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If you’re the parent or guardian of a very young child, you’ve likely considered enrolling them in preschool. After all, research shows that kids who attend preschool may be better prepared for kindergarten. Being comfortable in school right from the start helps youngsters adapt to a learning environment more readily. This adaptability gives them a valuable educational advantage throughout their academic career.
Preschool helps young children prepare for kindergarten by teaching them an array of developmental skills. That includes emotional, social, physical, language, and literacy development. Preschool instructors also encourage development of their students’ cognitive skills, with an emphasis on problem-solving and decision-making competency. State-specific learning standards are applied to help youngsters meet or exceed desirable benchmarks.
Although similar, pre-kindergarten, called pre-K, and preschool are not interchangeable. Both programs focus on education, growth, and development for young children. Plus, most of them integrate a learning-through-play model. However, pre-K is only available to children between the ages of 4 and 5, with a kindergarten preparation focus. Preschool is for little ones between the ages of 2 and 5.
Prior preschool attendance is not mandatory for children entering kindergarten. Age is the primary requirement. In most states, a child must be 5 years of age by a specific date. September 1st is most common. However, Hawaii and Nebraska set July 31st as the date. In Maine, children can start kindergarten if they will reach age 5 by October 15th.
Preschool programs vary from state to state. Some offer full-day, half-day, or part-time classes. Others only provide one option. A full day is typically six-plus hours. There are also varied programs for how many days of the week a child attends preschool. The most common options are three days per week and five days each week.
Deciding whether a child is ready for preschool is best determined on a case-by-case basis. But there are some standard benchmarks. Your child should have basic socialization skills allowing them to interact with other kids. They need to remain focused on an activity for at least 15 minutes, and being okay while away from you for several hours is a must.
Depending on the city and state, preschool may start in the morning or afternoon. Full day options begin as early as 7:00 a.m. or as late as 10:00 a.m. Half-day or part-time schedules depend largely on the school. Some programs offer either morning or afternoon half-day preschool, while others may provide staggered schedules with more flexibility for part-time programs.
Age is one of the many predetermining factors for when a child is ready to start preschool. Typically, a child must be at least 3 years old to enroll. Yet, some preschools do accept 2-year-old toddlers. Being potty-trained is another important criterion. Additional considerations include how well the child follows directions, clarity of speech, and the ability to interact well with other children.
Preschools typically accept children two years before they enter kindergarten through kindergarten eligibility age. Therefore, most preschoolers are between the ages of 2 ½ and 5. Though many parents transition their youngsters from preschool to pre-K when they’re around 4 years old. So, the percentage of 4- to 5-year-old preschool kids may be smaller than the younger age groups.
Preschool admittance age is usually between 2 ½ years and 3 ½ years. Kindergarten eligibility age is typically 5 years of age. However, eligibility depends on when the child reaches age 5, and that is state specific. For kindergarten, there is a Local Education Agency option in some jurisdictions that specify other age requirements.
Preschoolers learn new skills and strengthen existing ones. They’re introduced to group work, schedules and routines, and other school readiness capabilities. Instructors may work on reading skills with their preschool students through songs, poems, and rhymes. Puppet shows, computer work, and story time can prepare preschoolers for reading and literacy. Math activities are also part of the curriculum.
When a preschooler is preparing to enter kindergarten, they should have developed several helpful skills. Some typical examples are the ability to count to 10 or 20, recognize at least a few letters and sounds, and write their names. Other goals include singing the alphabet, identifying basic shapes, and verbalizing needs and desires.
There are both free and for-profit preschools throughout the U.S. Most free preschool programs are only available to families who meet financial needs requirements. Those vary from state to state. Head Start is the most prevalent federally funded free preschool program. However, a growing number of states are starting to provide publicly funded preschool classes for all.
The cost of private preschool programs has a vast range. Price averages from 2019 show an annual range of nearly $4,500 to more than $13,000. Whether the child attends full-time or part-time affects tuition fees. Location is another important factor. Some preschools offer sliding tuition scales based on household income.
Individuals with an interest in teaching preschool should start by researching their state’s requirements. You may only need to obtain certification. But you may be in a state that mandates a college degree to teach preschool. If you want to work for Head Start in any state, you need to pursue an associate’s degree, at a minimum.
Some states require a college degree for preschool teaching positions, while others accept a high school diploma and early child education certification. To work for the Head Start program, aspiring teachers must earn at least an associate’s degree, and many positions in the federally funded program require a bachelor’s degree in an education field.
The time needed to be eligible for a teaching job at a preschool depends on the educational requirements. An associate degree takes two years and a bachelor’s degree is typically a four-year commitment. But in states that only require early childhood education certification with a high school diploma, preschool teachers may complete the ECE course in as little as six weeks.
As of 2021, the average hourly wage for preschool teachers is $12.60. Preschool teachers with higher levels of education typically earn more than the national average. In 2018, top preschool teaching positions paid a median annual income of about $30,000.