Ask Kara-Preschool Options

I received the following question from Chrissy last week:
“Your kiddos are of preschool age (and beyond?), right?
I was wondering what your opinion is of all the local preschooling options, and maybe what you’ve chosen yourself. Or are the homeschooled/unschooled~?
I’d love your input! Thanks!”

I love this question Chrissy. I feel like preschool is a topic that parents start thinking about/discussing at a young age in this area, and I definitely have my opinions! Sofia is going to be starting Kindergarten next month, and she only attended 3 months of preschool total. It seems like many people here choose to do 2 or more years of preschool. The school year that Sofia was 3 and 4, I kept her home with the intention of sending her to preschool for one year the following year. I loved having her at home, and she has had many opportunities to socialize with other children with plenty of down time at home still.
Last fall, we decided to do the LBCC Coo-op. Sofia loved it, and it is a great program. I was so impressed by all of the amazing families who participate and how involved I got to be, but that also became the problem for us. With my upcoming winter birth, I just knew that we would need to stop preschool. Parents are required to be extremely involved in the preschool, which is a big part of why it is so great, but I didn’t like the idea of being out and about all of the time with a newborn. We stopped the co-op and spent the rest of the school year adjusting to life with 3 and playing in our yard, at parks, at the indoor park, and at our house. We also spent tons of time reading since I was always on the couch nursing. We read almost all of the American Girl books while I nursed and had Sofia next to me on the couch.  There are definitely moms who would have kept doing the Co-op with a baby, but it just wasn’t the right decision for our family at the time. Taking into account Sofia’s personality, activities we did at home (mostly unstructured play with reading and art supplies available), I feel like Sofia is definitely prepared for Kindergarten and will be just fine socially and academically.
Because each child is different, we have decided to take a different route with Gabe this year. Gabe will be 4 in October, so although he has two years before he starts school, he is going to be one of the older kids in his grade. We have decided to try out the Crescent Valley High School Preschool with Gabe this year. This preschool is lead by a child development teacher and run by her and high school students. I have heard great things about the attention the kids get and their interactions with the high school students. I also have to add that it is really cheap, which was a big draw for us (on that note.. the Co-op is also a more affordable option as well).
So why am I choosing to most likely do more preschool with Gabe than Sofia? Gabe has a very different personality than Sofia, and our family dynamic is changing with a 3rd baby and Sofia going to school. I think all kids thrive with structure and routine to an extent, but Gabe really succeeds when he has a lot of structure. Although I try my very best to parent to his personality, I don’t always feel like I give him as much structure as he needs. Gabe also loves having time to play at home and use his imagination. Gabe  often time has a really hard time when we have to run a lot of errands, so while he is at preschool, I will be doing all of that stuff with Miriam, so that when he is done, he can just come home and play. I am also hoping that I can take Miriam home to nap and get stuff done around the house so that when he is home, I can be more present with him and not so distracted by all of the things that I need to get done.  Sorry to get long winded, but that is my story, and I’m sticking to it :). Here are some other things to consider when deciding on a preschool:
*Like I said before, taking your child’s temperament into consideration and thinking about where your child will thrive is important. Maybe for your child, that will be at preschool, and maybe for some, that will be at home with you spending quality time and learning through books, outside play, and play dates for socialization.  Every child is different. People may give you their opinions on whether or not they agree with how you are doing things, but you know your child and family situation best.
*I think that preschool is a great opportunity for kids to learn and grow, but I would be weary of preschools that have a large focus on “academics.” Preschool aged children learn through play, movement, art,  music, and learning to love books. Preschool is a wonderful opportunity for kids to socialize with other kids and learn to problem solve when things don’t go their way and to learn to follow rules.
*If you decide to keep a child at home during all of or some of their preschool years, there are many fun options of things to do with your child. LBCC offers a class called “Creative Development” once a week where parents attend the class with their child (2 1/2 to 5 years old). There are tons of art activities set up and a great story told through props/dolls each week from the amazing teacher. My kids loved that class, and they were so loved by the teacher.  There are also many moms who choose to get together and do their own mini preschools rotating homes, and there are also those who do programs like “joy school” with other families.
*I love the idea of doing Waldorf school with my kids, but it just isn’t an option financially for us. If you are like me and like the idea of Montessori or Waldorf but aren’t in a place to choose that route, think about what you can do in your home to incorporate some of those styles of learning in your home. It doesn’t cost a lot to help your kids learn through story telling, playing outside, and gardening, which are all things that seem to be a big focus of Waldorf.
*Preschool should be a place where a child feels safe and happy. I would be much more impressed with a kind, warm, and creative atmosphere than I would be promises that my child will accomplish xyz….

