When to Start Preschool and Where

Updated on July 09, 2008
S.R. asks from Spanaway, WA
27 answers

My daughter just turned 3 a few days ago, at what age do kids usually start preschool? And is headstart the same thing, for younger kids or what? We can't afford much, Co-op has been suggested to me but how much is that usually? I don't even know what co op means. We were also considering my homeschooling her and just making sure she does alot of socializing in other ways. Does anyone know what she is expected to know and learn at this age? She knows colors, shapes and a few letters. I know this request is full of questions but I don't know anything about schooling. If you know the answer to just one question it would be a huge help to me. Thank you all very much.

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L.G.

answers from Eugene on

S.,

I agree that preschool is not only unnecessary, but detrimental. Children who have delayed "formal" learning do far better in school later on. Over 5000 replicable studies have shown this. I delayed schooling of my 5 children until they were between 8 and 10 years old, and they far surpassed their age mates once they got to "formal" schooling. In fact, the two who have graduated from college did so at the top of their class (both with masters degrees). Delaying schooling doesn't mean they are not learning. Quite the opposite. They are not only learning, but they are learning more. They are learning from real life in the real world, rather from every one else's 3 year old, in an adult contrived fake environment.

Don't fall for the "what about socialization" myth. Children who are socialized in the real world by loving, responsible adults develop much better social skills, and are able to relate well to peolpe of all ages. Much of what children learn from peers is anti social and negative. Be selective, and delay schooling for as long as possible.

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C.F.

answers from Seattle on

I'm an old homeschooler from way back and think that preschool is really not needed. I believe that time at home with Mom and/or other family is the best - visiting the library and reading lots of books curled up together on the couch.

If you want a curriculum - there is a really great one that is so easy to follow. Not too much that you feel inadequate because you can't get it done.

The series is "Five in a Row" there is "Before Five in a Row" for younger kids. It is Christian based but if that doesn't suit you, you can easily adapt this curriculum to whatever your belief is.

I loved using this and the books are really fun to read.

Good luck,

C.

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J.S.

answers from Spokane on

I have had this question before as well. My daughter just turned 4. When she turned 3 my husband and I were looking into preschools and co-ops and headstart. Since she was 2 though I've been teaching her "school" thru a program called "Brighter Vision" It's like preschool thru the mail. It cost $18 a month and you get a package with a workbook full of activities and lessons appropriate for your childs age and developement, plus a project to do, a new book to read, and a surprise (usually stickers or gel pens...) She's actually at a kindergarden level now already. She's right on the verge of reading all by herself too, exciting! :)

We decided to stick with the brighter vision, and put Sarah into other social activities that have an instructor or teacher with no parent involvement so she still gets the feel of going somewhere to learn from someone else without mommy or daddy there to help.

If you want to look into the brighter vision program (there are all sorts of programs that are designed specifically to the level your child is at, so you can pick what works best for your daughter) go to www.brightervision.com

Since she just turned 3 Id say you have a bit to look at all the different options. I dont know much about the preschool and co-op but it looks like you got some good responses regarding those. Feel around what would work best with your daughter and you and good luck!

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

Preschool is another one of those personal choice things. Do kids really NEED it? Probably not, especially if they are socially active in other environments: ie, church, MOMS groups, regular playdates with one or numerous kids similar age. My personal opinion is that the year before starting kindergarten would probably be beneficial, for learning to write name, becoming familiar with school type setting and routines. My 3 kids have attended a 4 year old, then prek class so each have had 2 years preschool prior to attending kind. I did it because they are all so social, plus it has given me a break for a couple hours each week for errands. Shop around for prices, as they can and do get spendy. Mine all went to United Methodist Preschool on Mill Plain here in Vancouver. For the 3 year old class, they meet 2 mornings a week and I believe it is $90 a month. The prek, 4 morning or afternoons (3 hours) a week is $135. That is cheaper than babysitting, and this is not babysitting. I know you are in Portland, but SHOP AROUND. Prices are all across the board, and of course, you need to have a good feeling about the school if you choose to go that route. Go with your gut on that! :)

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M.B.

answers from Seattle on

S.,

There is a lot of controversy around preschool. Some parents think that they HAVE to put their kids into preschool so that they get and extra year of education into their kids. Some parent think that preschool is the worst institution in the world.

