Part-Time vs. Fulltime Preschool

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Experiences with 5-day-a-week preschools for 3yo?

Jan 2013

Our daughter will be starting preschool next fall, just after turning 3. Of the preschools we've looked at, the most attractive ones require attendance 5 days a week, in some cases 9am-3pm every day. We have serious qualms about sending our daughter to preschool 30 hours/week, and would like to hear from other parents who had similar concerns and sent their children to preschool 5 days/week.

We'd especially like to hear from parents who had a full-time parenting option. If both my spouse and I were planning to work full time, a heavy preschool load wouldn't seem so bad. But we have the option of one parent staying with our daughter full time, and it's not clear to us that she should be in preschool for so many hours rather than staying with a parent, attending specialized classes (music, tumbling, and the like), and attending preschool just three mornings per week.

If you sent your child to preschool 5 days/week, how did it work out? Did you feel that this was the best use of your child's time? If you had an especially clingy child (we do, though we know she can manage separation if she needs to), did your child enjoy preschool, or did s/he have a tough time? Do more hours of preschool translate into a more socially adept child? Or just a child who's missing out on valuable one-on-one parent time?

Did any of you sign up for preschool five days per week and then frequently pull your child out of school for other activities or extra parent-child-time? Conflicted

My son attended a 5-day-a-week preschool at ages 3 and 4. While at the time I did choose to work full time, I had a very flexible schedule, and I could have reduced my work hours had I so desired. My son did extremely well at the preschool overall, although the first few weeks were a difficult adjustment. The problem those first few weeks was generally at dropoff; once I left he was fine. But after that he was excited to go, and when I went to pick him up, he would often beg me to let him stay longer (the preschool had an option to stay as late as 5:30; I usually picked my son up around 4:00). He loved it there. In my case, part of the reason that 5-day preschool worked so well was that my son never did really well hanging around the house with mom. He always wanted to go out, go somewhere, do something, find some friends. He was not a fan of playing with toys in his own room, alone -- he wanted me playing with him -- which of course I could not do all day every day. So preschool gave him the excitement that he wanted, which made our time together at home much more relaxed. Once he'd been playing there all day, he was very willing to sit down and read stories with me, or play with his toys without my undivided attention. So, some of it depends on your kid's temperament We loved our 5-day preschool

Dear Conflicted, I am a happy SAHM, with two daughters, now both in elementary school. In our out of state preschool we had the option, 2 day, 3 day, and 5 day, and then half day or full day options. There are preschools that can accomodate your desire to continue having valuable time with your child, but also give him/her the experience of a peer group and learning to take direction from someone other than a caregiver. I do think that preschool is really valuable socially, and I won't lie, I enjoyed having time to myself to run errands, exercise, or just a little quiet recharge. Have you visited Hearts Leap in Berkeley? I remember they had some options for days of the week, and pick up times. Depending on the age, you may want to try 4 days until 12:30 or something like that. Hearts Leap was an incredible preschool and while we only had one year, I am thankful for that year as I think it made a wonderful impact on my daughter and getting her ready for kindergarten. Good luck and I think it's great you enjoy spending so much time with your child. You'll make the right choice for your family. Preschool Fan

I cannot address your question about 5 day a week preschool but I wanted to make a suggestion. Like you, my husband and I were not both working full time when our children were young. Our children went to a co-op preschool, which started at 2 mornings a week for 3/4 year olds then was 3 mornings a week for 4/5 year olds. We and they loved it. I fully realize that we were lucky to have this option, but I also strongly believe that our children get enough structured, organized schooling as it is and wanted to keep them mostly at home as long as possible. The co-ops also tend to be less expensive and you get the great opportunity to interact with your child, his/her peers, and the teachers. And from the vantage point of a mom who will have an empty nest in a few years, I treasure those early years with my kids and am very thankful I was able to have that time. I don't know where you live, but two co-op preschools are Linda Beach Co-op and Highlands Preschool; both are located in the Piedmont Community Church but neither is affiliated with the church or has any religious aspect. Both draw from mostly Oakland and Piedmont. I am sure there are others as well. Good luck! Miss those days

