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ubersiren's avatar

What are your thoughts on the different types of preschools?

Asked by ubersiren (15044 points ) March 24th, 2010

I’m looking at preschools for my son and I’m really overwhelmed by them. I hear so much about how great Montessori schools are, but it seems a little weird to me… then again, I really don’t know what I’m doing. What about religious run schools? Are they super indoctrinating? What are the good and the bad experiences you’ve had with schools you’re familiar with?

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31 Answers

njnyjobs's avatar

Pre-school is glorified baby sitting that you pay too much money to. There’s nothing much a child can learn that you as a parent can’t provide in the home setting. I am reading that you may be considering shoving the big guy off to preschool because you just had a little one and may be feeling overwhelmed with 2 kids to care for. If that is the case, a child care center would do the part, or maybe hire a part-time mother’s helper until such time as you’re able to cope with the 2 kids.

DarkScribe's avatar

Several of my family member have kids in Montessori schools – and they are weird. The kids seem to like the school, but are totally undisciplined when at home. My kids went to Catholic convents, I went to Christian Brothers school. All of my kids are well adjusted, have done brilliantly in college and University and have good families and careers. In a rapidly failing (educational) world I feel that the Catholic Schools are the best. (And they don’t force religion down their throats.)

PacificToast's avatar

I went to the preschool run by my church. My parents agreed with their doctrine, but they didn’t teach us much about Christianity except memorize catechisms and simple scripture. Of course, I had cabin fever as a young child and simply couldn’t stay home. I believe preschool helped me learn how to interact with other children at that age.

squirbel's avatar

Montessori is a little more than a babysitting service. It is a school that allows you to build a child who learns how to learn, which will help him achieve nearly anything in this lifetime [especially with a resource such as the internet]. I am a product of the Montessori preschooling.

Other preschools are babysitting services, and the religious ones are religious babysitiing services.

prolificus's avatar

I’ve worked in a pre-school and I’ve observed them when doing research for college class projects. My experience has been positive. Contrary to @njnyjobs, I do not believe pre-school is glorified baby sitting – unless you have a school that literally does nothing but allow the kids to watch themselves. I think some good qualities are: well-rounded curriculum, good teacher to student ratio, teachers who have at least an associate’s degree, on-site nurse or teachers trained in first aid/cpr, cleanliness, and wide-variety of teaching materials and toys.

I think the best thing to do is look up information on local pre-schools. Look for info from parenting groups and from the Internet, like yelp.com. Pick a few places that look interesting to you, and spend some time observing the school. If it is a reputable school, they will allow you to observe a class. I suggest making a list of qualities and characteristics of a school that you value, and seeing which school best matches the items on your list.

squirbel's avatar

I agree with @prolificus. Sorry about saying the others were just babysitting services, I’ve never been to one :D

jca's avatar

I went to Montessori school and i still remember things i was taught – and they did teach us. i worked in a pre-school (also known as a day care center – i think for small kids it’s the same thing) and we did circle time, singing songs and talking about stuff, snack time, going out to play, nap time – all that stuff. i think the good thing is that it gives kids a chance to socialize and also do art, music, whatever.

right now my daughter is 2½ and she goes to a babysitter that watches a few other kids. it’s good because it’s not an overwhelming amount of kids or staff for her and she loves the babysitter and vice-versa, but she could probably use some songs and structured group activities now.

jonsblond's avatar

Have you looked into the grade school that he will be attending? My son’s grade school offered a pre-school program, and it didn’t cost us a dime. He was very shy, so I think this experience helped him quite a bit. He also learned how to read by the time he started kindergarten. he had a great pre-k teacher!

My daughter didn’t attend pre-school, and she is adjusting just fine with kindergarten. I took her to tumbling and dance classes twice a week so she could be with other children her age, then worked with her at home. Pre-school isn’t your only option.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Our oldest goes to a Montessori school (he’ll be 4 in July) and we really can’t say enough good about it. He’s a really sharp kid to begin with and I think they’ve really helped him utilize his bright start.

thriftymaid's avatar

My kids both went to a day school from 18 months-4 years old. The philosophy in that school is love, education, health, and a high focus on social interaction. I’m in a large metro area and this school is considered the best in the area. It was then, and it still is. It is a Presbyterian school. There is not religious teaching in the school, other than going to chapel once a week. There was, however, the teaching of morals and there was sufficient discipline. Truly difficult children are dismissed from the school, when parents will not immediately resolve a problem. The curriculum is age appropriate and the kids are reading when they go on to kindergarten. There is plenty of time for the children to be creative and choose activities. The structure in each class is appropriate. Each class has a credentialed teacher. There were very strict rules regarding sick children, which I think is very important. I would look for such a school in your area—one that is not simply a commercial enterprise. The Church has tracked their students and the numbers are staggering for college completion and beyond.

