Co-op Preschool Versus Pre-K Preschool

Updated on December 16, 2010
A.W. asks from Lake Stevens, WA
14 answers

Hello Ladies-

I really need some help. I know I am going to do what is right for my child, but I really would like some input from experienced parents.

I am a stay at home mom with a 4 year old. Last year and this year my daughter has attended a co-op preschool. I love this environment, I love the teacher and I don't mind helping out. Last year she was in the toddler class and this year, she is in the 3-5 program. My daughter is very outgoing, very full of energy and she is quite bright for her age. I am not academically worried about her and we really started preschool mostly for the social/group experience as she is a singleton. Due to her November birthday, she will be attending one more year of preschool before she continues to kindergarten.

At her 4 year check up, her DR recommended that I move her to a Pre-K program next year. A class where she would be around kids her age. She will turn 5 right after we start school next fall. So basically a class that is geared toward 4 and 5 year olds. She really feels my daughter would do good with the challlenge. The co-op we belong to is a mix class age 3-5, so there isn't a designated Pre-K program. And from what I am reading/hearing - really the only difference between Preschool and Pre-K is age, attention span, and expansion on learning basics. Please clarify more if I am wrong on that.

So, my problem comes at do I move her to a new school or keep her in the co-op for next year? I would really like to hear from other moms who's have co-op experience and if they changed at the Pre-K year or if they remained in co-op and then just went directly to Kindergarten. But I am willing to take input from anyone too - kindergarten teachers, parents who homeschooled for preschool, everyone....

I had all intentions of keeping my daughter at the co-op until Kindergarten, but before the DR had said anything to us, I was kind of thinking that maybe she needed to be around more kids her age and older. This spring we have a lot of kids that will be moving on to Kindergarten (mostly boys) and I am sure have a huge influx of 3 year olds into the class. I do see the advantage of having her be the older kid in the class (she was that in the toddler class), but I feel that maybe the teacher will have more focus on the 3 year olds and my daughter might not be overly challenged.

Any insight you could provide will be very appreciated.


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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your advice. I am going to visit a few other preschools in the area in January and decide from there. If I find that they are not much different than what she is already doing, then I will just keep her where they are. I will also ask her what she thinks of each visit too.

I knew you all would give great perspective. I really appreciate reading each and every response. :-)

Featured Answers



answers from Seattle on

How about leaving her in her co-op for school and then having her do a sports or dance class or something similar where she's with kids her age and older? I have summer born kids and we've chosen to homeschool instead of preschool at this point in part because of the age issue.

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answers from Seattle on

Both my kids went to a co-op preschool program. My children went to a pre-k program and then a Montessori kindergarten program. Both kids had late birthdays so it was not a matter of birthdays. I was not interested in academics, just interested in experiences. I was very satisfied with my children's preschool experience and would recommend it to you.

I am an ex K-1 teacher and taught gifted k-1 students. It is my belief and experience that you don't need early academic exposure to be "gifted" or high performing, but you do need early exposure to exposure to experiences.

So don't enroll your daughter in a pre-k class to make her gifted or high-performing. Enroll her for the experiences and let her be herself or who she will become.

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answers from Springfield on

My son will be old enough for kindergarten next fall, but he has a late July birthday and I'm not sure he's ready. The best advise I've been given is to make an appointment to talk to the kindergarten teacher. Ask him/her about kindergarten readiness, things they are looking for, perhaps some skills that are necessary, etc. This might really be a good person to talk to about the pros & cons for the schools you're talking about. He/she might have students who have gone to both programs.

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answers from Atlanta on

My oldest went to a 1/2 day co-op style preschool from age 1-4 (he turned 4 in March). This fall he started at a traditional public school prek because I went back to work full-time and it's free, plus we have some really good prek programs around us. He is being challenged more and learning a bit more than he would have staying at his other school. He is writing, identifying all numbers up to 100 very easily (he could count easily before, but often would get mixed up when asked to identify higher numbers) and all of the kids in his class are 4 and 5, so socially they're more on the same page.

I don't think it's THAT big of a deal. What is easier for you? Do you see your daughter getting bored next year? That would be my biggest concern. Since she's going to hit 5 fairly early into the year, she'll be far past the incoming 3 year olds. I think I would personally put her in a prek program, but if you don't want to, I really don't think it's going to harm her. If you run into problems next year, maybe you could get her into one after school starts.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My son (just turning 5) is in a mixed age classroom (3-6) at a Montessori preschool. I think the mixed age grouping is good - he can interact with kids older and younger than him. If you're comfortable and your daughter enjoys it, I wouldn't switch. Did you ask your ped. why s/he thinks you should change?

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answers from Eugene on

May parents put me ahead in school because they were told I was too bright and would be bored if I wasn't academically challenged. But I wasn't emotionally ready and looking back, I wish I'd had more time to enjoy being a kid and not be pushed so early in life.