That being said I have my 4 1/2 year old enrolled in a preschool associated with our school district that he will start in Oct. I'm doing it more for the social aspect, not the educational. He has taught himself how to read, he know all colors, shapes and numbers by sight. Academically he is ready for Kindergarten, but socially, emotionally, and age wise he's not there yet. He has an October birthday and misses the Aug 31st cut off by a month and a half.

For your daughter it may be different. Think about the WHY's of putting her in preschool. Are you considering it because of education or socializing? These amazing little people are young for sooooo short a time. To quote a country song I like "Let them be little". Don't force them to grow up too fast, that will come all too soon.

Hope this helps, and if you have any other questions feel free to contact me,

Melissa
[email protected]____.com

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T.J.

answers from Seattle on

Co-op preschools are run by the parents. Parents hire the teachers and work one day in the classroom each week. I was in co-op myself years ago and my daughter is starting at one this year. It's $90 a month.

I didn't just do it because it was cheaper, I also like the idea of being involved with my daughter's education and seeing what goes on in her classroom. In addition to the one work day, there's a monthly parent meeting and I'm on the board, which means one more meeting a month and a job (I'm writing the newsletter). I chose the board because I like that stuff, plus it gets me out of cleaning the classroom, which I don't like!

Our co-op has classes for 2-4 year olds. They aren't expected to know anything. There is an order to things, usually sit down time, station time (art, reading, pretend play, sensory play), snack time, etc.

If you'd rather homeschool for now she can start when she's 4, that's all we did as kids and were fine! I'm doing it because my daughter hasn't had much socialization and is really active so I'd like 2 years to get her used to the school environment. Good luck!

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D.S.

answers from Bellingham on

Hello,

As a former teacher the only thing they need right now is your time. "preschool is really not necessary and it sounds like she knows a lot already. Just enroll in fun community classes for her age group or playgroups for social experience.

I Would highly recommend Brighter Vision Learning. It is an excellent program that is fun for you and your daughter. They have age appropriate curriculum. It comes with a fun work book, craft, a book to read, and stickers all relating to the theme of the workbook. It is only 18 dollars much cheaper then preschool and you get the one on one time, children need.

I have 6 and 4 year old daughters that loved the program and really got my oldest interested in learning. She is a year ahead then most of her peers. She is excited to start first grade in the fall.

Good luck with your decision

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D.J.

answers from Seattle on

Hi S.,
I don't know much about schooling but we have been in a coop for the last 4 years and I really enjoyed it. So, I will tell you what the coop is. Basically is a type of preschool where the parents are involved too. For a 3 year old usually is 3 days per week, 2 hours per day and the price may vary in the area where you live from 80 to 150 dollars per month. At your age you might be asked "to work" at the coop one day per week. You are there for your kid as well for the other kids. At age 3 there must be 1 teacher and 1 parent for every 3-4 kids. We also have a Parent Educator one per week and I found that very helpful. We had wonderful Parent Educators through the years and I received hundreds good advices that really helped my parenting skills. The Coop Preschool is like every other Preschool, where the kids can socialize, explore different things and make a mess. The plus is that at every station there is a parent who can help them explore the things there and in our Preschool the teacher changes the themes, supplies and the toys every week. I really loved being there working with the kids and being a part of it. Through the years I watched first hand my son playing, exploring, learning, making friends and etc. With the years the time we spend there gradually increased for him and decreased for me. Next year he will be in 4 class and he will go there 4 times per week 2.5 hours per day. I will "work" there one day per week. Hopefuly that will get him ready for the Kindergarten where he has to be 5 days per week and no mommies around. Let me know if you have more questions about it. I do recommend the coop to all SAHM as it is a wonderful way to be absolutely involved in your kid life plus getting sometime for your-self knowing that your kid has fun at the same time too. Hope I was helpful. Good luck!

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B.L.

answers from Jacksonville on

Formal preschool is absolutely NOT necessary, even if there seems to be "peer pressure" to get your kids into it, because it seems like everyone does it. It's nice, and my older son loved it (we took him one year), but I wouldn't spend the money again (I wish we had put it in a college fund instead). We did it to socialize him so he would be ready for kindergarten, as his birthday is in September and we wanted to start him the year he turned 5 - not hold him back a year, but you can do the same thing with play dates and outings at the park and such. You can teach her to use scissors, and to color and paint and the numbers/letters, etc. at home. That's basically preschool.

