I am looking for some advice on where to send my almost 4 year old daughter for preschool.
My daughter will be turning four in November and we are looking to send her to preschool. She has been in an in home daycare since she was about one year old. Recently we have decided that the day care she was in was not working as it did not have any kind of learning curriculum, among other reasons. Daughter is very advanced verbally and was the oldest child at the center (as other children had aged out and moved on to kindergarten) and we felt that the lack of curriculum and older children to learn from was not good for her development.
We currently live in San Jose, CA. Daughter and I (father) will be moving to Davis, CA next fall where she will enroll in transitional kindergarten
for a few months and then conventional kindergarten upon turning 5 in November. This coming year would be focused on getting her ready for kindergarten. Her mother and I are both full time students and work part time.
We researched various preschools and day care centers in the area and have narrowed it down to two options and we're having difficulty deciding where she should go. Here is a little bit of information about the two schools.
Option 1 ("Private school") is a school very near to our home in a residential neighborhood that seems to be heavily focused on academics. When we toured the facility there were not very many children there, and those that were were outside playing (this was during their summer session so that doesn't surprise me). We met with the director and two of the teachers and everything seemed great, though the academics for the pre-k "room" seemed a bit advanced for my daughter. There did not seem to be that many toys available for the kids to play with. We could only afford to have her in the private school for three days per week, and daughter would spend the two other weekdays with her parents. As we are both students the cost is high, but manageable. There is no parent participation component of going to this school. I could provide a link to this school's website if anyone wants to take a look, though I don't think it really provides much more information.
Option 2 ("Public school") is a Head Start facility that is farther from our home and would require a somewhat longer commute in the morning for me, but wouldn't be too much longer for my daughter. It is free, and we could send her four days per week (potentially five, but neither of us have work or school on Friday so it makes more sense to keep her home that day). The public school seemed to have less of a focus on academics and more of a focus on emotional learning, though they do have a learning curriculum. Since the public school is free, we would have extra money to send daughter to extracurricular activities (particularly dance, as she has expressed interest in dance class). And because she would be in school an extra day we would have a badly needed extra day for studying. The public school is considerably more diverse than the private school. There is a parent participation component of the public school, which appeals to me. There were a lot more toys and art supplies in the rooms that we saw. The public school also allows for some limited computer time for the kids, which I don't believe the private school offers.
The dilemma that I have concerns academics. I think that the private school has a heavier focus on academics, which appeals to me so that our daughter will be ready for kindergarten when she enrolls. However, it seems to me like so much of our children's time is spent these days on academics that they are not allowed to be children for very long. Having her delve immediately into math and science and writing at four years old sounds like a great idea but I know she would much rather be doing arts and crafts or playing with the sweet doll house they have at the public school. She is a fast learner, so I'm not necessarily concerned with her not being able to pick up skills once she is in kindergarten but I wouldn't want her to be behind her peers. At the same time, I feel that I learn better when I struggle so perhaps it would be better for her to struggle a little bit so that she can get the satisfaction of learning. At the same time, since the public school is a state (federal?) program I'm sure their curriculum is geared toward having children be prepared for kindergarten, but just perhaps not as prepared as the private school.
So, here are the specific questions that I have:
For those of you that have sent your children to Head Start or related programs, what did you feel about the curriculum? Were your children ready when they went to kindergarten? Would you have preferred that they went to a private school, if money hadn't been an issue?
Is it better for a child's development to have more time with the parents or more time with quality education? If we send her to the public school we would have spare money to send her to dance, art, etc classes so would that make up for any lack of education she's getting?
Is it really that necessary for a 4 year old to know the planets, and the phases of water? Should I just let her be a kid for an extra year?
Thanks for reading. Any other comments, thoughts or links to previous Asks that I missed are appreciated. If you've had a particularly wonderful experience with a day care or preschool in San Jose and want to share that information, I would be welcome to it. I also welcome MeMail if you'd like to keep your responses "off the record".