Starting Kindergarten without Preschool

Parent Q&A

  • Do elementary schools (public, charter, or private) care whether a child was most recently in preschool prior to K? Like many preschool parents, I'm agonizing over the decision to pull my child completely out of preschool or to keep them in knowing that I would have to commit now to a full year of remote learning (which is not ideal). Pre-COVID, we had planned to keep them in preschool rather than go for TK. Now I'm not sure we can afford to continue paying $$$ preschool tuition for remote learning AND hire a full-time sitter to facilitate it. The alternative is to pull them out of preschool entirely and patch together a curriculum with a sitter and online resources. For what it's worth, my child has not once said they miss school.

    I'm a former private school admissions director. Public schools won't care at all, it's not a requirement. Private schools are much more likely to see it as an issue. It won't automatically exclude you from getting accepted but often schools are competitive and most require assessments and teacher recommendation letters from preschool teachers. If he's academically ready and you can get a former preschool teacher or tutor to write the recommendation it'll probably be fine but it could put you at a disadvantage depending on the school you are applying to. 

    Public and charter (charter is a public school with admittance based on lottery) do not care if a child has gone to preschool or not. I do not know if private schools care or not, it might depend on the school. Under California state code, both preschool and kindergarten are optional if a child is not yet 6 years old. You can look up kindergarten readiness lists online and basically they involve communication skills, paying attention for a certain amount of time, being able to take care of bathroom and lunch needs independently, being able to hold a pencil and use scissors. Remember that the overwhelming majority of kids are schooling from home, so yours won't be at any greater disadvantage than any other. If it were me, I would find free resources online and pay for a sitter.

    Absolutely not. I think preschool is great, in normal circumstances, but we are in unprecedented times!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Will private schools accept a child without preschool?

June 2010


My 4 yo will begin K in Fall 2011 and I am beginning to do preliminary research regarding which schools would best suit her. My 11 yo is starting middle school at Windrush this Fall so I am focusing my search in the El Cerrito, Berkeley, Richmond area and have found 6 schools that I think would be a great fit.

Does anyone know if any of the following private schools will consider a child for K that has no preschool experience? Windrush, Walden, Crestmont, The Berkeley School, Berkwood Hedge and Montessori Family School.

My husband hasn't worked since August 2007 and has been staying home with our preschooler. The only recent experience she has with daycare is when I take her to the backup care near my job, maybe averaging once a month or so.

Should I try to enroll her in preschool for this Fall, even if it's just 2 mornings a week, so she can get some preschool experience before applying for K? If so, any recommendations for good, affordable preschools in the area that still have Fall 2010 openings?

Also, if anyone has any experiences with the K programs in the schools listed above, I'd appreciate any reviews, advice, insights, etc. We are thinking of moving to Hercules, Pinole or El Cerrito in October, so we will also be researching public school options once we know where we will settle.

Thanks. Mommy to 4 yo with no preschool

I would try to enroll her in the Berkeley Parks and Rec FREE preschool program, it's 3 days a week and they have 10 and I think a 20 week session, I think you can only do one session. I have heard great things about the curriculum (Tools of the mind) I am hoping to get my daughter in when she turns three in the next few months, since we live in Oakland we can try to get it but Berkeley residents are first priority. Good luck!

OH and if you can not do the preschool thing before she goes off to K, don't fret,My sister's children never had preschool and all four of them are in honors and advanced classes. pre-preschooling mama

I have 2 daughters at Walden , and preschool experience is not a requirement. Some children come into the school after being home-schooled for a time, some come from a preschool. It is a small school with amazing teachers. Pamela is the K teacher and she has an amazing ability to include all children, help the wiggly ones focus, allow the focused ones to lead, and teach a subject all at the same time.

