Changing Preschools

Parent Q&A

Advice about switching preschools Feb 20, 2020 (9 responses below)
  • Advice about switching preschools

    (9 replies)

    Hi! I have a 4 yo who every morning consistently resists going to school. 4 out of 5 days she reports that she did not have a good day. I am concerned that this is because her current school is too structured and academically focused for her, and that she would benefit from a more play-based environment. Plus, she often complains that her teacher is too harsh. The catch is, she loves her friends and often seems fine once she arrives. I have the opportunity to move her (and her younger sibling) to a more expensive but play-based school. I love the philosophy of the new school, but worry that the transition will be tough for her. When we visited the new school, she seemed interested in all the play stations, but a bit uncomfortable and said "I don't want to go to this school." I'm not sure how much weight to give that declaration, as it was probably overwhelming to be in a completely new environment. Any advice from parents who have switched schools? Were your kids anxious about the change? Or, excited? How long did it take for them to adjust? 

    I had the same situation with my older daughter.I kept her where she was and it was okay but not great.When it was time for my younger daughter to go to preschool I looked at more than twelve places,wanting to make a better choice.The school was great and then I felt like my older child was cheated of that experience.I wish I had made the change.


    We were in the same boat year. Our son attended a structured Montessori school. While we (as parents) loved the staff and other parents, our son resisted going to school every morning and would act out at school (which resulted in a lot of negative attention). 
    We ultimately decided to move him to a play based school (less structured with a focus on emotional-social development). We prepared him for the change by talking about it with him. We haven’t noticed resistance about going to school and he generally seems a lot happier. He stills asks about his friends from the previous school, and I will probably setup a play date with the old friends so he can still see them. 

    We switched our child to a preschool that was a better fit and he thrived from the very first day. 

  • Hi Folks!

    I'm graduating from my MSW (master of social welfare) program in May, and will be looking for jobs starting sometime soon thereafter.  I LOVE the preschool my younger son (age 4 as of January 2017) is in now (Casa Cerrito in El Cerrito) - however, their hours are 9am - 5pm, with no extended care options.  

    I'm guessing most MSW jobs will want me to be on-site from 9am-5pm, but seeing as I don't yet have a job, and don't know where it'll be in relation to where we live, it seems silly to move him out of a school he and I love, and they love him.  However, I'm also remembering that most preschools do registration in February, and often have wait lists, sooo......I'm not sure what to do.

    Casa Cerrito is also cheaper by about $400-600/month than the longer, local preschools I've looked up.

    So I guess I have two questions:

    1 - Should I bite the bullet and just sign up for a longer day preschool that will give me the option to work longer hours?

    2 - Are there real jobs out there that offer some hours flexibility and that might be open to me working 7-hour days to facilitate dropoff and pickup?


    I recommend keeping him where he is, and then filling in with a babysitter/nanny for extended care if you need it. Remember that during the summer El Cerrito Recreation camps do have extended care (7am-6pm), so that buys you more time.

    I wouldn't move him from a preschool that he likes until you absolutely have to - why commit to raising your preschool expenses until it's necessary? My daughter went to Casa so I am familiar with the dealio there. If you like it and want to stay, talk to other families about providing care for your boy before or after school - like you drop him off at another Casa family's house at 8, and pick him up from someone's house at 6? You'd pay them of course, but it still might work out better for everyone than the stress of finding a new preschool. A lot of grandparents do the Casa dropoff/pickups, so they might be interested in some extra cash.

    Another thought on your #2 is to look for jobs with school districts, which I believe may have 6.5-7 hour days for some positions.  Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Change to a less expensive, more diverse preschool? 

Feb 2015

We sent our son to a Jewish preschool in the hopes that it would help create community for the whole family. However, it has not worked out that way. If anything, this particular expression of Judaism has made us realize that we need something much, much less traditional. Recently we received the annual bill for synagogue membership plus preschool for 2013-14. Whoa!! A whole lot of money for an experience that we find fairly unimpressive. For the same amount, we can send our son for his last year of preschool to a private school with fabulous programming and a parent community that feels more appropriate for us (diverse in every way). He would stay for kindergarden and maybe first grade depending upon how we feel about the school and the expense. We know that people often advise not to change preschools if the child is happy. His teachers are really good and he has friends he likes to play with there (though pretty much zero playdates, despite overtures we have made). But what about all the other factors as we describe them?
Thanks for any insight.
Not So Faithful, East Bay

You’'ve really answered your own question: why would you NOT want to move from a pre-school that is “a whole lot of money for an experience that we find fairly unimpressive” to one “with fabulous programming and a parent community that feels more appropriate for us”? If your son is happy in a setting in which the other families are not responding to your overtures for playdates, why wouldn’t he adjust to one in which your family is more likely to make social connections?

We switched our daughter from a pre-school that was culturally monochromatic to one with a community that was more diverse and appealing to us. Both schools provided delightful environments for our child and the primary reason for the switch was that the first offered only limited days. But in the move we realized what you have also realized: a school should be a good fit for your family as well as for your child.

If you're pretty sure the new place will be even better for your child and you and your spouse, and you're planning to stay at least 2 years, then I'd say it's a clear decision to switch. Probably when you look back on it you'll say, wow I'm so glad we switched.

Of course there's a small chance you'll say wow our old school was so much better than the new school, but that's the chance you take. It sounds like your school is okay for you, sort of, but it is a really happy thing when you love your school. Good luck! anon

Add another preschool for Spanish?

Aug 2010

I have a 3-yr-old son who's been going to a local co-op preschool for 1 year. We're going to continue that school 2 days/wk for 4/hrs/day. And, we're thinking of introducing another pre-school (Spanish-speaking only) for three full- days per week (he's been speaking Spanish & English since he was a baby). The three days will be all together (T,W,Th).