The best thing in the world you can do for her is be at home with her and be her mother and teach her everything you know, and especially to read to her everyday. The preschool we took my kid to (in another state) cost well over $100 a month for 2 days a week, and was closed for every holiday (but there was certainly no reduction in the tuition), and was only 2.5 hours, which included a snack, and outdoor play. So it was a hassle to drive 10 minutes to take him there, then had to haul in the baby, then before I turned around it was time to run back and pick him up (doing it all over again). Then they were always doing fundraising stuff, which I hate. There wasn't much purpose for the fundraising, just doing it for the sake of it.

Come kindergarten, they start with the shapes, letters, colors and numbers all over again anyway, so that really made preschool seem pointless (not to mention that he knew all that stuff before he started preschool - so I didn't make a point of reinforcing what he was "learning" at preschool, so he knew less by the time he finished the year out than he did before he started preschool).

I've known of women with similar-aged children who formed a preschool co-op where they each took turns providing the lessons to the group of children, and held it once or twice a week. There is little cost in doing that, if you can find a group who wants to do it.

Head start is specifically for low-income people who qualify by their income.

Maybe I just have a bad taste in my mouth from the whole experience, but I would say don't waste your money. I really wish we had put that $1000 in a college fund, and I don't plan to send any more kids to preschool. You are the best teacher she could possibly hope for!

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M.L.

answers from Seattle on

There is some great information on selecting quality preschool programs on the DSHS website. DSHS regulates all of the child care centers in the state. Go to: http://www.del.wa.gov/care/Default.aspx. You can also speak with your local Child Care Resources office for referrals for your specific situation: http://www.childcarenet.org/families.

In general, the Head Start/Ecap/college programs are very good, since they have the funding to hire quality teachers and then send them to regular trainings. The private schools vary from very good to very bad, so shop around. Ask to spend an hour or two in the classroom and talk to the teachers and the other parents, let your child play with the other kids, and see if you both feel comfortable there. Most quality centers will let you do this. Listen to your gut - if either you or your child are uncomfortable, keep looking. Most times, the child will not want to leave - that is a good sign!

Good luck in your search!

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W.C.

answers from Seattle on

I am an ex-k-1 teacher, so I have some ideas for you.

Three years old is a good time to start preschool. I sent my own to co-op preschool at three because it was only 2 days a week. I went one day with them and they went by them selves one day.

Co-op preschool has a small fee, plus there is parent participation--one day a week and one evening meeting a month. It was reassuring to be with other parents going through the same stage of childhood.

I wouldn't be so much concerned with what she knows. I think you should be taking her places and exposing her to things-zoos, children's museums, beaches, and then talking to her about what you have done. Vocabulary, vocabulary, and vocabulary. And if she is supper active gymnastics or swimming lessons to help her learn coordination.

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C.S.

answers from Seattle on

I'm not sure where you live but contact the Bellevue Community College. They have a co-op preschool program with campuses all over the Greater Seattle Eastside (Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, Redmond, etc.) You'll love it. It offers preschool with added bonuses. You must volunteer in the class 2 times a month (which I loved). Plus you must attend a parent education class once a month. I loved all of it. My child and I both got some socialization out of the process. I am still friends with many of the moms I met through the co-op. Now my neighbor has sent her daughter and loves it too. It's been 4 years since I went, but it cost $85 a month to attend then. Good Luck.

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K.R.

answers from Seattle on

Hi, You can check at public school that there have special preschool as affordable to pay where my children went there cheap then other daycare or preschool (private business). Where do you live in the location, you can reach with school district to get info about preschool. The school should know and provide the info.

K.

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B.D.

answers from Seattle on

Where my son and I live, preschool starts at 3. As for Head Start, there is early HS (which is for children birth-3) and there is HS itself (which is for children 3-5). Most of these programs, depending on where you are located, are either free or (if your state is able to assist) low cost. I would homeschool my son if there was a chance for me to do it. Being how I'm a single mother, this option isn't really available to me. Hope things work out! :D

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D.H.

answers from Portland on

You have had plenty of good -- and varied -- responses already, but I'll throw in my 2 cents.

IMO, you should be considering preschool simply for the opportunity it gives for socialization. No matter how many playdates you set up, the group environment of preschool cannot be duplicated at home. What I am saying is that I think homeschooling, or any type of forced "learning" environment is very premature at this age. My children are in an excellent private daycare/preschool and they don't start any formal teaching of letters etc until at least 4 yo.

