Part-Time vs. Fulltime Preschool
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Part-Time vs. Fulltime Preschool
Our daughter will be starting preschool next fall, just after turning 3. Of the
preschools we've looked at, the most attractive ones require attendance 5 days a week,
in some cases 9am-3pm every day. We have serious qualms about sending our daughter to
preschool 30 hours/week, and would like to hear from other parents who had similar
concerns and sent their children to preschool 5 days/week.
We'd especially like to hear from parents who had a full-time parenting option. If
both my spouse and I were planning to work full time, a heavy preschool load wouldn't
seem so bad. But we have the option of one parent staying with our daughter full
time, and it's not clear to us that she should be in preschool for so many hours
rather than staying with a parent, attending specialized classes (music, tumbling, and
the like), and attending preschool just three mornings per week.
If you sent your child to preschool 5 days/week, how did it work out? Did you feel
that this was the best use of your child's time? If you had an especially clingy
child (we do, though we know she can manage separation if she needs to), did your
child enjoy preschool, or did s/he have a tough time? Do more hours of preschool
translate into a more socially adept child? Or just a child who's missing out on
valuable one-on-one parent time?
Did any of you sign up for preschool five days per week and then frequently pull your
child out of school for other activities or extra parent-child-time?
My son attended a 5-day-a-week preschool at ages 3 and 4. While at the time I did
choose to work full time, I had a very flexible schedule, and I could have reduced my
work hours had I so desired.
My son did extremely well at the preschool overall, although the first few weeks were a
difficult adjustment. The problem those first few weeks was generally at dropoff; once I
left he was fine. But after that he was excited to go, and when I went to pick him up,
he would often beg me to let him stay longer (the preschool had an option to stay as
late as 5:30; I usually picked my son up around 4:00). He loved it there.
In my case, part of the reason that 5-day preschool worked so well was that my son never
did really well hanging around the house with mom. He always wanted to go out, go
somewhere, do something, find some friends. He was not a fan of playing with toys in
his own room, alone -- he wanted me playing with him -- which of course I could not do
all day every day. So preschool gave him the excitement that he wanted, which made our
time together at home much more relaxed. Once he'd been playing there all day, he was
very willing to sit down and read stories with me, or play with his toys without my
undivided attention. So, some of it depends on your kid's temperament
We loved our 5-day preschool
Dear Conflicted, I am a happy SAHM, with two daughters, now both in elementary school.
In our out of state preschool we had the option, 2 day, 3 day, and 5 day, and then half
day or full day options. There are preschools that can accomodate your desire to
continue having valuable time with your child, but also give him/her the experience of a
peer group and learning to take direction from someone other than a caregiver. I do
think that preschool is really valuable socially, and I won't lie, I enjoyed having time
to myself to run errands, exercise, or just a little quiet recharge. Have you visited
Hearts Leap in Berkeley? I remember they had some options for days of the week, and pick
up times. Depending on the age, you may want to try 4 days until 12:30 or something like
that. Hearts Leap was an incredible preschool and while we only had one year, I am
thankful for that year as I think it made a wonderful impact on my daughter and getting
her ready for kindergarten. Good luck and I think it's great you enjoy spending so much
time with your child. You'll make the right choice for your family.
I cannot address your question about 5 day a week preschool but I wanted to make a
suggestion. Like you, my husband and I were not both working full time when our
children were young. Our children went to a co-op preschool, which started at 2
mornings a week for 3/4 year olds then was 3 mornings a week for 4/5 year olds. We and
they loved it. I fully realize that we were lucky to have this option, but I also
strongly believe that our children get enough structured, organized schooling as it is
and wanted to keep them mostly at home as long as possible. The co-ops also tend to be
less expensive and you get the great opportunity to interact with your child, his/her
peers, and the teachers. And from the vantage point of a mom who will have an empty
nest in a few years, I treasure those early years with my kids and am very thankful I
was able to have that time. I don't know where you live, but two co-op preschools are
Linda Beach Co-op and Highlands Preschool; both are located in the Piedmont Community
Church but neither is affiliated with the church or has any religious aspect. Both draw
from mostly Oakland and Piedmont. I am sure there are others as well. Good luck!
Miss those days
I could have written your email at this time last year. I was looking for a part-time
pre-school for my daughter who has an August birthday. I work part time and have a
nanny to cover the rest. I wanted to give her the pre-school experience but 5 days a
week? 6 hours a day? Wow, I thought that was a lot especially because I wanted to
spend time with her etc. Fast forward to now: the only pre-school that I really fell
in love with (EBI, Spanish immersion) is 5 days a week program, We applied and got in.
She loves it, I love it and no 5 days a week is not too long depending on the program.
This one has a lot of time to just play, there is a nap time, and time to be a kid. The
first two weeks were a bit hard as she cried a lot as she has had either me or her nanny
for the last 3 years, but the teachers were awesome and now she can't wait to go to
school (she tells me weekly that she loves her teachers). One thing I can say: towards
the end of last summer we were having many problems with bed time because she was just
not tired. Now, especially on school days, she falls to sleep, 20 3 year olds can wear
you out much more than an adult. One other thing to keep in mind: there are a lot of
sick days and breaks in the schedule (especially if you choose a pre-school on more of
an academic schedule). In reality she goes to school on average 4 days a week during
the school year (one benifit of SAHM/SAHD/part-time etc. is that if your child is sick
you don't have to worry about ''how sick'' they are and finding alternative care, they
can stay home with you). During the summer she will spend the majority with me or her
nanny and still get a lot of good one-on-one time. Basically, find a school that fits
your child and if it is 5 days a week, I wouldn't worry. I am so happy that I just took
the leap of faith and sent her there!
