Deciding on a Preschool

My not-so-little baby will be entering preschool in just 15 days, but hey… who’s counting?  (Me!)  She will be one day short of 20-months, and I am feeling a flurry of emotions – excitement, anxiousness, nervousness, sadness.  In a previous post, I mentioned that my daughter has always been very cautious and shy around new people…

This is what we call “The Ostrich” – she’ll hide between our legs or duck her head if she’s in unfamiliar surroundings, thinking if she doesn’t see them then they won’t see her.  Her height is a bit unfortunate for my husband right now, haha.

One reason I’m looking forward to sending her to preschool is because I hope it will help her come out of her shell a bit more.  I know I can’t force it, but I think it will be good for her to experience an environment beyond the comforts of home.  Since my in-laws live with us, she has been surrounded by family since the day she was born, with little exposure to outside help.  Some babies are naturally comfortable with anyone and everyone – mine isn’t one of them.

I started researching preschools when she was only 4-months old because I heard about the long waiting lists at some schools in our area.  I honestly didn’t know what to look for, but these were some of our immediate criteria:

  1. Close to home and work – both my husband and I have short 10-15 minute commutes so we definitely wanted to find a preschool in our city.
  2. Within our price range – we were willing to set aside a budget of $800-1200 for her preschool.
  3. Good student/teacher ratio

I looked on and to find reviews on the various schools in and around our area, and decided to schedule tours with a few.

Preschool Option #1

Cost: an all-inclusive $1,100/month + lunch is provided. When I say “all-inclusive” I mean there are no additional, hidden fees.
Hours: 7-6pm, 5 days/week

This was a Montessori school with a 3-year waiting list, so that was out (in 2011, they had just enrolled their 2008 waitlist!). I still put my daughter on the wait list despite the odds.  We may never end up here and the preschool I did go with might exceed all my expectations, but I always like to keep my options open.

Preschool Option #2

Cost: $1,115/month + Lunch/milk/snacks are not provided
Hours: 8:30am-3pm, 5 days/week

This was another highly-rated Montessori school.  I was really impressed when I visited.  The director and teachers all seemed very nurturing, and I was blown-away by the level of maturity and politeness I saw in the preschoolers there.  Many of them came up to me and proudly showed off their artwork.  In typical Montessori style, many were sitting quietly in their own “play stations,” independently doing their own thing.  I was instantly captivated by this school and everything Montessori, but while the base cost fell within our price range, there were a lot of hidden/additional fees that made us second-guess this school.

For instance, if I wanted “early care” from 7-8:30am it would be an additional $80, and if I wanted “extended care” from 3-6pm it would cost an extra $170!!  I don’t know many full time working parents that can afford to drop off their kids at 8:30 am and finish work by 3 pm.  It just seemed so unrealistic.  They had more days off than other schools in the area, so if I wanted to have childcare on an “off day”, I’d have to pay extra on top of the regular fees.  I should also mention they charge you $15 for every 15 minutes you’re late in picking up your kid.  That is way too much pressure on a working parent!  Even if we could afford to send our first child here, we would never be able to afford it for two (or three).

After several discussions with my husband, I shelved my desire to put my daughter in a “top notch” program for a “really good” program that met all our needs for the time being.  Which leads me to…

Preschool Option #3

Cost: an all-inclusive $832/month + milk/snacks are provided but lunch is not.
Hours: 7am-6pm, 5-days a week.

This is the school we went with.  It is not a Montessori school, but it is affordable, with a small student/teacher ratio, and large campus with a huge, sprawling playground.  It is also affiliated with a church that holds our same Christian values.  We met with the director several times and instantly got a great vibe from her.  She is so energetic and lively – just one of those types where if you met her you could instantly sense she has a way with kids.  She knew the parent handbook like the back of her hand, and was able to answer every single question I threw at her. Parents are free to drop off or pick up their kids anytime within those hours with few restrictions.  My girl will be in the 18-36 month old “Waddler” room with a 1:6 student/teacher ratio.  At 20-months, she will be one of the younger kids, but I think she will learn a lot from the older kids in her class.

I will report back soon on whether or not this school meets our expectations, but we have a good feeling about this one!

With all the options out there, it’s not easy choosing a daycare or preschool.  Have you thought about preschool options for your child?


4 thoughts on “Deciding on a Preschool

  1. I know you probably won’t want to share the info online, but based on some of the locations and things I’ve read on your blog (so far, just found it today!) I think we live in the same city and I’d love to know which Montessori school was the one with the long waiting list? I’m pregnant but I know my ex-boss told me something similar about putting her son on a waiting list for a Montessori while pregnant and it worked out for her perfectly! We’re not Christian, so your final choice would probably not work for us. 🙂

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