The school administrators gave my parents advice based on their experience with lots of kids who may have gotten bored and not learned in class. But not all kids are the same and moving ahead was not a good fit for me.

Personally, I think that emotional development is at least as important as academic learning and kids are growing so much emotionally as preschoolers so it's worth considering what would best foster that growth, too.

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answers from Honolulu on

Co-Op is more socialization not "academic." Some are less structured... and they 'allow' for kids still learning.
Pre-K... it is more structured, academic, and kids expected to know stuff. Also play learning as well. Since they are young.

In Co-Ops, parents help. In Pre-K, it is not a parental 'volunteer' geared thing. It is 'school.'
Ages in class, are more specific. Not all grouped together.

Your daughter will probably be fine in Pre-K.... that is Preschool.
It would be a 'transition' for Kinder.
AND per the influx of 3 year olds in her current Co-Op.... in Spring.

The thing is, IF you see/think that your daughter is ready for branching out.... then its great to move her to Pre-K. If not, then keep her in the Co-Op.
Girls, are usually more 'mature' than boys. My daughter was. She LOVED Preschool or Pre-K as they called it.
Regardless, the activities are age related and the learning....

At my daughter's school, they have a Co-Op as well. It is more 'play school' versus "Pre-School." Not as 'academic' geared, but rather, serves to teach socialization and 'routine' and listening to direction, and group activities.... for the child to learn in that kind of environment. I know parents who have had kids in this Co-Op, and parents who's kids were in Pre-K. There is a big difference. Pre-K being for structured and they are taught more 'academics' etc., and the complexity of activities, are branched out.

Me, my Daughter went to Preschool, from about almost 4 years old... and attended Kinder from when she was turning 5 years old. She was totally mature and ready and WANTED to go to school, she would tell us repeatedly, she wanted to go. She adjusted fine.
My son, on the other hand, who is now 4... I home-school him. He is just different from my Daughter, we can't afford Pre-school... and I feel he just benefits from being home, still, for now. Then he will either go to Kinder at turning 5 or when turning 6.... or attend the school's Jr.K program when he is turning 5. His birthday... is at the cusp, of the age cut-offs. So he can to either way, to Jr.K or Kinder.

Ultimately, just go according to your child, and their readiness, and if your child is ready for branching out, and being in HER age related group... then that is positive. If not, continue in the Co-Op. You can always teach her things at home too....

Either way, if a kid went to a Co-Op or a Pre-K program or Home-schooled.... they all will go to Kindergarten at some point. And how they transition/adapt... depends on the child. It is not a matter of one way being better than the other... because each child, had different dispositions... and rates of transitioning...
But, the basics of 'knowing' their ABC's, counting, numbers, colors, shapes, writing their name, etc., is an expected knowledge, that the child needs to know, per Kindergarten. Which to me, is not an age specific thing.

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answers from St. Louis on

I would put your daughter in either class that she is more comfortable in. My daughter is in her 2nd year of Pre-K. The children are not expected to know anything other than their own name. Parent's are allowed to volunteer or even just stay with child for the day. The main reason I put my daughter in the Pre-K was for socializing with other children. It is also through our school district so the teachers and assistants have actual degrees in early childhood education. You could also call your local Pre-K for info on the class, teachers and a tour of the classroom.

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answers from Seattle on

We put our (October born) son in to a pre-K preschool the year he was 5. All of the 10 kids in his class turned 5 between June and Dec. 31 of that year. In our experience we did not notice a difference between regular pre-school (where our March born - going to K next year daughter is now) and the pre-K program at the same school. It was play- based and the teacher was not interested in teaching any pre-K skills such as sitting still, joining the class on the lesson plan, writing your name on your work - things like that- if the child wasn't interested. (Our son opted out of art a lot and chose to play chess in the back). Our pre-K teacher just wanted the kids to love school which he accomplished. They did learn pre-school themes like "Our bodies" and "animals" and did lot's of art (opted out of) but it was nothing like kindergarten or what I expected of pre-K. In our experience, and kids are different from kids, our (academically gifted) boy actually struggled a bit socially - not sure why. When he started kindergarten as an older kindergartener he blossomed and was a leader in his class. He is a 7 yr old 1st grader now. He loves school and is doing great both academically and socially. I have loved his extra bit of maturity. And think it will even be an advantage when he start college.
Over here in Seattle, across the street from the zoo, there is a co-op pre-K class called the North Seattle 5s- through the North Seattle Community College system. I have several coop friends who are in that class and are thrilled with it and Teacher Aaron.
I guess my advice to you, when checking out the other pre-K programs is to see what their focus is and whether there is any "challenge" there. Know what you are looking for and what you expect from a pre-K and make sure the program professes to accomplish that. See if you can observe the class. I wouldn't worry too much about the academics in preschool. I am sure that you are feeding and encouraging all of her academic interests at home. Good luck with your decision making. S.

