How Important is the Best Preschool?

Posted by Madison on January 29, 2011

We, like almost all parents, always believed in offering our children the very best when it comes to education, even though we have differing views on how much college we’ll pay for.

Our First Preschool Experience

For the past 3 years we’ve sent our oldest son to the best Reggio preschool in the county, and we’ve been really happy with it. After all, we toured many preschools four years ago, and we felt it was the best one.

However, preschool has also been our biggest expense outside of our mortgage. With 2 more little ones nearing preschool age, I felt it was a little unfair to our family budget to be spending so much on preschool.

In addition, our district just passed a public 4k option.

Our Next Preschool

So we decided to shop preschools again and keep an open mind. This time, we focused on the best preschool at the best price, instead of just the best preschool.

We found a local, inexpensive preschool that many of our friends and neighbors liked. It wasn’t our favorite, but it seems like a good option at the price point we were willing to spend.

So we made three big changes with respect to preschool for the next few years:

2 Years of Preschool. First, the 2 little kids will go to 2 years of preschool, instead of 3. Savings: $13,000.

Local Inexpensive Preschool. They’re also enrolled at the local preschool instead of the private Reggio preschool for a third of the price for their first year. Savings: $9,000.

Public 4k. Since we switched to the local preschool option, they’ll also be eligible for public 4k (which will be at the local preschool). Savings: $13,000.

Total savings: $35,000.

It’s hard to argue with those numbers. After all, I’d change almost anything in our budget for much, much less, like switching between cable and satellite and shopping insurance.

But I keep asking myself if I’m making the changes at the expense of our children? My friend, Steve, is a big believer in early education, and I’ve thought long and hard about his views.

Is it fair that the oldest got to go to the Reggio preschool, but the 2 little ones won’t?

I try to remind myself, it’s just preschool, right? But if that’s true, why am I feeling so guilty about it?

How important was it to send your kids to the best preschool? And, at what price?


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Comments to How Important is the Best Preschool?

  1. I think you are making the right decision. As a parent, parent coach and mom who watches her budget – I really feel that the hype around preschool is over-rated! Yes, it is extremely critical depending on your child, your child’s social exposure and what you do at home, but you as a parent can do so much on your own to help your child excel and succeed. I feel the problem is that parents get so busy that we want to give that responsibility off to someone else. You can do a lot of activities as a family together with that money you save and you can also sign your children up for specialized programs that are much shorter in duration for that money also.

    I think kids need socialization, exposure to other adults, an opportunity to learn new skills, and the freedom to explore – all of these things can be given to them within the home environment – you just have to be intentional and willing to do it.

    But that is just my opinion! 🙂


    • Thanks for your opinion Susan!

      I like the reminder about being intentional about doing something… rather than just assuming we’ll do it!


  2. Unless you come from an underprivileged background, and don’t have a love of reading yourself,then your child does not need preschool. As long as your child has no learning problems, then you can read to your child, let them play with kids at the local park, limit tv, have art supplies out at all times, play a variety of music, and read to them again, your child will do just fine without preschool. We decided to save our limited resources for future piano lessons, dance lessons, band fees, show choir fees etc., instead of preschool or private schools of any kind. Our oldest child was admitted to Princeton this year.


    • Congrats on your oldest being admitted to Princeton! You must be so proud.

      I appreciate hearing from someone who has been there and done it. It’s comforting to hear how well it turned out. Thanks Polly!


  3. well, Madison, you have something else in your favor here as well. You have already put one child through the more expensive school. You have the advantage of being familiar with the types of things they did at the other preschool. You should be able to tell if this one is way below par or close to the other in curriculum/activities. You can always change after the first year if it is necessary. So, relax and get rid of that guilt about your decision as you are not locked into it.

    Remember. Sometimes the firstborn child has opportunities that the last doesn’t and the last gets opportunities that the first didn’t. That is life.


    • Such good points kelliinkc!

      You’re right, it’s not set in stone. If it didn’t turn out well, I could change…

      That seems so obvious, sometimes it’s so helpful to bounce ideas off of others to discover the simplest solutions!


  4. I may be naive but what constitutes as the best preschool? The highest price tag? What opportunities are available there that aren’t at the public preschools? I went to daycare from 6 weeks to 2 years, and straight to preschool owned by the same family immediately after. It definitely made a difference as far as how advanced I was to other kids at my elementary school.

    I don’t think it’s unfair that your youngest went to the “better” school. Whatever you may see your younger 2 lacking from their education, try to supplement yourselves 🙂

    20 and Engaged

    • Good question! What is the best?

      When we picked the first one it had the highest qualified teachers and a curriculum around art and music.