My granddaughter is in a Waldorf school, which is akin to Montessori. My daughter is happy with it for the most part, but feels some of the philosophy to be flaky. She lives in a very small town and doesn’t have a lot of options. She would prefer more attention to academics than Waldorf provides.

casheroo's avatar

I’m in the camp that thinks it doesn’t really matter. For me, I’m going for what we can afford, and I don’t mind if it’s religiously affiliated even though we’re not religious.
I have heard amazing things about Montessori but we can’t afford it. We would definitely do it though, if we could.
when are you putting your little one in? We still have to potty train before we can, we’re hoping he can go to school starting September!

MissAusten's avatar

All three of our kids went to different preschools, and each of them had a wonderful experience. The best thing you can do is visit different schools, ask for references, and trust your instincts. Don’t just tour the school, but spend time observing the class your son would attend. Look for teachers who interact with the children on their level, provide a structured classroom environment with a balance of free-play and teacher-led activities, daily playtime outside (weather permitting), and age-appropriate expectations. Talk to other parents and see how they feel about the preschools their children attend.

My two oldest went to secular preschools. One was full-time at the daycare center where I worked. It was fantastic, with excellent teachers and facilities. The other went to a small local preschool. I’d heard great things about it, it was low-cost because a large part of their budget came from parent volunteer fundraisers, and the teachers were educated with a lot of experience. My son went two ½ days when he was three and three ½ days when he was 4. It was a great program with a lot of field trips and involvement from parents.

My youngest is currently in his second year of preschool at a local church and goes three ½ days a week. He has absolutely loved it since his first day in the three year-old class. Even though it is a church preschool, the only “churchy” thing they do is say a snack prayer. The prayer is very general. His teacher has been at the preschool for several years, and their reputation is so good that they have a waiting list every year. I wanted my other son to also attend this preschool, but we never got off the waiting list. It was only the addition of an afternoon class that made room for my youngest son because the existing spots were always filled first by families who already had children in the school.

I don’t think preschool is essential, especially if a child has opportunities to spend structured social time with other children. Dance class, karate class, swimming lessons, etc., will give a child experience in large groups before kindergarten. Reading and playing at home will give a child the basic knowledge expected of kindergarten children, like counting to ten and knowing the ABC’s. Preschool is really good for socializing with peers and learning to behave in a school setting. Not essential, but if you can afford it and find a good program, there really aren’t any drawbacks. It really seems that children started kindergarten are expected to be socially ready more than anything else these days, and a decent preschool will certainly accomplish that even if your child only attends part-time.

Also, if a preschool did nothing more than babysit, my kid would never set foot in the door. I worked in a high-quality daycare for several years and have very high expectations for all kinds of childcare, even preschool.

janbb's avatar

I was looking for a nursery school with a creative program with a focus on experiential learning for my kids. I visited several, including a Montessori, and spent some time observing in the classroom. The two I chose were both housed in churches but not particularly religious in any way (other than the usual Christmas stuff.) I was looking for affectionate teaching, lots of socialization and play time, and a good teacher-child ratio. i was very happy with my choices; my younger son, who was very shy, particularly benefitted from pre-school. I agree with the suggestion to talk to other parents and check out local parenting websites rather than focusing on a location or mode of instruction. (The Momtessori, which I thought I would like, seemed kind of cold to me.)

SuperMouse's avatar

I would like to take a minute to extol the virtues of a child directed NAEYC accredited pre-school. All three of my boys went to such a school and benefited immensely. There were always lots of different activities but the kid got to make the choice. If they wanted to spend the entire time playing dress-up fine. If they were happier sitting with a book that was fine too. There was a circle time at the beginning and one at the end, but the kids were not required to participate in either of them (though most of them did by choice). I really believe that their ability to make choices helped build their confidence, social skills, and readiness to learn.

FYI, even though they were never given handouts, lead en masse from center to center, or taught any foreign languages, my boys were 100% prepared for kindergarten. By the time they began they all recognized their letters and were able to write their name with ease.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Montessorri schools aren’t weird, imo. I checked out their classes before putting my son there and loved their philosophy – I believe they have taught him better than I could have. No matter the pre-school you pick, you should go figure out if it feels right to you, talk to the teachers and see if they have a brain.

ubersiren's avatar

@njnyjobs Oh my god, where to start with this… Glorified babysitter? That’s a very narrow-minded view. It really depends on what parents’ needs are for their children and the schools that they’ve chosen. Some schools, I’m sure, are just places to keep your kids while you do some grocery shopping or take a nap, which is totally fine for parents who are looking for that. But, that’s not what I’m looking for. One of the reasons I’m considering preschool is to ease him into kindergarten when the time comes, because it’s a full freaking day now. I’m not sure my son could learn to be away from me… if he’s with me. If you know how, please share. Going from being with mommy all day, every day to being dropped off with a room full of strangers for an entire school day could potentially be counter productive or somewhat traumatic. If I start out taking him two hours, twice a week, even if it is just to play, he and I would both be more comfortable on the first day of kindergarten.

