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Preschool: looking at hours and costs

Consider your work schedule and your child's temperament when deciding on the best preschool schedule.

By Linda Broatch, M.A.

When looking for a preschool for your child, your most important goal is finding a program where your child will be safe, well cared for, and happy. Two related questions that may quickly come up are: How many hours per week will my child spend in preschool or child care, and how much will it cost?

How many hours of preschool or child care are best for you and your child?

Consider your work schedule.  Determining how many hours of preschool are best will depend on several factors. Your work schedule may dictate how many hours a week your child spends in a preschool or child care center. But in some families with two parents working full-time, adults may arrange the schedule with the help of family, friends or caregivers so that a child spends only a few hours weekly in care outside the home. Families with a stay-at-home parent may decide to enroll a child in a preschool program two or three mornings a week so that he has opportunities to play and learn with children his age.

Consider your child's temperament.  Your child's temperament may also affect your decision on preschool hours. If she is generally easygoing, sociable and quick to adapt to unfamiliar situations, she may adjust well to spending several hours a day in a preschool program. On the other hand, a child who is shy, inflexible or has a hard time adjusting to new people and situations, may do better with fewer hours of care away from home. According to Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum, veteran preschool directors and authors of Practical Wisdom for Parents: Raising Self-Confident Children in the Preschool Years, some children simply aren't developmentally ready to be in a preschool program, especially if they're younger than age 2½ .

Preschools, child care centers and family child care programs may offer full- and part-time options. 

In full-day programs for preschool-age children, the more structured or academic learning activities are often scheduled in the morning, and parents may be offered the choice of mornings only or full-time care. In some half-day preschool programs, parents have a choice of either a morning or afternoon session. Still other programs will offer a schedule of two, three or five full or half-days a week. As you visit programs you're considering for your child, ask what the scheduling options are.

How much will your child's preschool or child care program cost?

Costs for preschool and child care programs vary, both at the national level and locally. The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) issued a report on the average cost, by state, for full-time child care centers and family child care homes in 2007. The three states with the highest average costs were Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York, where full-time costs for a child care center averaged more than $10,000 a year. Costs for family child care homes in these states averaged $8,100 to $9,100.

At the other end of the scale were Mississippi, West Virginia and Louisiana, where the average cost of center-based care ranged from $3,300 to $4,600 per year. Family home care in these states averaged $3,300 to about $4,000. Costs for full-time care in the other 44 states ranged from about $5,000 to $8,000 per year for child care centers, and about $4,500 to $6,000 for family child care homes.

Since these are only statewide averages, there may be big differences in the cost of child care from region to region within a state, and even from place to place within your community. Some 38 states now fund prekindergarten programs, usually just for 4-year-olds. As part of the public school system, these programs are free. To encourage diversity among children in their programs, some preschools or child care programs offer scholarships or lower tuition rates for a limited number of children, based on family income.

Local child care resource and referral agencies are good sources of information about all types of preschool and child care programs available in a community. To locate a resource and referral agency in your area, go to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