Sorry for rambling Chrissy, but hopefully some of that helps! I would love if all of you would share your preschool experiences. Does your child attend preschool? If so, where? What are all of your thoughts?

Michelle - August 18, 2011 - 4:38 am

Just my two cents, we’re planning to send our baby to Montessori. I think it’s a phenomenal program for the kiddos!

Camille - August 18, 2011 - 12:53 pm

I would love it if others would chime in here and add:

Name of your child’s preschool
A few details about their activities/philosophy
On a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (good), how thrilled are/were you about it?

Kara, maybe you could start a new post soliciting this general info.

Wendy M. - August 19, 2011 - 7:59 am

Both my kids went to Grant Avenue Preschool and we were all very happy with it.

-They do a little bit of very basic academic instruction every day (i.e.- letters, the sounds they make, etc.) Most of the day is spent playing, listening to stories, more playing, snack, crafts, etc. The primary focus was on developing social skills/learning to play well together, learning to sit still and follow teacher’s directions and so on.

-It is at a church and I loved that they used Bible stories (and the fact that they kept it non-denominational.)

-There were several field trips (going to the library on the city bus, the lambing barns, the pumpkin patch, Papa’s pizza are the ones I can recall) and that is the only time they request parent involvment with the class. Once a month (approx) we were responsible to bring in snack for the class.

-Overall, I can’t imagine that we would have been happier anywhere else…we were fortunate to find a good fit!

kara - August 19, 2011 - 9:17 am

Michelle,
I have heard really good things about Montessori from all of my friends who do it!
Camille,
I am going to link to facbook to try to solicit more responses!!
Wendy,
One thing I consistently hear about Grant Avenue is how loving they are with the children, and that alone almost sells it for me. It sounds like a great program.

kara - August 19, 2011 - 9:18 am

Michelle,
I have heard really good things about Montessori from all of my friends who do it!
Camille,
I am going to link to facbook to try to solicit more responses!!
Wendy,
One thing I consistently hear about Grant Avenue is how loving they are with the children, and that alone almost sells it for me. It sounds like a great program.

EmmaJ - August 19, 2011 - 10:29 am

We are sending our oldest to her first year of preschool (she just turned 4) starting next month. Out here in VA it is pretty competitive and we signed her up in February, and it was full by March. I costs 3 times what my sister paid in UT, but most things are like that out here. She is going to the same school that some of her friends go to although she is only going 3 days a week (9-12) and they go 5, so they won’t be in the same class. I was thinking about doing a home program, but then with a newborn and a 1 year old I knew that would be impossible. We have full day Kindergarten here, so I felt that getting her out to a preschool was necessary to help with that transition.

Audra - August 19, 2011 - 8:23 pm

My oldest went to Waldorf for preschool. We LOVED it there. The environment is so warm and the Waldorf philosophy works for us. No Elizabeth is not reading and she mixes up numbers and letters sometimes but she knows how to plant a garden put on a puppet show and recite stories from memory how to bake and prepare vegetable soup. I also love that Elizabeth would come home dirty and tired from being out side most of the day RAIN OR SHINE. If I could have our children go through all the grades I would. Unfortunately that is just not possible with as much as we move:)

Amy - August 19, 2011 - 8:23 pm

My son went to Zion Lutheran Preschool this past year. He’ll be going there for Pre-K this next year. He absolutely loved the teacher, but she retired and there is a new teacher now. (He wanted to have her over for play dates!) He has had the new teacher this summer (since I work), and she seems to be good. She is very caring and interacts well with the kids. The Pre-K teacher is the director of the Early Learning Center, and I’ve heard she is FABulous.
*The preschool focuses on learning through play, storytime, art, etc. They go outside for play time if it’s not raining.
*The Pre-K is a bit more “academic”, but from what I saw last year they still had lots of play time and art activities. I’m not really sure what else Jonas will do in PreK.