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answers from Portland on

A preschool teacher friend of mine teaches a coop class for 3-5 yos. She said everything they do has to work first for the 3 yo, and the 5 yos are done in three minutes with a craft and bored, while the 3 yos are still working on it. The mixed age class works well for the 3 yos--it challenges them. But for the older ones in the group? Unless they are mini-teachers, it's all easy stuff for them.

I'd move her. Your doctor is seeing her skill level and recognizing her abilities. Find a class that has 12 students or LESS, or else it's a zoo. Heck, I moved my son to another preschool because I wanted fresh teachers with new insights, as well as get out of a 25+ class size.

Good luck.

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answers from Seattle on

I'm not really trying to sway you one way or the other...only you will know what is best for your daughter after you read through all the advice. I just wanted to let you know that my son was in a co-op preschool for three years and the final year, i considered putting him in a more structured environment. His teacher and the environment at the co-op is so great i made the decision to keep him there, all the while hoping that i was making the right choice for him. He wasn't bored the final year even though it was the same 3-5 class he had been in the year before, and the extra year in being the oldest gave him the confidence that he had previously been needing some help with (in the classroom setting). I also worried that i might be holding him back from learning more of the academic stuff.
This year he is in kindergarten and he is flourishing. He's in the highest category in reading and math, so he is excelling. I also am happy he had an extra year of being able to be more free in his learning rather than having it so structured. I can't believe how kindergarten has changed from when i was a child and now there is almost a lack of i'm pleased that i let him stay in co-op for one more year.
I wish the best for you and your daughter. Really, you probably can't go wrong either way, but i hope to put to rest any fears that you may have if you choose to put her back in the co-op. :)

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answers from Seattle on

Hi A.,
I just went through this with my 5 year old also (boy/June birthday). We ended up moving him from his preschool of 2 years into a Pre-K. While everyone is very nice and he has made new friends, there really is not a lot of difference between preschool and pre-k (except he likes to say pre-k because his sister is in preschool now too). If she is comfortable, I would absolutely leave her where she is. Maybe talk with the teachers at the preschool and see if they can challenger her more while not having to change her environment.

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answers from Seattle on

Hi! I attended a co-op preschool and then moved my daughter. It wasn't just for her pre-k year though. We started co-op when she was a baby and then for the 3/4 year and 4/5 year I moved her into a more structured program.

My opinion is that you need to do what works for you and your daughter. She is on the older range for her year so if you feel that she is not being challenged in her current environment then a new class may be very beneficial for her, but if she is happy and you are happy and it works for your lifestyle and schedule then staying where you are could be the right choice.

With that said, I will say that I think the more structured environment of a pre-k program prepared my daughter very well for kindergarten, not for academic reasons, but for the structure and routine. In the pre-k program we were in, they emphasized learning how to function in a more independent environment. Things like self care and listening and following rules and directions and working in an organized group on a designated task without as much adult supervision. I think all these things made the transition to kindergarten much easier for her.

I also believe that treating each child as an individual with their own needs and ways of learning and interacting is the best thing you can do. You know your daughter best and in your gut I bet you know what the right thing to do is.

For instance, my daughter thrives on structure so I provided that environment for her, but my son didn't do as well in that environment. He is a very creative free spirit and so I found a more open art preschool for him to attend. It is a mixed class like the one you are in, 3-5 year olds. They are very good about providing more structured and pre-k activities for the older kids while allowing the younger ones to learn more freely and participate where they want. The older kids set a good example for the younger ones and the younger ones teach the older ones patience and tolerance. ;)

Choosing a preschool is such a personal decision that must take into consideration both the needs of your individual child and your needs as well. Don't forget what is best for you as well. If you really enjoy the social network and support that the co-op provides then great, if more independent time would benefit you, then that is great too.

I am also a stay at home mom and not only did I feel it was important for my kids to go learn how to be independent from me, but also for me to have some time to foster the things that were important to me. Having those few hours enabled me to take better care of myself and even start freelancing a little. I believe that setting an example of love, both for my family as well as myself, and life balance is an important life lesson for my kids.

Best of luck and good wishes to you. Happy Holidays!

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answers from Eugene on

first off, i'd say that doctors are most definitely not experts in this kind of thing, so i wouldn't put much stock in the doctor's opinion. from what you said, as long as you both love the preschool and the teacher, i'd stay there. it's wonderful for parents to be able to participate. there will be plenty of years to come where you won't be able to. and good teachers are hard to find! and i definitely wouldn't be concerned about "academics" at this age. and - you know your daughter better than anyone, trust your instincts! (you might even ask her what she thinks. have you and she visited the new school and met the teacher?)

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