I could have written your email at this time last year. I was looking for a part-time pre-school for my daughter who has an August birthday. I work part time and have a nanny to cover the rest. I wanted to give her the pre-school experience but 5 days a week? 6 hours a day? Wow, I thought that was a lot especially because I wanted to spend time with her etc. Fast forward to now: the only pre-school that I really fell in love with (EBI, Spanish immersion) is 5 days a week program, We applied and got in. She loves it, I love it and no 5 days a week is not too long depending on the program. This one has a lot of time to just play, there is a nap time, and time to be a kid. The first two weeks were a bit hard as she cried a lot as she has had either me or her nanny for the last 3 years, but the teachers were awesome and now she can't wait to go to school (she tells me weekly that she loves her teachers). One thing I can say: towards the end of last summer we were having many problems with bed time because she was just not tired. Now, especially on school days, she falls to sleep, 20 3 year olds can wear you out much more than an adult. One other thing to keep in mind: there are a lot of sick days and breaks in the schedule (especially if you choose a pre-school on more of an academic schedule). In reality she goes to school on average 4 days a week during the school year (one benifit of SAHM/SAHD/part-time etc. is that if your child is sick you don't have to worry about ''how sick'' they are and finding alternative care, they can stay home with you). During the summer she will spend the majority with me or her nanny and still get a lot of good one-on-one time. Basically, find a school that fits your child and if it is 5 days a week, I wouldn't worry. I am so happy that I just took the leap of faith and sent her there! 5 days a week

My son is in a preschool co-op that is 5/days per week. (Because it's a co-op, I work at the school 1 of those days, but often am not in the same area as he is). He is 3.5 and started about a year ago. The school is 9-noon with an after-school option until 3pm. When he first started, I rarely left him longer than 1pm. But I have to say that now he really wants to be there until the very end, so he usually stays all day, even though I work part-time and could have him with me much of the week. I think it's strange that a preschool is insisting on all day, 5 days a week. Are you sure you are required to leave her there? Maybe they just mean you have to PAY for 5 days a week to hold your spot.

Most of the preschools we looked at had much more flexible options, many had the option to do 3, 4, or 5 days, half days, full days, etc. Maybe you should check out a few other places. And you should consider joining a co-op, too. Ideal for someone who doesn't work full-time, less costly, and you get to participate more in what's happening with your kid at school, you meet other parents, get to know the children your child is playing with.... lots of benefits. anon

My husband and I were in what sounds like a similar situation when our daughter, now in Kindergarten, was going to be 3 and starting preschool. One or the other of us was able to be home with her every day and we didn't want to spend a ton of money on preschool, but wanted her to have the experience of school before kindergarten for the socialization.

We opted for a co-op preschool (Sequoia Nursery School) which really fulfilled our family's needs. Each co-op is a little different, but at Sequoia the first year children, who are age 3, go three days a week from 9-11:45 and each family works at the school one day a week for each child attending. The second year children go up to 5 days a week or as little as three (your choice) and you still work one day a week at the school.

Our daughter loved Sequoia, and we loved being part of her preschool experience and being part of the school community. We got to know all the kids she was in school with, and always had an inside look at what was going on at school, but she also got to have time w/o us there to start to get used to not always being with one of us in a very gradual transition. Before that she had always been with one of us pretty much all the time.

When she started Kindergarten, she was totally excited and ready to be at school all day 5 days a week w/o us. good luck with your decision.

I remember feeling so much as you describe when we were deciding whether our son should start preschool! He turned three just a couple weeks before preschool started, and had been very happy at home, with plenty of time spent with us, with friends at the park, in some music classes, etc.

He started going 4 days a week, and then we quickly increased it to 5 when we all got used to it. I think he could have started at 5 -- but we were just nervous about the adjustment and couldn't imagine such a big change. What I found was that preschool brought a huge benefit in terms of widening his circle of positive influences, new ideas and challenges, depth of friendships, and ability to work on certain challenges or new skills day in and day out. There was no way I could have imagined it ahead of time because it was so completely new for our (first) child to go to school and us to let go of being really the only major influence of his life. And that wouldn't even have sounded good to me if I knew that was going to be the benefit in advance -- it only felt good once I experienced it and saw how happy he was and how much he blossomed in unexpected ways.