So, if you can't really afford it, I'd hold off and just take some time to research, look at websites, ask around, and maybe get on a waiting list for a preschool 2 days a week. Yes, a coop would be a good idea. But don't feel pressured to start right away.

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

I started my daughter in preschool a year before she would start kindergarten so that she could get used to different children, a set schedule etc.. I will say she hasn't learned much in preschool but that wasn't our concern. I will say that what they have been teaching in her class are colors, numbers, upper case/lower case, fun words in different languages. Sounds like you could keep your daughter home one more year.

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A.L.

answers from Seattle on

Depending on where you live but, I offer preschool classes at my place, Papa Bear Preschool. You can check out my website if you are interested. I live in the Marysville, Wa area.

www.papabearpreschool.com

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L.H.

answers from Eugene on

preschool seems to be one of those things that so many people disagree on. I am involved in a wonderful program in my area called Tiny Tots. We are a parent co-op preschool/playgroup. As a parent we go to school with our children. It is very hands on. Our goal is to prepare our children for school, have fun and learn ourselves. One thing that I have learned from this program is that the most important thing is for kids to understand structure. Knowing how to stand in line, follow simple instructions, sit in circle. Once the child can do this the learning just falls into place. Hope this helps

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P.S.

answers from Portland on

My daughter didn't start preschool until she turned 4 this last Feb. I'm going to send her again in the fall. She truly loved to go. She made friends, loved arts and crafts time and got to experience life in a new way. I sent her to the Eastside Community Center. It costs $80 - $135 a month. There are community centers all over the city which also have preschool and other fun classes. I looked into a couple of co-ops, but found all of them started registion during the winter for next fall and the spaces filled up too fast. From talking with many parents I've found that Montessori schools really teach the most and many kids leave reading etc...but mostly I get that preschool is a time for kids to learn how to be away from home, to socialize with new kids, and to learn the basics (colors, numbers, abc's,). I saw my daughter grow as a person and that was well worth the cost to me. Good luck in the search.

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K.S.

answers from Seattle on

My oldest is about to start kindergarten - so I've definitely been where you are!

We started at age three in a co-op preschool. It was three days per week, two hours per day, and $90 per month. Co-op means "parent run" (unlike drop-off preschools which are usually day cares by another day). I had to work at least one day per week in the classroom, had a parent job, and had to help with fundraising. I think co-op is a great solution for stay at home moms. We really enjoyed it, and when my two year old twins turn three - I plan to enroll them.

I support the school of thought that says children need to learn how to play and learn through play at these ages. Preschool should never be about memorizing facts and figures - they will get this when the start regular school. They just need to start learning how to take turns, how to play with other children, and how to have fun with new people.

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V.D.

answers from Seattle on

there are several elementary schools that will take children as young as 3. Any cost is based on your family income. Its often free. I would have started my son at 3, but I didn't act soon enough and couldn't get him a spot. But he is about to turn 4 and will be starting this september. My daughter will start the following year and she will be 3 at that time. Just check around for schools in your area, and if you intend to enroll him, do it soon before all the spots are taken, they can fill up fast. Even if you are not decided on which way to go yet for schooling, I would go ahead and enroll her now just so you have the spot if you decide to go that way, and if you decide to homeschool, then you can simply inform the school of such.

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M.L.

answers from Seattle on

First, I wouldn't worry about what she should know at this stage. As you yourself said, you're a stay at home mom of an incredibly intelligent daughter. I have a very intelligent four year old and have been 'homeshooling' him since, well, I can't remember. You teach everyday without even realizing it. We also read a LOT. I'm sure you do the same. I will officially begin a math study approach in a relaxed way this fall. I will be homeschooling because of how intelligent he is and because of what I know from teachers and the negative social situations in our schools. I remember public school. The social was important but I was taught to pass the tests and not to learn. I was fortunate, however, to have a core group of friends that I'm still friends with today. I hope my son will have that with other homeschoolers. There is so much out here in Kitsap County with homeschooling. About preschool... I did do a co-op at age four. I felt the social activities were important and I was able to be very involved. Knowing the parents and kids made all the difference to me. I only paid $85 a month! It's $95 now and we loved it so much we'll doing one more year. There are also discounts available if you involve yourself on the board as I am doing this year. The teacher is fantastic and has a wonderful reputatation. (South Colby Co-op affliated with Olympic College). I plan to do the Gig Harbor YMCA after this year. Lots of homeschooling classes and such. There are so many resources out there...academies, art, dance, etc. just keep looking. WHO (Washington Homeschooling Organization) check them out on line. They just had their big convention in Puyallup. I was daunted at first and still have times where I freak out thinking... can I do this? Just be confident in yourself. You love her more than anything. Pay attention to how she learns best and follow her lead in many ways (not all of course). You'll choose the best for her (including knowing your own limitations, homeschooling is not for all). The co-op may not be the best fit for you and your daughter, but check it out. They'll be having another open house towards the fall. I wish you all the best. Thanks for asking. Sorry I didn't get to your post till now.

