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Daycare vs. Preschool
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Daycare vs. Preschool
I'm struggling with a decision about preschool for my 4-yo
daughter. She has been attending a home-based family daycare 3
days a week since she was 18 months old. She loves it there,
enjoys her friends and the teachers. The kids range in age from
~1-5 years, and at least half of the kids attend until they move
on to kindergarten. They have alot of art activities, singing,
cooking, gardening, climbing. I'm confident she's gaining healthy
social and emotional skills in this situation and would like to
keep her there until she starts kindergarten in Fall 2008.
However, I often wonder if she is missing out on something that a
more formal preschool would provide. She does receive some basic
“academics” at her daycare, but it’s not structured or
consistent. Would it benefit her to participate in a more
structured learning environment in preparation for school?
I’m not looking to push her to excel academically -- she’s a kid
and I want her to enjoy being a kid. I'm just interested to hear
various opinions on this, as I continue to sway back and forth on
whether to move her to a less play-based setting. Thanks!
It sounds like your daughter is in a great situation! If she
were my child, I would leave here right where she is...Formal
schooling is right around the corner. Learning to be
'emotionally healthy' is far more important in my book at this
age than learning her letter sounds.
My elder daughter turns four next month. We moved to a new town
a few months ago -- instead of enrolling her in an 'academic'
preschool (the only option in our former town) we enrolled her in
a waldorf-based preschool so that she could do all of the things
that your daughter is getting to do. Just tonight my daughter
put a stack of books down in front of me and complained that she
couldn't read them. Tomorrow we will start reading lessons (she
already knows her letters and sounds). That is some special time
that we will spend together. But, I will keep her in her Waldorf
school until she starts Kindergarten.
My son turns 2 this summer, and I've been receiving the Schools
newsletter since he was born. I'm starting to think I need some
really basic information about what this preschool business is
all about. The more I read the more confused I get!
When I was a kid, preschool was what you did in preparation for
kindergarten - to practice learning and being away from Mom.
Most kids then (where I lived anyway) had been at home with Mom
for the 1st 4 years. Now that that's become much less common,
I'm confused about the distinctions between daycares and
preschools, and could use some really basic advice and/or
suggestions about where to find more information.
My son is currently in a family daycare setting 3 days/week.
The kids there range from just over 1 to ~3.5 yrs. My questions
are: Does this count as ''preschool''? What is the difference
between preschool and daycare when the daycare setting
does ''educational'' things like letters, numbers, and music? Is
it typical/expected/recommended for kids to switch to a real
preschool at some point (and if so, when)? Or can you just keep
your child in a daycare setting like the one we have now? Are
preschools typically full-time or part-time? Finally, what
kinds of costs are we looking at? Any and all clarification
would be very welcome - thank you!
Clueless about preschool
I think a daycare like the one you describe is probably really good until age 4 (or
one year prior to kindergarten.) I've read & heard over and over again that children
who attend organized pre-school programs do much better in elementary school
than those who never did. So, yes, my advice would be to switch to a formal pre-
school program at least one year before your child enters kindergarten. They'll be
far more prepared for what school really is. Not sure what you pay for daycare, but
there are absolutely full time preschools out there - they usually have school-type
activites in the mornings (ie: circle time, sharing, art, music, lessons, etc) and then
more after-care type activities in the afternoons (rest time, outdoor play, free play,
etc.) The price range is pretty phenomenal. I'd start by researching schools near
home via phone, asking for info to be mailed to you and then following up with
My son was lucky to have his grandmother 20 mins. away, so she
babysat a couple times a week when I was at work, and he then
started preschool at 4 years old. He will have completed his
first preschool year this month. After doing some research
(including this site), I think that as long as your day care
situation is working for you, I wouldn't worry about a
structured preschool until he is 4, the year before he starts
kindergarten. I think that it's important for kids to be in a
school-like atmosphere, e.g., around a bigger group of kids who
would be his age, a more structured environment, and a teacher
(or two), that is more like being in a school rather than
someone's home. My son is in a play-based preschool, so there
isn't this huge focus on academics, but there's circle time and
little lesson plans about things like bugs and animals,
learning to get in line to go outside; similar things they will
do in kindergarten. And waiting until he's 4 is plenty of
time. Keep him in the daycare for now if you're both happy
with that situation. I hope this answers your question about
the difference between preschool and day-care.
