Preschool at 2 1/2 or 3 1/2?

cfosscpaMay 16, 2003

Preschools in my area generally run Sep-June. The better preschools rarely start children in January. They do require potty training to be accomplished, or nearly so. And of course, registration is now, and there are wait lists, and my time to research before registration closes is limited. My daughter will just barely be 2 1/2 by September. She shows all the intellectual signs of readiness for preschool. She's good in group and social situations already. But for lots of reasons, the ideal would be to start her in January, but that limits my choices of preschools. I've found lots of good research on how to find a good preschool, but not much on the right age/readiness to start a child. My qualms are: 1) she's just now starting to show signs of potty training readiness. Knowing that it may be a 3-4 month process, I dont' really think it's a good thing to "hurry her up" just so she can start in September. 2) 2 1/2 seems too young--I wonder if she'll really learn anything more than what she gets at home and in the regular social situations to which she's exposed. 3) 3 1/2 seems late to start preschool, but because of when her birthday falls (March) that still leaves 2 years of preschool and 1 year of kindergarten before starting 1st grade at 6 1/2. That seems like more than enough. But on the other hand, I can see the great leaps and bounds her mind has made in the past few months, and I don't want her to get too bored at home (I'm a CPA, and there are "seasons" when I just don't have the time to plan anything especially stimulating. I largely rely upon educational toys to keep her busy during those times).

I want to hear what you think. Given these circumstances, when would you start your child in preschool?

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Have you checked to see if they will take her at that age? Most of the pre-schools here follow the same cut-off dates as our public school system (3yrs old by Sept. 15). My two children both had early October birthdays so they could not start pre-school until one month before turning 4. The "better" pre-schools here do this because they have a 2 year curriculum set up and a child that doesn't meet the deadline for public school would need to spend 3 years in pre-school if he started early. That would basically mean repeating a year of pre-school. Some pre-schools are more like day-care and only do art, singing and playing and repeating this would not be a problem. Others teach phonics, math, science and geography and are not set up to teach 3 years of this. Check with the schools you are considering and get their input on what is best. The teachers can be very helpful.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2003 at 3:43PM
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I have 3 kids, the oldest is 8, youngest is 3 1/2. With the oldes I just thought I HAD to send him to preschool at 3 or he'd be behind, so I did. He had a good time, but it didn't really help him much. I sent #2 at age 4 and it was really much better - they do so much more in the class, the kids are so much more ready to stay away from mom, etc. #3 is 3 1/2 but I probably won't start him until 4 1/2 - he'll start school at 5 1/2 and I've learned through experience that one year of preschool is enough.

Also, people always move, back out, etc. Preschools almost always have last-minute openings, if you don't want to make the decision now.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2003 at 9:22PM
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Thanks so much to both of you for the feedback. MommabirdOH, that's the kind of "experience" posting I especially needed to hear. I too have that nagging feeling that I HAD to send her to preschool this fall, or she would get behind. It's especially great to hear from a Mom who took two different routes, and is able to analyze the outcomes. And DLynn, I took your advice and asked about curriculums. I found that many are two year oriented, but many are not. I live in a very competitive area where the standard of education is high, but so are the fees, placements, etc. But it's also a transient area, so maybe I can get my daughter into a school in January--I'll just have to wait for a slot. And through the feedback I've gotten, I've decided that if I don't get her in by January, I can now live with waiting until fall 2004. I just needed to get some perspective and realize that's it's only preschool, not college. Sometimes that's hard to do when you're surrounded by other worried Moms and the preschools themselves want a commitment NOW. Thanks for helping me gain perspective!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2003 at 10:39PM
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Hi - don't know if the question is still open or not, but here's my .02:

We are in an area that sounds similar to yours. It's basically a commuter suburb with most everyone working in NYC. Extremely competitive, particularly with regard to schools. My older son is in a Montessori preschool that we had to apply to well over a year in advance. The private school he'll be starting in 2004 (he's spending his K year in Montessori), we needed to apply to in Jan. of this year.

Because the Montessori doesn't start until the kids are 3 (they must be 3 by Dec. 31), I had my older son go to a 2's program at a local temple. It was 3 days a week, 3 hours a day. My younger son will start that same 2s program this fall, but I was definitely vascillating and will probably only send him 2 days instead of 3. It's a nice program, but like most 2's programs, is basically enriched day care. We could have done without it, but there were a few reasons that I liked it. He DID learn quite a bit, especially religious stuff, which is where I tend to be a bit lax. He got used to being around, and listening to adults other than me, it reinforced many things taught at home but not often practiced like sharing, turns, being kind to others, proper manners, etc. And most importantly - it gave me a 3 hour break three days a week. Besides my work, I was able to read, shop, visit with friends and work out entirely unencumbered by my kid. I found that after a few hours without him, not only did I miss him, but I really wanted to spend time talking to him about his day and what he learned. I think the time off made me a better mommy.

Whatever you decide, you'll be fine.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2003 at 12:11PM
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