      Since my husband and I are such strong math and science people… we lack a little in the creative art and music categories.

      We figured that it would compliment the things that we teach at home.

      Now, I think overall, the best preschool, is the one that gives the parent, that wonderful, warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you walk in the door.


  5. Is the reason for preschool– daycare?
    If it is for education only— I am with Polly. As an early childhood specialist I have done lots of research. The most significant thing in predicting accomplishment in school is the amount of vocabulary that a child enters with. Vocabulary expansion comes in many ways.
    I am with Polly. I sent my two to “regular” preschool- and both did very well in life. (Physicist and Network controller). My friend never sent any of hers to preschool. So far she has two nurses, two pharmacists and one Air Force pilot (with a degree from Air Force Academy).
    Both of us have grandchildren who do not go to preschool- and everyone is doing very well in school. They come from bright stalk;.)
    You need to read to your children and talk to them. You need to provide a variety of experiences. Memory begins around age six. The movement from the language learning in the back of the brain to the symbol/language center in the front of the brain happens around the same time. There is NO evidence that children who read early has a higher IQ than those who do not. Many BRiLLIANT people do not even speak until they are a bit older than other babies. BUT they have an expansive vocabulary from someone talking to them all the time.
    Preschool was invented for daycare and for the poor (to get the vocabulary going). I know it is a HUGE thing with the upperwardly mobile today- but I would say the local one is probably the best because friendships begin early—-both child to child and parent to parent.
    Save your money. You will want it when they go to high school so you can stay home and monitor everything- keeping them on track!


    • I’m at home with the kids during the day. So it isn’t for daycare. Obviously, when that’s the case, it changes things a little.

      I’m glad you mentioned friendships. Our middle child will be going to preschool with two of his friends, so that is probably very important for him to keep those friendships going!

      Thanks for all of your thoughts, Jan! It’s great to know from someone who specializes in this type of learning how important vocabulary is. We’ll continue to make the a big focus with our kids.


  6. Are you planning to send the kids to private school starting in kindergarten? My brother and I both attended a very expensive and rigorous K-6. 30 years ago, the tuition for kindergarten was about $6,000. By the 6th grade, we were studying Latin, Fench, and Spanish.
    Our family moved after when we were in middle school and even though we went to another private school (with Tom Hanks’ kids), the education was not the same.

    To this day, my brother and I both strongly feel that the development and attention we received at our first school shaped us for the rest of our lives. We both credit that school with us becoming the kind of adults we want to be. We have both told our parents that is was the best money they ever spent on us.


    • We haven’t planned on private school. However, one of the reasons is because we selected a fabulous school district when we built our house. Luckily for us, the public schools here are fantastic.


  7. It’s interesting, because we’ve sent our son to 1 year of Catholic schools (a mistake by his Protestant-Jewish parents) and then 2 years of Waldorf school (he starts kindergarten this fall). Our daughter is in year 1 of the Waldorf preschool. My son has flourished in the Waldorf school, but we’re afraid my daughter – with 2 more years of preschool to go – isn’t reacting as well to the ‘open’ nature of a Waldorf school, plus there are other considerations (schedule, price, etc.).

    I’d feel awful if we took her out of the Waldorf school and sent her to a more traditional, academically-based school…ONLY if it didn’t work out well. I think that’s the point. If the school is safe, clean, healthy and has motivated teachers, a bright kid will do fine. I’m not sure the educational philosophy is critical. I love Waldorf schools – I pushed my wife to send our kids there and I am a huge proponent of their methodology; but that having been said, if the needs of the whole family are met by having a better schedule, better location, better price, longer-term benefits, etc., I’m willing to consider a change. And the kicker is simply that you can’t know: it might be the best thing you ever did, but you can’t know until you switch them.

    Tough decision, but we’re right there with you. The only thing I focus on, though – referenced in the article of mine you linked to – is that I firmly believe early childhood education is infinitely more critical to life success than college. Most people want to bankrupt themselves to put their kid through college but skimp on early childhood education – I think that’s backwards. Whatever else happens, you have to be confident that your kids get the best environment up to age 5 that you can; again, I’m prejudiced, but Waldorf education is based around the idea that education up to age 7 lays the critical foundation of all future intellectual ability….


    • Thanks for all of your thoughts Steve.

      I’ll be interested to hear what you decide to do with your daughter.

      Our second child also has a very different personality from our first. So, while the first one did well at the Reggio school with his inquisitive personality, maybe our second son would actually do better in a different type of environment. It’s so hard to know!

      Although, you’re right, we’ll never know if the change is right unless we try it…. mabye it will be the best thing we ever did!


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