Is this a good or bad idea to have him in 2 pre-schools? We're not worried about consistent school pedagogy or anything like that; I'm most concerned about his emotional well being. I know that the nap-times will be different (an hour variance) each day but am not too concerned (should I be?).

Have other parents done this? We would likely have the option of going 4 full days at the new school but I kind of wanted to continue with the moms/kids at the former school for the community/consistency.

Your thoughts? I'd especially like to hear from parents whose kids have done something like this. Thanks, Curious

I don't think having a 3-year-old in 2 preschools, or any child in 2 schools, is a good idea at all. From your perspective the 2 schools may be similar in terms of their general approach, but from your child's perspective it would mean different teachers, different children, different languages, different environment, different schedule, etc. every day. I think it would be VERY stressful and confusing. I mean, I'm sure most children would adapt to the stress. But is far from ideal and is certainly not something I would choose for a child. anon

Daughter's preschool is too structured - pull her out?

May 2004

Help--8 months ago we signed up our daughter, now 3 1/2, for a preschool program that is run by our son's private school in Oakland (he is in second grade there). We started her there in January, because it was, obviously, convenient, and because from our brief observations, it appeared to be a play-based preschool. (Our son had attended a different preschool which had an excellent, play-based, Reggio Emilia curriculum but that school was not an option for our daughter for a number of reasons). Anyway, we were wrong. Since January it has become very clear that the school is not what I would call play-based at all--they have a very structured day that is broken down into between 8 and a dozen activities, including at least one circle time (at 9 a.m), and others which are teacher-centered. The kids have very little free play time, and I have walked into the class on more than one occasion to hear the teacher giving some of the kids warnings (they get ''time outs'' after that) to put their toys down because they have to move on to the next scheduled activity!!! I am devastated. For many reasons, this being one of them, we are leaving the school at the end of the summer, but we wonder if we should pull our 3 year old out sooner. The big problem is that this is a year-round school and we had to put down 3-month tuition deposits for each of our two children and the school's policy is that we must use these deposits for the summer months--cannot get a refund or use it earlier. We are so frustrated and very surprised, as it is clear that we did not do our homework on this preschool. We took it largely on face value that a school that calls itself ''developmental'' would be play-based. Should we tough it out? Our daughter does not seem miserable there but not happy either, and tells me that she only gets to play with her friends when the class is outside.
Mom Who Didn't Do Homework

Not to make you feel worse for picking that preschool but it sounds awful! My understanding (from heaps of reading) is that preschool should be primarily about *play*. At this age, children do most of their learning through play -- either with other children or by themselves, exploring and discovering and broadening their understanding of how things and people ''work.'' I think you'd be doing your daugher a HUGE favor to pull her out of that school ASAP and find something more ''child centered'' -- where the children can choose the activities they want to do (or just play by themselved or with a friend), with teachers at different ''stations'' ready to help children who want to do crafts, building, puzzles, etc. Your daughter is trying to tell you what she wants/needs to do -- play with her friends -- and I agree with her.
Playful Mom

You should be concerned. My son had the same experience and I did not pull him out, but now wish I had. He is an excellent student, but for a long time was a real perfectionist and was treading into fear of success/ fear of failure territory. I fault his preschool for that. I didn't really tune into it until he was about 8 months from kindergarten. My second child is in a very play-based environment and is still learning a lot (she can already read) but is so much happier and mellower. If you can at all swing it, pull her out sooner than later. I used the same reasoning: well, he is happy, should I tranisition him twice (another preschool, then kindergarten) or ride it out? I chose to ride it out and wish I hadn't. On a very basic level, they didn't deserve my child, nor my money. I think your instincts are right but you are fearing the hassle, which is exactly what I did. Anon

I was in a similar situation and I'm so sorry you are going through this. I agree with previous posters that you should listen to your instincts, but your situation may be similar to mine where you picked the school based on your instincts only to find problems later that your instincts were then saying were bad! For me, pulling out of the school seemed like the right thing at that moment, but then I thought about why I picked it in the first place and went back to figure out if I really was wrong initially, or if there was a problem that could be solved. If there are things you like about the preschool (in my case I did), it could be worth spending some time working up the food chain.

You may have already tried to talk to people at the school, but you don't mention it. It worked for me. In your case, I wonder if this teacher has strayed outside the school's developmental philosophy. I can't imagine a developmental program for 3 year olds not including a LOT of free and child-directed play. It it possible they don't yet recognize they have a problem? In my situation I fell totally in love with an expensive pre- school that felt so right we enrolled, paid a big deposit, and then I started seeing things that worried me. We considered leaving because it seemed very serious to me and talking to the teacher and even head teacher didn't seem to help (I got explanations and excuses). Then I decided to see what more I could do so I went to the director of the school. I kept calm, non-positional, and explained my concerns in concrete terms like where you mentioned. The equivalent would be something like ''I've noticed the kids' schedule seems very full and is kept to tightly. My daughter is complaining she doesn't to just play much except when outside.'' Or ''I've noticed a lot of time- outs''. I'd definately be asking a LOT of questions. How much time is self-selected, kid-centered, and free and how much is teacher-centered and structured? How do you help kids (especially at this age!) transition from one activity to another. What are the rules for time-outs? How often are kids in time-out? What do YOU think is developmentally appropriate for 3 year olds? etc...

Well, I'm pleased to say that it absolutely worked for me. It turned out that the director agreed my issue was a real problem, answered my questions to my satisfaction, did not know it was happening, and promptly fixed it. We're still there and are very happy.

Whatever you do, I hope it works out for you and your daughter. Good luck. anon