I do think that the particular fit of the school is really important -- of course if your daughter is happy and well cared for then that is going to make all the difference to you and her.

Good luck! It is such a big transition for both you. I am sure when you are in the right space, it will be a happy one. Sarah

Full-time Preschool too much for a 3 year old?

Sept 2009

My husband and I are researching preschools for Fall 2010 in the hope of putting down our deposit so we aren't later wait listed. I am home with my child full time and was hoping for a 3 day program. I am trying to find a great local preschool (Glenview) but I'm starting to feel limited because of my desire for a part-time program. Have any other parents placed their 3 year old (never having been in day care) in a full time preschool? Did they transition well? I know that working parents have their children enrolled in childcare very early on but I'm just having a bit of anxiety about having my child attend an academic program 5 days/week at such a young age. Please share your experiences. Needlessly Worried Mama?

The answer really depends on the child, the family, and the school. Both of our kids started full day preschool younger than 3 and did just fine in the JCC of the East Bay program. The program is really set up very well to transition kids into the program, and has several options as to how long a day you want.

Most programs at this age are really not academic at all. They should be about child development, doing the stimulating, age-appropriate things kids should be doing - playing, art, music, movement, learning about the world around them, how to engage with other kids, etc.

In the programs our kids have been in, the staff really know how to handle the kinds of anxieties that may come up - both the child's, and the parents! Good Luck! Poppa

I had the same situation when my daughter was almost 3. She had never been in any childcare situation before and went into an 8:30 to 2:45 preschool. It was fine. She napped after lunch so it was really a half day program for her. She had stopped napping at home right before school started, but school was much more draining than her at home routine, so she kept napping at school every day for 2 years. Don't pay more if you really don't need the care, but if your only concern is whether it is too much for your child, don't worry, it won't be. anon

My shy daughter started full-time preschool at Cedar Creek Montessori when she was 2 years, 11 months. She loved her experience there from beginning to end! Cedar Creek Alum Mom

We are some of those working parents, and our son (now 4 1/2) has been in pre-school or daycare since he was five months old. As a parent, there is always some guilt no matter what you do--we had some guilt at not having a stay-at-home parent.

But we see in our son the benefits of his pre-school experience (he is actually in his 4th ''school'' so far.). He has always been good at going with other people, he has made many friends, he has been exposed to a diversity of children and care-givers, he can sit still and listen to teachers, and he can concentrate well on projects/art/drawing.

To answer your question more directly, there are a ton of different philosophies and variations of pre-school. If you're concerned about too much ''academics'' early on, there are home-based and play-based preschools that they might enjoy. When you visit the schools to evaluate them, bring your child so that they can check out the rooms, the play structures, and the teachers. I've always told myself that if it wasn't now, then at kindergarten they would have to separate for all-day school. So for us, we don't anticipate any anxiety over kindergarden. For our son, it will just be one more new school to attend, with some new friends and some old friends. Bryan in Oakland

Trying to decide on best schedule for 2.9 year old

Nov 2003


We are trying to decide the number and length of days that our little girl will be in pre-school next September, when she will be 2 years, 9 months old. We understand that very child is different but we have no baseline as she has always been at home. Has anyone had experience with too much / too little pre- school for a 2-3 year old? Thanks. kensington dad

Well, as you say, every child is different. However, we just started our son in preschool this fall. He was 2 years, 2 months, and is going three mornings a week. It has been absolutely great. During our preschool search, several teachers told me that the 2 days a week kids sometimes have a harder time adjusting, as they are generally there on Tuesday, gone Wednesday, there on Thursday, and then gone again till Tuesday. They just don't get a chance to get used to it. Of course, I'm sure that some kids do great with two days. I guess my advice is to start with more time, and taper off if it seems like too much, since it might be tough to add days mid- year if the program is full. Catherine

We have three children (9, 5 and 3) and all attended preschool 3 days a week (M, W, and F)from age 2. These are also the days I work outside the home, but we also felt that it was a good schedule for the kids. It has worked very well for our children, who have very different personalties. They are/were at a small, (low-key) Montessori school. We have found that they were very well prepared for kindergarten, but that they were also able to enjoy staying at home 2 days during the week. Charlotte