My younger daughter started there early and will do a second year in K this coming year, and we are thrilled to have Pamela for 2 years. Ruby will be 5 this Sept. Pamela is very able to incorporate children of different abilities / maturity. The curriculum is different every year, based on the children's interests. It's a small school with lots of individual attention, and lots of encouragement for each child to ask questions, think for themselves, be creative, work together, solve problems, etc. Walden is a wonderful place with integrated arts, music, drama, sign language, and Spanish. I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have. Best of luck with relocating. Laura


Am I missing something important, not doing preschool?

July 2008


My son will be four in a few months, and has never been in day care or preschool. He does go to friends' houses without me, at least once or twice a week for half a day usually. He separates easily, does fine, loves to go, gets along well with all kids, loves to play with just about anyone. I am home with his younger brother and don't really have the money to justify putting him in preschool. Of course, I feel the pressure from many of his neighborhood peers, but, I do think that he gets certain emotional benefits of being with mommy that kids in preschool don't (a deeper level of attachment, having his feelings heard and mirrored, all his speech understood, his days filled with field trips and fun, bonding and sharing with his little brother, etc.). I must admit, I don't want to miss a minute (well at least not too many minutes!) of him being little, either, since the time flies. I so rarely meet other parents who aren't putting their kids in preschool. Am I missing something important? And, if you are in a similar situation and want to get together for play, please feel free to leave me your email address as we are always looking for new playmates who aren't busy with preschool each day. Somehow we've become the exception instead of the norm...

My son entered kindergarten without a stitch of preschool! He also entered ''early'' by today's standards as he just turned five two weeks before school started. My son was extremely social, often more so than his older, preschooled classmates. He thrived in his kindergarten class and I truly feel that it was his time at home with me that gave him the confidence to succeed so readily. Now we are off to first grade at the end of the summer and very excited! Trust your instincts. I think you are spot on in knowing that your son's time with you has been beneficial and immeasurable! anon

Well, here's a quick response to your query. There's nothing wrong with your staying home with your 4-y-o, and enjoying every minute of it. That said, if he starts in kindergarten without some sort of formal group experience, he will be behind his peers in social development.

It used to be that kindergarten was the time when kids would learn to sit quietly in a group, listen, respond in turn, and deal with other important school social skills. For a lot of reasons, now kids in kindergarten are expected to know all that already so that they can begin the great tasks of learning to read and write. (you can say what you like about it--and I know many who don't like--but that's the way of contemporary education.) Of course a certain amount of socialization will happen in kindergarten, but most private schools--and even public schools--do expect kids to arrive in kindergarten with some group experience.

You sound like you a terrific mom and are giving him great attention and learning experience. However, he will need to know how to conduct himself in school without you there to mirror his experience and help him articulate his feelings. His teacher will help, but your child will be one of many kids in the group. Playdates are one thing, but formal group settings are another.

There are co-op preschools where you could be more a part of your son's preschool experience. There may also be schools where your son could go part time. Both of those options would help with your cost and time-apart concerns.

On the other hand, your son will probably do fine in kindergarten w/out preschool. Just allow an for extra measure of adjustment when he starts. a mom

I am not at all into pressuring kids, overscheduling them, or doing what your neighbors are doing. That said, kindergarten is quite academic nowadays, in large part due to NCLB (a whole 'nother problem). Kids are expected to be ''ready to read.'' My daughter was in K last year, and the 4 kids that didn't go to preschool did struggle as they didn't know their letters and sounds, were not used to the large groups of kids and structure, etc. (I know this as a frequent classroom volunteer). Preschool is a lot of fun for many kids, and provides them with experiences you're just not going to get going next door to the neighbor's house. Why not find something very PT, say 2 mornings a week? Maybe a co-op where you work (and the cost is low) at the school one day and he goes by himself for a day as week (by day I mean 2-3 hours). Really, I think it's a valuable experience for kids and they usually love it. Think of it not as something you ''have'' to do but a fun opportunity for your son to learn, make friends, and get used to the idea of school in a very low-key way. It will make the transition to ''real school'' much easier, I guarantee it. anon