One difference is age. ''Day care'' around here generally refers
to care for infants and toddlers. Most day care places take
kids up until they are 3 yrs old (or 3.5 or so). Most
preschools won't star kids until they are 2 years and 9 months.
So there is some overlap time. Preschools usually keep kids
until they move on to kindergarten (and in some cases, on to
first grade). Preschool still serves to get kids ready for
kindergarten. I recommend that you find a preschool to visit
and you may see the difference (although not all are in session
in the summer time)
First of all thanks to all of you, from your referrals I found a
great family childcare; now I have a problem convincing my
husband that this environment is fine for our son. We visited
several pre-school/daycares and he was quite impressed by them.
He likes the fact that they teach many different things to the
children, and feels the family daycare doesn't offer much brain
stimulation for the child. I have read articles in the past,
where they explained that until the age of five, there is not
much need to emphasize a school setting. I tend to agree, I
feel that at this age they are learning so much already, and all
they need is plenty of love and attention, plus he will have
several kids to play with and the lady sets time aside to read
to them and sing. Most of my siblings and I didn't attend a pre-
school until the age of five, and we all grew up very interested
in reading and learning. Does anyone have any advice or links
to websites you could recommend?? I'll like to print information
for my husband so he feels at ease.
While I agree with most of what you are saying, that
socialization is the key until a certain age, the benefit of
preschool is to introduce them to a school setting--the order of
things, following a specific schedule, being expected to sit in
one place, etc. etc. If you wait until they are five and entering
kindergarten, they may have a more difficult time transitioning
to the ''school setting'' I think family daycares are great, but at
age 3 my daughter was clearly ready for ''school.''
Just my two cents
I work MWF and my son is with another boy and a nanny during
that time. The other little boy is going to preschool in Sept,
and I need to find alternative arrangements come Sept. He will
be 2 in Nov. He is very out going and I feel that he is
emotionally ready for a more stimulating environment.
I have researched preschools quite a bit, and since I am so
late in the game, I cannot find a preschool that is close, that
I feel comfortable with and that has a schedule that can
accommodate me. I am still searching. I have considered 2
options....put him in a preschool that is not one of my
targeted preschools, and then move him next year to one of the
ones that I have targeted, or put him in day care near my house
and then move him to a targeted preschool the following year.
Here are my questions...I have heard that it is not good to
move a child at that age around, so should I continue to look
for a preschool, and although it may not be convenient or one
of my targeted schools, keep him there for consistency sake?
Should I stick with a nanny situation until the following
year? Should I put him in preschool or day care and then move
him next year?
I am looking for any advice you can provide, including the
names of preschools or day cares you recommend that may have
openings in the Rockridge/South Berkeley area. Thank you.
Have you considered a family day care? We put my daughter in a
small family day care two days/week when she turned two. Our
other child is 4 and goes to preschool. When we entered into the
arrangement with the daycare provider, we were clear that she
would be moving on to preschool the following year. It's working
out great. She hangs with 5 other kids (ranging from 18 months to
3 years) in a very loving environment. I feel it's perfect for
her now, but she will be too ''old'' for it when she's 3. I know of
many family/small day care situations that follow the same
formula (i.e. take care of children up to preschool age). Try
checking out Bananas or the ChildCare Newsletter for
recommendations, or contact me and I can tell you more about our
My older son is a very outgoing kid, but I waited to put him
into preschool until he was over three. He was in a happy day
care situation and I didn't want him to have to grow up faster
than he wanted. At the time it seemed like a bit deal to me for
him to be forced to conform with an imposed schedule (eating or
naping at a specific time regardless of his needs), be rushed in
his potty training, dealing with multiple care givers, etc. In
retrospect, and when considering what I will do for my younger
son, I don't know if will make the same choice a second time
around. While the imposed schedule still seems harsh for a two
year old to me, my experience watching the little ones at my
son's preschool is that they are happy, having fun, and doing
well... and potty training happening sooner rather than later
doesn't seem so bad either.