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T.M.

answers from Corvallis on

Hello,

My daughter is 3 also. I am planning on homeschooling her. I bought a book called Little Hands to Heaven which has daily lesson plans for preschoolers. This is what I will primarily use until I am ready to enroll her in Connections Academy (a virtual school)for kindergarten. You can google preschool lesson plans and a ton of info (alot of it free) will come up too. I think at age 3 short bursts of structured learning work best (at least for my little girl). What I do is ask her questions while we are out and about (what shape is that sign, how many flowers are on that bush, what color is that, what letter does this word start with etc.). She knows her shapes, colors, how to count objects up to 10 and recognizes quite a few letters. By the time she enters kindergarten I am hoping she recognizes all letters and knows the sound each letter makes. I am working on phonics with her now. I will ask her what letter snake starts with and really stress the s in snake. She has gotten remarkably good at this game. Good luck to you!

T.

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A.S.

answers from Richland on

Hi S.,
My daughter is going to be 4 in less than 3 months and since she turned 3 we've worked on learning the alphabet which did take time even with the song. We also did alot with numbers and without help she counts to 10, after that she needs encouragment, but she did have fun learning to tell me what time it is when it comes to her shows and my shows, and her brothers nap times, though it does get a little hard when she notices it's her down time, thats when she'll go into hiding, but that usually turns out to be a good thing because she'll fall asleep waiting for me to find her (lol). This september we'll be enrolling her into a headstart preschool program that is close by in another home, and she'll have a cousin who is just a little older than her, starting as well. Just find a daycare/preschool type facility and meet with them to see if they find that your daughter is ready, that's what we did, and when it comes to the cost of it, I don't quite remember what that amount is, my husband is the one with a proper memory to keep track of all that stuff. When it comes to the homeschooling, I considerd to do the same, but you need to be schooled first or so I was told. Good luck with it all.

P.G.

answers from Portland on

Hi S.,

Many children start preschool the September following their 3rd birthday. The child would enter the 3's class filled with up to appx. 10-14 other 3 year olds. The only requirement is that they are no longer in diapers. However, some day care/preschools may take children that are not fully toilet trained.

A co-op is a fabulous way to go. My two oldest daughters attended Mt. Tabor Co-Op in the Hawthorne area. It was a fabulous experience. Because parents and teachers are involved in a co-op, your costs are less than a preschool that would not require parental participation. If you have considered homeschooling, a co-op may best suit your family's needs. You can find out more about Oregon co-ops here:
http://lefh.net/pcpo/. One Portland co-op, Youngset, is so popular that you must sign your child up right after she is born! No, I'm not kidding! I have an article by one of their teachers on my website that is listed below. I also have links at the bottom of the main page on the websie that explain different teaching styles of different preschools.

I hope this helps you. Good luck in your search for preschools.

~P.
Portland Preschool Directory
http://www.portlandpreschooldirectory.com

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L.S.

answers from Seattle on

co-op would be about $45 per month and you would have to woprk in the classroom 2-3 times per month - they are associated with the loocal tech and community colleges..... yes, head start is preschool, not coop and low cost or no cost if you meet income limits, again, check with your school district.... preschool is really more about socialization and learning things like sitting in circle time and listening to short stories etc... My oldest child just finished kindergarten and only went to preschool for Jan to June of the year before kindergarten and did fine in kindergarten. My 2 and 3 year old may or may not go to preschool. At least not until 4.

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S.M.

answers from Seattle on

Headstart is a preschool program for lowincome families. its a wonderful program with educated teachers and strong classrooms. you can call your local headstart office to see if you qualify. ECEAP is a similar program that has state funding. (head starts funding is federal) ECEAP has higher income qualifications. sometimes the programs are housed together some times not. they are both free to participants and they bus kids.

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