5 days a week
My son is in a preschool co-op that is 5/days per week. (Because it's a co-op, I work at
the school 1 of those days, but often am not in the same area as he is).
He is 3.5 and started about a year ago. The school is 9-noon with an after-school option
until 3pm. When he first started, I rarely left him longer than 1pm. But I have to say
that now he really wants to be there until the very end, so he usually stays all day,
even though I work part-time and could have him with me much of the week.
I think it's strange that a preschool is insisting on all day, 5 days a week. Are you
sure you are required to leave her there? Maybe they just mean you have to PAY for 5
days a week to hold your spot.
Most of the preschools we looked at had much more flexible options, many had the option
to do 3, 4, or 5 days, half days, full days, etc. Maybe you should check out a few other
places. And you should consider joining a co-op, too. Ideal for someone who doesn't work
full-time, less costly, and you get to participate more in what's happening with your
kid at school, you meet other parents, get to know the children your child is playing
with.... lots of benefits.
My husband and I were in what sounds like a similar situation when our daughter, now in
Kindergarten, was going to be 3 and starting preschool. One or the other of us was
able to be home with her every day and we didn't want to spend a ton of money on
preschool, but wanted her to have the experience of school before kindergarten for the
We opted for a co-op preschool (Sequoia Nursery School) which really fulfilled our
family's needs. Each co-op is a little different, but at Sequoia the first year
children, who are age 3, go three days a week from 9-11:45 and each family works at the
school one day a week for each child attending. The second year children go up to 5
days a week or as little as three (your choice) and you still work one day a week at the
Our daughter loved Sequoia, and we loved being part of her preschool experience and
being part of the school community. We got to know all the kids she was in school with,
and always had an inside look at what was going on at school, but she also got to have
time w/o us there to start to get used to not always being with one of us in a very
gradual transition. Before that she had always been with one of us pretty much all the
When she started Kindergarten, she was totally excited and ready to be at school all day
5 days a week w/o us.
good luck with your decision.
I remember feeling so much as you describe when we were deciding whether our son
should start preschool! He turned three just a couple weeks before preschool
started, and had been very happy at home, with plenty of time spent with us, with
friends at the park, in some music classes, etc.
He started going 4 days a week, and then we quickly increased it to 5 when we all
got used to it. I think he could have started at 5 -- but we were just nervous
about the adjustment and couldn't imagine such a big change. What I found was
that preschool brought a huge benefit in terms of widening his circle of positive
influences, new ideas and challenges, depth of friendships, and ability to work on
certain challenges or new skills day in and day out. There was no way I could
have imagined it ahead of time because it was so completely new for our (first)
child to go to school and us to let go of being really the only major influence of
his life. And that wouldn't even have sounded good to me if I knew that was going
to be the benefit in advance -- it only felt good once I experienced it and saw
how happy he was and how much he blossomed in unexpected ways.
I do think that the particular fit of the school is really important -- of course
if your daughter is happy and well cared for then that is going to make all the
difference to you and her.
Good luck! It is such a big transition for both you. I am sure when you are in
the right space, it will be a happy one.
My husband and I are researching preschools for Fall 2010 in the
hope of putting down our deposit so we aren't later wait listed.
I am home with my child full time and was hoping for a 3 day
program. I am trying to find a great local preschool (Glenview)
but I'm starting to feel limited because of my desire for a
part-time program. Have any other parents placed their 3 year
old (never having been in day care) in a full time preschool?
Did they transition well? I know that working parents have their
children enrolled in childcare very early on but I'm just having
a bit of anxiety about having my child attend an academic program
5 days/week at such a young age. Please share your experiences.
Needlessly Worried Mama?
The answer really depends on the child, the family, and the
school. Both of our kids started full day preschool younger than
3 and did just fine in the JCC of the East Bay program. The
program is really set up very well to transition kids into the
program, and has several options as to how long a day you want.
Most programs at this age are really not academic at all. They
should be about child development, doing the stimulating,
age-appropriate things kids should be doing - playing, art,
music, movement, learning about the world around them, how to
engage with other kids, etc.
In the programs our kids have been in, the staff really know how
to handle the kinds of anxieties that may come up - both the
child's, and the parents!
I had the same situation when my daughter was almost 3. She had
never been in any childcare situation before and went into an
8:30 to 2:45 preschool. It was fine. She napped after lunch so it
was really a half day program for her. She had stopped napping at
home right before school started, but school was much more
draining than her at home routine, so she kept napping at school
every day for 2 years. Don't pay more if you really don't need
the care, but if your only concern is whether it is too much for
your child, don't worry, it won't be.
My shy daughter started full-time preschool at Cedar Creek Montessori
when she was 2 years, 11 months. She loved her experience there
from beginning to end!
Cedar Creek Alum Mom
We are some of those working parents, and our son (now 4 1/2) has
been in pre-school or daycare since he was five months old. As a
parent, there is always some guilt no matter what you do--we had
some guilt at not having a stay-at-home parent.
But we see in our son the benefits of his pre-school experience
(he is actually in his 4th ''school'' so far.). He has always been
good at going with other people, he has made many friends, he has
been exposed to a diversity of children and care-givers, he can
sit still and listen to teachers, and he can concentrate well on
To answer your question more directly, there are a ton of
different philosophies and variations of pre-school. If you're
concerned about too much ''academics'' early on, there are
home-based and play-based preschools that they might enjoy. When
you visit the schools to evaluate them, bring your child so that
they can check out the rooms, the play structures, and the
teachers. I've always told myself that if it wasn't now, then at
kindergarten they would have to separate for all-day school. So
for us, we don't anticipate any anxiety over kindergarden. For
our son, it will just be one more new school to attend, with some
new friends and some old friends.
Bryan in Oakland
this page was last updated: Aug 10, 2013
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