And where the hell are you “reading” that I’m having trouble coping with having 2 kids to care for and that’s why I’m “shoving the big guy off?” You have apparently taken an enormous leap to these ridiculous conclusions. What incredibly rude things to say to a new parent.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ubersiren seriously! I don’t know why people think pre-school’s for parents who can’t handle their kids – Alex is at home, he can handle both of them but we chose to put him (the oldest) into this pre-school because they’ve got trained professionals and we (skeptical and demanding parents) could not be happier with how much interesting skills and facts he’s learned and how he views the world…besides, it provides interaction with kids his age (which isn’t an end all and be all but is important) that he doesn’t get from his 13 mo. old brother – we pay a rent payment for this pre-school and we’d rather be poor and not have new clothes than take him out of that school.

augustlan's avatar

I was interested in Montessori, but after touring different schools I found that I felt more comfortable with a more traditional learning environment. My kids all attended church-based preschools (two different ones) that were highly rated and very non-religious. In fact, my kids are ½ Jewish, and they weren’t the only ones of a different religion in those schools. We started them when they were three, and the youngest two then attended a free pre-K class in the local elementary school at age 4. (We had moved by then, and were in a different district.)

They definitely learned there… it was in no way ‘babysitting’.

jonsblond's avatar

@ubersiren Your little one will surprise you. My oldest son went to pre-k, but struggled going to kindergarten. He would cry every morning, and the teacher would have to pull him off of me. I went home crying. It was terrible. My daughter was completely opposite. She didn’t attend pre-k, and when it was time to go to kindergarten she practically ran out the front door. She couldn’t wait to go to school. I cried then too because I felt she didn’t need me!

Good luck in your search.

Sophief's avatar

@njnyjobs @ubersiren never said she couldn’t cope, she is just thinking of future education for her children, the sign of a good parent!

ubersiren's avatar

Thanks everyone for your replies! So, in conclusion, every individual school (and kid!) varies, I guess. Looks like I have some shopping around to do. We did find a co-op nursery school very close by that sounds promising.

@prolificus Thank you for giving me some specifics to think about and for the link.
@jonsblond I’m not sure what grade school he’ll be attending because we may be moving. Although that is a great suggestion and we may not put him in for another year, so that would give us time to find out. If we don’t move, then the co-op school we found would be associated with his elementary school. Swim classes (among other things) are something we’re considering, too!
@casheroo We’re thinking of putting him in anywhere from this fall to next fall. We’re concerned about potty training, too. It is not going well, and I admit that we need help in that area. There are schools that will work with him to potty train, but those are expensive, and like you, we can’t afford most of those. Like the Goddard School and stuff? Yeah, we probably can’t do that. This co-op nursery school seems to be the best thing we’ve found. I’d help out one day a week for cheaper cost.

janbb's avatar

@ubersiren I think co-op nurseries are a great way to get involved in your child’s school and to meet other parents, as well as reducing costs!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ubersiren Give potty-training time, sometimes they just get into it real quick but it takes months of fighting…I remember looking at my son and saying ‘don’t you poop standing there, don’t poop…don’t…ohhh’ and of course he’d poop into his underwear, on purpose

janbb's avatar

@ubersiren Funny story about toilet training. My older son was very bright and he wanted to start nursery school. I told him he would start in the Fall but that he had to be toilet trained. All summer, I would try putting him in underpants and he would poop and pee through them, so I would stop. I would remind him and he would say, “Whne I go to nursery school, I will be toilet trained.” Labor Day weekend, dammit, didn’t he get it right!

MissAusten's avatar

@ubersiren My middle child’s preschool was a co-op, and it was great. If we lived closer to it (and were in that school district), I would have sent my youngest there as well.

Potty training was an issue with me because neither of my boys were potty trained when they turned three and started preschool. Personally, I feel that potty-training should not be an issue for three year old children and avoided preschools that required it. Both of my sons went to preschool wearing pull-ups, and they weren’t the only ones by far. The teachers would help them change if the pull-up was wet, but could not change a BM. This has to do with state regulations for the facility and teacher training. Meanwhile, we kept working at the potty-training, and neither of them ever had an accident at school once we switched to underwear.

SuperMouse's avatar

The school my boys attended was a co-op, each parent was required to help out at least one day month. That was one of my favorite parts of the program. It gave me a chance to learn some great parenting skills, and to hang out with my kid.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SuperMouse Co-ops are awesome – we want to join a food co-op where we’d do shifts in the store in exchange for being able to buy great, healthy food!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb you bet your penguin butt!

janbb's avatar

My nephew and niece are members there and love it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb yay, we’re excited!

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