chicago Public Schools to see if you can get a pre-K program.

yes, CPS offers a half day free program called Pre-school for All. Not every school has one, some have more than one classroom. They are not boundary specific, so you can try any schools you're interested in or conveniently located. I believe PreK is a great experience for any child, a good one that is. Whether it's for the academic/cognitive benefits or the socialization ones. It'll help make the K transition smoother! Good luck.

There are many preschool programs in CPS, but not all schools have them. Many will have a choice between "State-based" and "Tuition-based." My daughter is in the state-based program at Audubon School in Roscoe Village. The state-based is a half day (2 1/2 hours) and the tuition-based is all day (including after-school care), the s.b. is free, the t.b. costs around $9,000 a year at Audubon. We had to apply to get into the state-based program, even though it's our neighborhood school! I'm not aware at all of a special needs requirement; my daughter was never tested, nor were we asked about her development. The whole CPS system is complex and takes a while to understand--many schools and neighborhoods offer offer seminars that explain how it all works. My daughter is thriving in pre-school, both academically and socially.

Yes, there are preschools through CPS, I eblieve some are tuition based and some are head start (based on income I think?). Preschool is also provided if you child has a special need like developmental delay. Sorry, that's about all I know, I would call your local school.


I had to deal with this issue last summer for this school year. I have two sons, and one has a birthday in Jan. so he wasn't able to go to kindergarten. His brother goes to a CPS magnet school, but they don't offer preschool there. I thought that I wanted my youngest to go to preschool even if just for a few days a week. (I work from home btw). I went to our neighborhood Chgo Public School (northwest side of the city) and they told me I was too late because they only had 28 spots for a half day program they had there... 14 day 14 afternoon... and there were so many people on the waiting list it wasnt even worth the effort to take out the paper to add my name to the list. Needless to say this really irked me because we own a home and pay taxes... I asked about the Headstart program and I was told preschool isn't mandatory in the state. I ended up finding an awesome private school that offered full and part time preschool. My son goes on Mon Wed and Fri and he loves it. In fact, we find the private school much better than the magnet school my oldest goes to...

I don't know if that helps... if you want more information let me know!

Although preschool is not mandatory, I would highly recommend. Kids socialize, and get used to school routines and are better prepared for kindergarten. Some Chicago Public Schools offer free preschool, State Pre-K. It is a 2 1/2 hour, Monday - Friday program. I don't know where you live but you should check your local school. Or for more information and to find a school near you go to http://schoollocator.cps.k12.il.us/ECE/index.htm

No, I think technically you don't even have to go to Kindergarten if you don't want to. Yes there are free PreK's. Coonley School has one (Western/Irving Park). I think there just might be a waiting list at most free ones.

Preschool is not needed if your child is getting what they need from home. Are you working with your child at home? Do you get your child out and around other children on a regular basis? My children never went to preschool and are doing great in school. I did enroll them in Park District classes so they would get use to being away from me. I like the Park District classes because we were able to pick and choose what they were interested in. They were able to take dance, theater, art classes, science, and swimming classes. It was also cheaper then sending them to preschool.

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