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choosing between preeschool and headstart


DIVANANCY September 26, 2012

My son is 3 1/2 going on 4. He is currently in speach and will be tested for any other developemental arease of issue.. We have not seen any other areas he would need assistance with but wanted to make sure all his needs were being serviced. We are looking at preeschool because he is so intelligent and wanted him to be in a social setting while receiving curriculum.. Trying to choose between head start and preschool. I do not know what the actual difference is and what would be better over the two.. Please assist thanks

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MagnetMom September 27, 2012

Hi Divanancy,

Headstart is essentially preschool, but it's free and for families below specific low-income levels.

From the federal Headstart site: Head Start is a Federal program for preschool children from low-income families. The Head Start program is operated by local non-profit organizations in almost every county in the country. Children who attend Head Start participate in a variety of educational activities. They also receive free medical and dental care, have healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe setting.

Head Start helps all children succeed. Services are offered to meet the special needs of children with disabilities. Most children in Head Start are between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. Services are also available to infants and toddlers in selected sites.

What you might want to do is visit some local preschools in your area and see what they offer, how much they cost, and where they're located, and then compare that to the Headstart locations in your area, apply, and see if you can get in.

Good luck


SallyA September 29, 2012

My youngest is currently in headstart and we are not low income. We were able to qualify because of his speech delay. One of the things that I like is that the class size is alot smaller than some of the private preschools that I visited. With his speech delay I felt that the smaller class size would help him. The only negative so far is that the Headstart in our area is 1/2 day instead of full day. I would have preferred full day. And since we actually need full time preschool, we are considering switching him to private next school year. Where my mom lives in another state, its full day there. My son still has another year of preschool after this one as he's 3 years. But we are waiting first to see how much Headstart was able to improve his speech at the end of this school year. Once this school year ends we will then see about staying with Headstart or switching him to private.


TeacherParent October 1, 2012

Go and observe in the Headstart school and what would be his classroom there. Do the same at the preschool you're considering. Which one feels better to you? Consider things like which school is easier to get to? Which has smaller class sizes? Which seems to have happy and smiling teachers as well as happy and smiling children?
Only by visiting a school - ask to spend time observing in their 4/5 years old classroom - can you tell which school feels like the better match for your son.


fattyman October 9, 2012

Most of the time Head Start does have to follow the income guidelines although children with special needs often do get considered if there are openings. You really should look at both programs to see which meets your needs the best. In our area the 3 year old classes are typically 1/2 day and the 4 year old ones full day but that is very variable by area. Look at the curriculum being offered. Head Start is not always as focused on readiness skills as other preschools. As a 4 year old I would strongly suggest looking to see if your district offers Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK). That is also free and typically very good at preparing children for entering kindergarten. The drawback is there is often a lottery for getting into the program depending on how many they are able to accommodate even though it is open to everyone in the school district for free.

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