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Public vs. Private vs. Montessori Preschools

For parents, making choices about preschool can be confusing and overwhelming. You want what is best for your child, but how do you determine where they should go?

Preschool sounds like a very straightforward choice. But once you actually look into where, when, and what to do for preschool, it becomes apparent that there are a lot more choices available than many people may realize.

Some parents want a Montessori preschool, others are focused on cost or have other specific needs.

To help make things a bit easier, we explain the differences between various forms of preschool.

Difference Between Different Types of Preschools

Compared to later stages in childhood education, preschool offers a high degree of flexibility when it comes to curricula.

That allows different preschools to operate on different systems. Some offer an approach akin to the standard schooling system, with the start of simple lessons in bite-sized chunks. Others are more alternative. Montessori schools are such an example.

The Montessori approach is a liberal, creative approach to education. Based on enabling the child to express themselves more fully than is often possible elsewhere, it often emphasises creative endeavours and performing arts. The classroom is less rule-bound, and there is less of a hierarchy separating pupils from teaching staff.

Many parents are attracted to Montessori principles. For that reason, preschool is very popular as a Montessori choice. Parents feel that if the Montessori approach does not work as well, there is less impact at the preschool level than there would be later in the child’s education.

A lot of preschools are public, which often means that they are open to all children of a certain age who live within a catchment area. Sometimes, however, due to popularity of a particular school or a shortage of places, there may be a waiting list to attend.

Other preschools are run privately. They usually charge fees and may set their own selection criteria. Occasionally, they are organized by religious groups, so enrolment may be simple for children of a particular faith.

Private preschools come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are large, but others are closer to home schooling in that they operate in private residences or small premises with just a handful of pupils. Often, private preschools have better resources than their public counterparts.

What Do Children Learn in Preschool?

At preschool age, children’s ability to sit through formal lessons tends to be limited.

That does not mean that they cannot absorb knowledge. In fact, at such a young age, children’s brains are often likened to a sponge – they can learn fast. However, much of that learning comes through less formal instruction methods.

Preschool syllabuses vary a lot – some are highly structured, while other preschools are little more than a space in which children spend part of their day, playing and doing what they want.

Artistic endeavours often occur in preschools. This is especially true in Montessori preschools. Children learn how to sing, dance, draw, and other basic skills. Games are often used, and there may be some storytelling or television watching.

Besides these specific skills, one of the important things that a lot of children learn in preschool is the ability to interact with other children and to operate within a structured social environment. This can be great fun for some children, while others struggle to adapt to life away from home.

How Much Does Preschool Cost?

Just as there are different sorts of preschools, there are different price structures.

At the cheapest end of the spectrum are public preschools. In many cases, there are no attendance costs for them. Private preschools tend to be fairly costly, with several hundred dollars a month as a typical starting point. That can go up to a couple thousand dollars a month for the most prestigious, private preschools.

Bear in mind that even when a preschool does not charge fees, there may be some hidden costs. For example, food and supplies may attract additional costs. Financial assistance is available in many areas to help needy parents with these costs.

What are the Requirements for Preschool?

Most preschools are easy to enter, but not all.

Select preschools, especially private ones, may require children to pass aptitude tests, or their parents to donate to the school. Public preschools rarely impose such requirements. Many preschools have a requirement about residency, which means that it can be harder for children to get into preschools far from where they live.

Preschools do have their work cut out to manage dozens of young children with varying behaviors and experiences. For that reason, it is also often required that a pupil is cooperative. Pupils who are seen as troublemakers and cause disturbances on multiple occasions may be asked to leave.

A wide range of preschool options means it should be possible to find the right one for your child. Which sort of preschool would you prefer?