As far as recommendations go, have you looked at Claremont Day
Nursery? They have three branches; one in the Rockridge area. We
really love the Kensington school, and I would imagine the
others are very simillar. They have part time as well as full
time programs, including short days, or three day a week
I am a big fan of family daycare. Both of my kids had a
(shared) nanny until about age 2 or 2.5, then attended a
family daycare for a year, and then transitioned to preschool.
The family daycare was a great situation for both of them --
small, intimate, loving, and yet able to provide more social
experiences and resources than a sitter. Overall, a great
mid-step between the closeness of a nanny and the
resources of a preschool. When I first shopped for a
preschool or daycare for my oldest, I found that 2yos
seemed happier in small family daycares than in
preschools. Yes, there are certainly many, many exceptions
out there, but overall, I think a family daycare of 6 or 12 kids
is a wonderful middle ground that works well for lots of
toddlers. In short, if I were in your shoes, I would prefer
daycare to a preschool EVEN IF you could already get into
your favorite preschool. I wouldn't worry too much about
creating too many transitions. A year is a long, long time for
a 2yo. It's not like you'll be wrenching him from one ''home''
to another on a weekly basis. (That said, if your son is very
slow to adjust and has a very hard time learning to trust new
caretakers, you will probably disagree.) As for how to locate
a family daycare, call or visit Bananas in Oakland. They can
give you the names of all the family daycares in your area.
Not sure about their openings for Fall, but in the Rockridge
area I can enthusiastically recommend Claremont Day Nursery
(director: Tom Morabito at 658-5208) on College Avenue for 2
year olds. They also have two other locations in Berkeley and
Kensington, so maybe another can accomodate you if College Ave
is full. I was going to wait until my son was 3 (next Fall) to
start him in school, but we decided with the impending arrival
of a new baby this summer to start him at 2.5. Several of our
other friends started their children at 2 also at this school,
and they have been very happy here, depending on their
respective levels of readiness and history of interaction with
other children. The two year olds are in a small class (7 or 8
students max per day,) but also get to interact with and learn
from the older kids throughout the day. Mornings only, full
day, and flexible schedules are available. The teachers all
seem incredibly competent, experienced, and caring people to me,
and our son actually asks to go to school every morning, even
though he is only enrolled three mornings a week at this point.
Another nice feature for a busy parent is that they feed your
child a hot lunch every day, even if you are only a morning
student, so that is one less thing to worry about when you pick
I was in your same situation with my 2 year old last year when
our share left the nanny situation to go to preschool. We bit
the bullet and went ahead to preschool. I am very glad we did.
Our daughter was really ready for more stimulation than her
beloved nanny, and although the initial transition was rough (as
we found with just about every new child in the school). While
I would leave her there with both of us in tears the first few
weeks, we have been thrilled with the results ever since. She
is very happy, has become more outgoing, is talking more and isd
becoming more social and extroverted. She enjoys her new little
friends, and I enjoy meeting them and their parents as well.
Our world has expanded far more than it could have in our nanny
situation (although we still see our former nanny frequently).
While I wish we would have kept the nanny for a few more months,
I have no regrets about our decision.
Claremont Day School may have part time openings coming up in
the next few months. The staff is so loving and wonderful,
particularly with the younger children. I have seen them
holding smaller kids and really giving them the kind attention
that they have been accustomed to prior to coming to school. I
think that sending a child to preschool is really tough no
matter when you do it. However, if you find a good school with
teachers who love and comfort the kids as they adjust to their
new situation, it is probably not all that much tougher than
adjusting to a new nanny share situation and then another new
I would also urge you, however, to keep in touch with your
targeted preschools in the event that an opening becomes
available and you need only make one transition. But then
again, you might find an alternative that is even better for
your situation. Best of luck!
-- Been There
Our daughter turned two this past November and she's been going
to Bari Nelson's home-based pre-school (on Cragmont in No.
Berkeley) since September. It's been a fantastic experience for
her. Bari is really fantastic with kids and she works with
another woman to provide a terrific experience for them. She
also brings in someone for music twice per week which my
daughter has really enjoyed.
We will be sending her to Beth El Nursery School starting this
Fall because we want to add some Jewish education to her nursery
school experience. I'm not too concerned about the transition
from one to the other especially since she'll know some of the
kids in the new pre-school.
Check out Via Nova Children's School near Ashby BART.
Deborah (former Via Nova Parent)
this page was last updated: Jan 21, 2011
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