Ultimately, preschool is an opportunity for toddlers to learn invaluable social skills, which impact their personality and future success in various areas of life. It's here where they learn to socialize with others, wait their turn and listen, among other skills.
But nursery school also lays the groundwork for future academic learning. Songs children sing here eventually help them understand phonetics and develop reading skills later on. Building blocks they play with or containers they fill with sand help them grasp math concepts down the road.
A child's socialization and academic preparedness are two fundamental qualities that define the preschool experience. However, there are different types of preschools, which can vary from one another in significant ways.
In most states, you have a handful of options: federal-funded Head Start programs, state-funded preschools, government-funded special education programs, and for-profit and not-for-profit providers.
Head Start is a federally funded public preschool program that began in 1965 as part of the "War on Poverty." Now a full-year program, it's designed to boost disadvantaged children's skills so they can close the achievement gap with more advantaged students. Head Start provides many services to this population, including day care, education, nutritious meal plans, health care and various services to parents.
Public preschools are also free, but they're funded by the taxpayers of state governments. They exist in many states and usually provide early education to three- and four-year-olds. While such programs are meant to serve families of all financial backgrounds, public preschools' goal in offering subsidized education to low-income families is specifically intended to provide a stable environment for toddlers during a crucial developmental stage. Otherwise, many low-income kids are left at home in an unstable environment during the day, or single parents may stay home to provide care instead of going to a job.
Private preschools charge tuition based on full- or half-day programs and the number of days per week a child attends. Tuition ranges from about $2,000 per child per year to more than $30,000 in New York City and other urban metropolises. Admissions procedures vary by school. It's not uncommon for parents to wait in line to get an application, tour the facility, obtain letters of recommendation from family or friends, or even write admissions essays. Sometimes, toddlers must gain entrance through tests, interviews or observations (which are conducted while children are playing).
Continue on to find out the pros and cons of sending your child to preschool and what ethnicity has to do with it.