I could have written your post (and thought about doing so many times) I am in the exact same (seemingly unusual) situation - drop me a line if you'd like to meet up at a park! same boat mama

I take care of my grandson full time while his parents work. He is 3 now and has not gone to preschool. I make sure he has plenty of fun and educational things to do. We go to the park, on field trips to Fairyland,Habitot,Studio Grow, University Village classes, Soccer,T Ball and story time at the library. He knows all his letters, numbers, can read at a first grade level, add, subtract, knows his colors, can write pretty good and has a great imagination. The only thing I think he is missing is one on one playtime with kids his own age. You are right that kids not in preschool seem to be a rare breed in this day and age and if you are interested in another playmate for your son we would be happy to get together for a playdate. j

The answer is what is best for your and your family. If you are happy with him at home, then keep him there until kindergarten. If he is going on play dates alone, then he is already being exposed to different value systems and rules, he knows how to share, etc.

I think that families use preschool for different reasons. Sometimes it is societal pressure...sometimes it is for sanity...sometimes it is because to nurture a budding interest...

Maybe you could find a local homeschooling organization. There are certain to be plenty of kids who have the same flexibility in their schedules. -anon

I think you should put your child in preschool. It sounds as if your child does well in playdates, but there is so much more to preschool. Learning to work in groups, understanding the differences between people, learning to take direction from teachers, developing play ground confidence, writing, reading, math, science, art, music, etc. My son is starting Kindergarten this fall and I know he will excel and be happy, because he learned confidence in a school setting and met friends and developed into a great kid. Teachers expect quite a bit from kindergartners today (most in my sons preschool class are reading) and I think it would be to your childs best interest to check out preschool. Sounds like he'll love it and really the cost is pretty nominal to help set the stage. go preschool!

Don't worry about a thing. It will all work out just fine. Enjoy your time together. We did. It's true that there are kids in my son's first grade class who have more academic skills, but you know what? My son learned about life. He can cook, keep his room straight, grow his own patch of pumpkins, raise a baby animal, enjoy nature, and just be a total pleasure to be with. It did take him a few weeks to get into the school routine at age 6, but in the hands of a supportive teacher, it wasn't a big deal (for him anyway! I was the one crying!)

School has offered him a lot too, and I'm grateful for it. But I have to say that it disrupts family life, so don't do it before you are all ready for a big change. It sounds like everything is going well for you and your son right now just the way things are. 'The Grind' can wait. that time was precious

Well I'm a nanny. You'd think I'd be all for paid care, but in fact I'm not. If you are the kind of mom who is suited to staying home with your child and you love it, and everyone in the situation thrives and leads a varied existence (you mentioned regular playdates and field trips), then yes, you should continue it until s/he goes to Kindergarten.

Sure, there's the possibility that your little one will freak out when school hits, but that possibility exists regardless. You're totally right that time flies. There is no such thing as perfection anyway. The best any parent can do is make decisions that feel right for their own family. My suggestion: go with that, and don't compare.

In my opinion, nannies are ideal for parents who aren't suited to being with their child 24/7 (there's no judgment in this - our world includes all personality types), or who need to work for financial reasons. I really support your intuitive sense to just keep your child at home.

neither of my kids went to preschool. they loved it at home and so did i. we had daily activities and got together with other preschoolers regularly. when my kids entered kindergarten they were well adjusted socially and ahead academically. the kids are now in 10th and 8th grade. both highly gifted and still socially well adjusted. they lost nothing by not attending preschool and gained everything by being at home. looking back, if i had to do it again, i would have kept them at home for another year, until 1st grade as kindergarten was too chaotic and many of the kids were very immature and mean. personally, i thought it was a waste of time. do what is right for you and your family enjoy your kids :)

