How Important Is Preschool?

Here is the burning question for parents of toddlers. If I send my child to the wrong preschool, will her life be a complete failure, both socially and academically? If he does not know his math facts before entering Kindergarten, is he destined to be “C” student, cost me thousands in tutoring fees and ultimately, not get into the college of his choice?Whoa … the pressure!
When I moved to the burbs, I chose preschool based on a friend’s recommendation and proximity. It is known to be a less-academic school, focusing more on social skills and learning behaviors. My two girls did well there. So far, no signs of deep seeded academic shortcomings. I defended this philosophy for the past few years. I do believe if they love school, they will love learning. This will serve them much better than an early ability to read. My twins attend this school two mornings a week for 2 1/2 hours. The downside I am now appreciating as I am older and lazier, is you have to park across the street, walk in, and wait on line to drop them off. Then, a few seconds later it seems, you have to park across the street, walk in, and wait on line to pick them up. In between, you have just enough time to drop off the dry cleaning. Another school in town, much more academic, has curbside drop off and pick up. Hmmmm. All of a sudden, a focus on the scholastics seems pretty appealing.

What are the facts?
1. Pre-K education makes a significant difference in academic and social performance —  for children growing up in low-income, disadvantaged environments according to a study published in Psychological Science.
2. WebMD asked the experts and the consensus is this: all children derive benefit from a pre-K education, but the benefit lies more in the social than the academic. “A lot of people send their children to preschool because they think that, academically, it means their kid will get ahead. But there is no correlation between how early a child learns to read and how good a reader they are.” — Dr. Gail Salz
3. Preschool is big business, and there are a lot of things they won’t tell you. This article in Smart Money highlights some — from tuition to staffing to licensing. Yes, some preschools are in fact better than others.
4.  The U.S. Department of Education reports, “Children in high quality preschools display better language, cognitive, and social skills than children who attended low quality programs.” Yet, unlike France where preschool is free, the U.S. government seems to have no intention of paying for it.
5. A year of pre-K can cost as much as a year of college, but it seems when this is the case, parents are bucking up more because of prestige and the potential feeding into elite private schools, than they are for an actual academic advantage.

Are you still confused? Me too. My take away is this. Like almost every decision parents make, preschool choices come down to a personal preference. If you can afford a pre-K education and you find one which fits your lifestyle, go for it, but don’t stress the details. Early education — good. The worries and concerns over it — a waste of time. Enroll your child in the place where both she and you will be happiest and have the least amount of anxiety.

Ridgewood and its surrounding towns have many preschools options. Here’s a rundown:

Bethlehem Early Learning Center, 155 Linwood Ave, Ridgewood, (201) 444-6678. Provides spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and emotional developmental guidance for 2 ½ – 6 year-old children. Plus a Mommy & Me program called “Beginnings,” for children from 18-30 months.

First Presbyterian Church Nursery School 722 E. Ridgewood Ave, Ridgewood, (201) 445-2552. The very nurturing First Pres programs begin at age 2 years and 6 months (by October 1st.) The school offers  2-day, 3-day, 4-day and full week options, as well as Kindergarten enrichment and the ability for kids to stay through lunch. They also offer weekly Music, Gym and Spanish classes.

Friends’ Neighborhood Nursery School 224 Highwood Ave, Ridgewood is accepting registration for the 2013-14 school year. Founded  in 1959, the school offers classes for children ages 2, 3 and 4. Children do not have to be toilet trained. The morning program is available two to five days a week, with extended hours on three afternoons. For more information or to schedule a private tour, please call Madeleine Beresford at 201-445-0681 or email her at fnnsmail@gmail.com.

Green Twig School 30 Paterson Ave, Midland Park, 201-445-0747. Green Twig prides itself on providing a place that helps a child act on, understand and build on the world he or she knows. The school offers 2-day, 3-day and 5-day programs, both morning and afternoon, for ages 2 years and 9 months through 6 years. Registration is open now. Weekend and evening tours are available.

Little Crane Montessori 113 Cottage Place, Ridgewood, 201-447-3333. It is a small-sized school, affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS) since 1998, following a unique educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. There’s a “Stepping Stones” program for children 30 to 36 months, as well as half day and full day options for ages 2 1/2 years to 6 years. Art, Spanish and Yoga, among other skills, are intergrated. Registration is ongoing.

Little Ivy Learning Center 660 East Glen Avenue, Ridgewood, 201-444-0048. Little Ivy’s experienced teachers provide thoughtfully crafted childcare, pre-school and kindergarten programs for children ages 12-months through age 6 with an emphasis on personalized learning and small classes in bright, cozy classrooms. Registration is ongoing. For more information visit the website, or contact the director, Stephanie Bassler, at 201-444-0048, or by e-mail at info@mylittleivy.com.

The Cooperative Nursery School of Ridgewood 100 Dayton St  Ridgewood, NJ (201) 447-6232. “The Co-op,” promotes continuity between the child’s home and preschool. Through its cooperative nature, families support and care about each other. Offerings include a Mommy and Me for children 20 to 28 months.  2-day, 3-day, 4-day and full week classes for kids 2 1/2 years through Kindergarten. Registration is open now. Applications are available online.

The Village School 100 West Prospect Street, Waldwick. 201-445-6160.  is an academically challenging Montessori school with program levels from Toddlers (18 months old) to Middle School (8th Grade). It is one of two Pre-K-8 schools in NJ that hold dual accreditation from The American Montessori Society (AMS) and The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA). Registration is ongoing. Visit the website to book a school tour.

Westside Presbyterian Nursery School 6 South Monroe Street, Ridgewood. 201-652-1966. The school is celebrating over 50 years in guiding young minds. The curriculum includes developmentally appropriate academic goals for preschoolers, West Side’s primary goal is to nurture children so that they may grow in a positive manner, becoming caring, creative, and responsible members of our society. Offerings include a Mom’s Morning Out drop-off, as well as 2-day, 3-day and 5-day programs. Kindergarten enrichment and “Lunch Bunch” are also available.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.

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