Preschool can be an important step on a child's path to educational success. Some children start attending as young toddlers, but most start around the age of three. Preschool acclimatizes children to the expectations of kindergarten- preparing them to learn, follow directions and a daily routine, and successfully interact with adults and children beyond their own families.
If you have any doubts about the value of sending your child to preschool, the "Power of Preschool – Tips for Parents and Caregivers " will address them.
Choosing the Right Preschool - for Your ChildNeed help selecting the right preschool for your child? Our Preschool Selection Checklist will help. Also read these Five Tips on Choosing a Preschool also in Spanish.
One basic decision that needs to be made before deciding is what preschool educational philosophy fits your child and your parenting style best. Options are:
- Play-based – Children learning through play. Look for developmentally appropriate activities and expectations.
- Academic – stresses traditional learning, i.e. numbers, alphabet, concepts and reading. Tends to be more teacher directed.
- Montessori – Uses Montessori materials and activities to foster child directed learning. Multi-age classes, where older children mentor youngers. More structured than play-based, but less so than academic.
- Religion affiliated – Religious instruction is integrated into the curriculum.
- Parent participation – Parents are required to volunteer at the preschool on a regular basis. Tend to be less expensive, and create a strong sense of community among the parents and staff. Often are tied to parent education programs.
- Special needs – Can help children with physical, intellectual or emotional disabilities progress in a supportive environment.
Finding the Right Preschool can take time and effort.Some search strategies are:
- Recommendations from other parents – make sure that they share a similar parenting philosophy to yours.
- Your place of worship – many religious groups run preschools.
- Your pediatrician
- The phone book yellow pages
Complete listings of local preschools can be hard to find. Check these lists for information, and make your own list of schools that seem to best fit you and your child (especially your child.)
- Savvy Source for Parents: You can search preschools by city. Basic information—ages served, address, phone number, tuition, and hours of operation—are listed; some entries have links to web pages. Some listings are for childcare centers, not preschools, so read the information carefully.
- Bay Area Parent –Silicon Valley: This website publishes an annual Childcare and Preschool Finder. Look for it on the left hand bar of the website’s home page. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive listing – many are Bay Area Parent magazine advertisers.
- Bay Area Kid Fun: Has categorized some of its listings by type of school – Montessori, parent participation, international / foreign language, special needs, and religious affiliation.
- Kidz School Finder: Allows you to search for preschools and home based childcare in your community. Listings are basic (name, address, and phone number) with some website links and a few reviews written by parents.
- Santa Clara Family-Child Education Services: Part of the Santa Clara Unified School District, offers both state subsidized and full cost preschool programs located at elementary school site locations throughout the city. Also sponsored by the Santa Clara Unified School District are these parent participation preschools:
- The Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department offers Preschool Adventures in Learning. Check the latest Recreation Activities Guide for the schedule and sign-up information. The curriculum of each program is carefully designed to meet the developing needs of three and four year old children. The student-teacher ratio is 12:1. Classes are held at Westwood Oaks Park, 460 La Herran Drive and the Community Recreation Center. Each day consists of circle time, sharing, physical and mental warm-ups, crafts, songs, stories, and indoor and outdoor play. Classes meet for two hours, two to three times a week in the morning and early afternoon.
Worried that You Can't Afford to Pay for Preschool?
- Choices for Children offers child care subsidies for families in need. Parents must meet income requirements and have a need for child care while they work, look for employment, attend training or participate in CalWORKs activities. Parents who are incapacitated, who have children at risk of abuse or neglect, or have children with special needs may also be eligible.
- HeadStart is a federally funded preschool program for children 3 to 4 years of age offering half-day and full-day programs. Eligibility is based on family size, income and need. Children in foster care, children with disabilities, homeless families, parents enrolled in CALWORKs, children who receive SSI, and teen parents who live with a parent/guardian are eligible regardless of income.
The Power of Preschool (PoP) program, funded by FIRST 5 Santa Clara County in selected school districts (San Jose Unified, Alum Rock, Franklin McKinley, Gilroy Unifies, and Morgan Hill Unified), is a high quality, free part-day preschool program for 3 and 4 year old children.
Santa Clara Family-Child Education Services' California State Preschools also provide half-day kindergarten readiness programs for 3 and 4 year olds at no cost to qualifying families.