I think it's important for young children to be around groups of other young children early in life. In the old days, this happened naturally with groups of cousins, neighbors, etc. My mother did not go to preschool, but was always around a large group of siblings and cousins from an early age. As a result, she was always comfortable with other people. However, I did not go to preschool, was mostly alone with my mother all day, and grew up cripplingly shy. In kindergarten, I cried every day for a couple of months. I was overwhelmed by the large group of children -- it all seemed so chaotic and confusing. After many years of hard work, I learned how to force myself to come out of my shell, but I still struggle with painful shyness. I think socialization is like language -- there's a ''critical period'' in those early years where your brain is primed to learn it, and if you miss it, it's much harder to catch up later. You don't have to send your child to full-time preschool (a few hours a day, 2-3days/week is fine starting at age 2) -- that way you can still enjoy that precious time together most of the time! Recommends preschool


Did you keep your child home till kindergarten?

Sept 2004


We've started looking at preschool options for 2005 for our child, who will be 3 next year, and up until now, has stayed at home with one parent.

Frankly, we're feeling discouraged by the whole process--cost, lack of ethnic diversity (or seemingly so?), competitive spirit, etc. All of these things have made us stop and think: Preschool is *not* compulsary, so must our child go, and at 3 yrs. old?

I'm not looking for pros and cons of preschool (or a debate), per se, but more advice from others who have kept their child/ren at home until kindergarten (or at least until 4yrs. old). For instance, what sorts of activities do you do to keep them busy at that age? If they've entered kindergarten, have you sensed that they're somehow lacking in anyway when compared to other kids? Was it possible/easy to find other kids that age not in preschool and form playgroups with them?

Just want to consider all the options...Thanks. Preschool novice mom

After doing a year of preschool partime when our daughter was 3, we are now home-preschooling for age 4. (We intend to go to one of our local public schools for kindergarten.) Since all her friends even the younger ones are in school of some sort, we felt it important that she felt she was doing something rather than ''not going to to preschool.'' We tapped into some homeschooling activities so she could meet other children who are at home in a fun but purposeful manner. We signed up for preschool science classes at LHS, a performance arts type class, a music class, go to the weekly story hour at our library for the 3.5 - 7 age set and listen to language cds with that extra car time. We do a easy hike 3x a week in the mornings (~45 minutes). We also have two regular weekly playdates with friends that don't go to preschool every day. It's challenging but I'm having more fun than I thought I would and I don't have to pack lunch anymore.


Trouble adjusting to kindergarten after no preschool?

March 2003


My kids will not go to preschool nor have they been to day care before they will attend kindergarten. I would be interested to hear adjustment experiences of other parents whose kids have gone to school without preschooling. I imagine it depends on the child but there might be a ''general'' trend. Mary

Our three daughters started kindergarten without ever attending preschool. The two oldest daughters were anxious to start school and I noticed very little difference between those children who had attended preschool and ours that hadn't. Surely within the first semester any advantage had evened out. Our third daughter was apprehensive about leaving the nest and going to school, coupled with the birth of her baby brother a month before she was not too sure. She was fine when school started. No clinging to my leg begging me to stay. Also, all 3 girls missed the cut off dates to start school(the youngest by 1 week, the other 2 by a month) so they all started school at 5 1/2 so I would imagine that played a part it their adapting. Bobbi

Don't sweat it; kids do fine either way. Neither of my sons went to daycare or preschool and both were fine in kindergarten. I wish you the best

I chose to send my daughter to preschool, but my sister-in-law decided to keep her daughter (same age) at home until kindergarten. The one main difference between the kindergarten experience of these two girls was *not* academic, but rather, social. My niece struggled with dealing with her peers for an extended period of time, on her own (without mom's help or input). My SIL had assumed that because her daughter went to Sunday School each week, she was getting peer-experience and teacher experience. While this was true, it is totally different being with 19 other children for three to six hours every single day, all week long. Her daughter did not have the social skills to deal well with conflict, negotiation, sharing, compromise, and so on. To her surprise, her daughter had a hard time for the first six months or so. She has thus decided to send her now three year old daughter to preschool for a year before kindergarten. A Preschool Happy Parent