08/29/2011:
"iam looking for a pr-k school for my son he is 4 years old "
02/23/2010:
"i live in the berea area and signed my daughter up for share headstart in november it is febuary and i still havent received a approval letter so i called and i keep getting excuses and then i found out that they havent evan processed her application my daughter is three and very smart and i just want to get her in school i am a single mother and dont have a lot of money to pay for her school"
01/25/2010:
"I live in Sugar grove, il ... is there any free or low cost preschool programs. I am an at home mom. I dont need day care just a program a few hours a couple days a week for my 3 yr old. "
09/29/2009:
"I am thinking of moving into the Gowen area/Greenville Public Schools district and am looking for a free preschool for my four year old.Any ideas and/or suggestions?"
09/1/2009:
"are there any free preschool programs in baltimore md area.....I have a 3 1/2 year old grandchild who is ready to interact w/others....mother is unemployed at present and cant afford schooling......"
09/1/2009:
"is there a grant that i can get for my three will be four in may son to attend pre-k? or how do i tell if he is ready to attend school. He loves to learn, i am at a loss, he is my first child... so help!!!!"
06/15/2009:
"HELLO, I HAVE A 3YR. OLD DAUGHTER THAT HAS BEEN IN DAYCARE SETTINGS SINCE SHE WAS 3 MONTHS OLD BUT NOW THAT SHE IS THE AGE SHE IS NOW AND WE JUST RELOCATED FROM VIRGINIA, I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR A GOOD PRESCHOOL THAT SHE WILL GET THE PROPER TEACHING AND CARE WHILE OUT OF MY CARE. I AM A STAY AT HOME MOM FOR NOW BUT MY DAUGHTER IS READY TO BE AROUND OTHER CHILDREN HER AGE NOW. I HAVE BEEN HERE IN CHARLOTTE SINCE MAY 15, 2009 . CAN YOU HELP ME WITH THIS MATTER. CONTACT ME BY EMAIL, THANK YOU! "
06/9/2009:
"ARE THERE ANY FREE OR LOW COST PRESCHOOLS IN FAIRVIEW PARK, ROCKY RIVER, OR AVON LAKE OHIO?"
06/1/2009:
"I have twins ages 3 years old and only my income. I make too much for assistance, yet not enough to place them in preschool. Is there any help out there? "
05/27/2009:
"ARE THERE ANY FREE OR LOW COST DAYCARE FACILITIES IN ISLAND LAKE , IL. FOR MY THREE YEAR OLD GRANDSON ?WHERE CAN HE BE EVALUATED FOR HIS LANGUAGE DEVELOPEMENT?"
05/18/2009:
"i am a parent of a 3 year old and was intrested in enrolling at 4 years old i am a stay at home low income mom who has one working parent if i wanted to enroll him 2 to 3 days a week when will the school hours be and how much will it cost?"
05/15/2009:
"What is the cost of your pre-school?? My granddaughter is 4 yrs old (DOB 12.11.04) My daughter(Kassandra Bosch) currently has no income. I am trying to help with at least rent and electricity. My priority for them is that Kyra get into a pre-school program so she will be somewhat prepared for Kindergarten in the 2010-2011 school year. My daughter lives in an apartment across the drive way from me. "
05/7/2009:
"I know a Mexican family who's daughter turned 3 in April. She would love to go to school in September. Are ther any free programs in the Neptune area?"
05/4/2009:
"i have twins of 2 years old ,i like to take them on 2-3 days morning class and one of my frinds say is free if i only take them for 3 hours ,can i know if your school hahe the same program .i live close by so will be nice for my kids. thank you"
05/4/2009:
"My son is 3 and will be turning 4 in December. We will be moving to Henderson in a month and I would like to start him on a few hours of preschool. What kind of waiting list do you have? What is the cost? "
04/7/2009:
"I have an outgoing, and very intelligent little girl named Ashlynn. She is !6 months and when it's time I would like to enroll her into school. When should I sign her up and get everything ready? Wht age? Is the church beside the elementary school a type of school? if so what? Sorry for all the questions I'm just excited and plus ashlynn has to go to LSU where she was born to be studied. I had to take meds during my pregnacy. anyways she is smarter than a two year old so I was blessed :) gtg bye"
04/7/2009:
"Hi, I have 3 boys, one is in school, and the other 2 are in a daycare setting. They have the classrooms divided by ages. The problem is, my 4 year old is in the preschool room and it's more playing than learning. He doesn't know his abc's, and can't write letters yet. His older brother went to a different preschool, and could do all this very well. We have other preschools in the area, but the problem is, they only operate on certain hours. Like half days, 9-3, things like that. I am a single mother, going to nursing school full time, and I need somewhere that operates approx 7:30-5:30. The place we are at now is the only preschool I've found with these hours. We live in Nelsonville, and there are not very many options here. Does anyone have any suggestions? Or know of any other place I may not know of? Thank you Chrissy"
03/20/2009:
"hi .. i have a four and a half years old son ..he will be going to kindergarten in september this year but my concern is that he is not ready for this because he did not go to pre-k and he does not know anything about ABCs and 123.he can not write anything . iwanted to know if you guys can admit him for pre-k at this time because i want him to be prepared for kindergarten level and what are your charges for that .. thanks"
03/19/2009:
"The pre school are asking for to much money to take of a child. Especially one there only one income in the house there's no way you could affair pay 1,000 plus a month. What to do?"
03/3/2009:
"I have a daughter that is 3 year old, she really want to go to preschool reall bad! The problem is I don't have the money to send her, because I was laid off my job. Do you know any preschools that are free?"
02/6/2009:
"I found this information very helpful. My daughter will turn 5 next September, the 3th. I am looking for a public preschool class. Do you have some suggestions? She is attending a private preschool but it is expensive. Thanks Barbara "
01/12/2009:
"I have two children in Countryside Academy already. What do I have to do to get my youngest in when she turns five? Also, I was wondering about the preschool program. Cost? how to get my child in? She is 3 now, but will be four in Sept. If I get her in the preschool progam, will she audomatically go in to young fives when she is old enough? If you could please email me some information on what I will have to do, that would be wonderful. Thank you."
01/2/2009:
"i was wondering if i needed to put my daughter on a wait list for pre school she is three now and her birthday is nov 4. I just want to make sure she will have a place at your school. Also is there a cost for the preschool program if you could email me some information."
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